Many laboratories worldwide are offering molecular genetic testing for spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs). This is essential for differential diagnosis and adequate genetic counselling. The European Molecular Genetics Quality Network (EMQN) started an SCA external quality assessment scheme in 2004. There was a clear need for updated laboratory guidelines. EMQN and EuroGentest organized a Best Practice (BP) meeting to discuss current practices and achieve consensus. A pre-meeting survey showed that 36 laboratories (20 countries) conducted nearly 18 000 SCA tests the year before, and identified issues to discuss. Draft guidelines were produced immediately after the meeting and discussed online for several months. The final version was endorsed by EMQN, and harmonized with guidelines from other oligonucleotide repeat disorders. We present the procedures taken to organize the survey, BP meeting, as well as drafting and approval of BP guidelines. We emphasize the most important recommendations on (1) pre-test requirements, (2) appropriate methodologies and (3) interpretation and reporting, and focus on the discussion of controversial issues not included in the final document. In addition, after an extensive review of scientific literature, and responding to recommendations made, we now produce information that we hope will facilitate the activities of diagnostic laboratories and foster quality SCA testing. For the main loci, this includes (1) a list of repeat sequences, as originally published; (2) primers in use; and (3) an evidence-based description of the normal and pathogenic repeat-size ranges, including those of reduced penetrance and those in which there is still some uncertainty. This information will be maintained and updated in http://www.scabase.eu.