The Truth About OnStar

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We all have heard of OnStar. Most automotive consumers are aware of what the company offers users and subscribers via the endless number of television commercials produced over the years. They range from humorous Tiger Woods examples to the more serious “We’ve-been-in-an-accident” spots.

I’m going to try not to bore readers a great deal on the specifics of OnStar. What I want to talk about is if this concept really works.

What Is OnStar?

OnStar came into inception in 1996 on higher-end General Motors vehicles and offered drivers hands-free communication as well as an innovative safety device in case the inevitable happens. Today, OnStar has over five million subscribers, is offered in over 50 different GM vehicles, and offers a vast array of options.

How OnStar works is, simply, the system utilizes both Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) as well as wireless phone technology to locate your vehicle wherever you may be and help you receive anything from turn-by-turn directions to vehicle diagnostics to emergency services in case the vehicle has been in an accident.

What Does OnStar Offer?

Surprisingly, a lot. Press the middle blue button located below the rearview mirror and the voice of a human person (not an automated machine) comes through the speakers and assists you with anything you may need, depending on your plan. Directions to Grandma’s? No problem. Traveling and need to make overnight accommodations? OnStar can help you. Engine not running smoothly? OnStar can let you know what is wrong with the vehicle and direct you to the nearest dealership. The system can even unlock your doors if the keys become locked in the vehicle as well as beep the horn if you forget where the vehicle is located. (If subscribed to both OnStar and XM satellite radio, users can access live traffic and weather updates for the city they are located in.)

Additionally, the button with the red cross offers emergency assistance if you are in an accident or need any sort of police/medical assistance. If the vehicle is in a severe accident where the airbags go off, OnStar will automatically call emergency services as well as call you to check on the occupants of the vehicle. If you are the unfortunate victim of car theft, OnStar can track the vehicle and can slow the vehicle down.

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Finally, the button on the left controls your hands-free phone. If you so desire, the car’s cellular device can be added on to your Verizon Wireless cell phone plan and use the car’s system instead of trying to drive while trying to hold that little glowing piece of plastic to your face (i.e. much safer). (You may also purchase minutes directly from OnStar as well.)

Costs?

According to OnStar, you can opt for a few different options. For $18.95 per month ($199/year), subscribers have access to all the safety communication features as well as navigation, vehicle unlock and Roadside Assistance. For an additional $10 a month ($28.90/month; $299/year), users can access everything listed above as well as OnStar’s Concierge Service, which is the feature that allows subscribers to find the nearest gas station or check their mutual fund prices on the New York Stock Exchange.

Is OnStar Worth It?

I have had a lot of time to mull this over, and gave the system a thorough test-drive while I was behind the wheel of Automoblog’s 2009 GMC Acadia test vehicle, and I have come to the conclusion that yes, OnStar is a worthy system, but there are some aspects which give me pause.

There are a lot of positives to using OnStar. For one, is so simple to operate. Instead of fumbling around with a GPS system, you simply press a button and let someone else do the work. You still have all the convenience of an everyday system, but it is much easier and much simplier to operate. This is especially critical when you are traveling at highway speeds, where taking your eyes off the road for a split second to fumble with a navigation system, read a newspaper, dial a phone, etc. can lead to an unplanned disaster.

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Speaking of safety, the Emergency Services offered should make OnStar important enough to subscribe. Having the comfort to know that if you are involved in an accident, help will be sent whether you call for it or not. In addition, if the car is stolen, OnStar can help you stop the perpetrators from getting away with your vehicle and get it back safely. That would certainly help lower car thefts as well as keep insurance premiums low.

Finally, in today’s world of email, text messages, and other forms of low human interaction, it is reassuring to know when pressing the blue button, there is an actual living, breathing person on the other end. I actually enjoyed the idea of knowing that with one press of a button, someone will be there to help me with whatever I may need. No computers to type to, no automated voices with hundreds of sub-menus to go through.

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Don’t let these positives ensue this system in perfect. There are a few minor problems as well as one gaping issue.

First, the price. For a one-year subscription with OnStar, subscribers could purchase themselves a very nice, portable GPS unit, filled with hundreds of thousands of bits of information and technology which is displayed on a crisp color screen instead of on the tiny radio display. It’s not exactly what I would call affordable.

Also, there will be times when the tedious effort of dealing with voice-activated menus. For example, using the telephone feature requires the user to say the number or the pre-stored name, confirm the number/name, and then again confirm to call. And it’s the same if the driver wants to find out the traffic reports.

But the really big issue with OnStar comes from a worry about “Big Brother”. Many speculate that OnStar and GM can use the ability to know where your car is and where you are traveling to calculate data on speed and driving characteristics, which can be used by police and automobile insurance companies to issue fines and increase premiums, depending on the situation.

Last year, GM’s financial branch, GMAC, announced it uses data received by OnStar which allows drivers to receive a discount on their GMAC insurance. What occurs is the driver signs up for the program, where they will receive an 11 percent discount. Then, a monthly statement is forwarded to GMAC with a mileage calculation. The less miles you drive, the bigger your discount is, according to a General Motors press release. To some, this may be a great way to save money. Others see it as another way to pry.

Like everything else in this world, nothing is perfect. There are always going to be concessions. How many, and how large, of a concession are people willing to take for a service that, in theory, works?

OnStar Web site


Filed Under: Car NewsCar OpinionsCar TechGM


  • Karen

    Great article but I would have to dispute you conclusion that the OnStar system is pricey. I don’t think your comparison to a single GPS unit is fair. I think a better comparison would be:

    Non-OnStar

    GPS unit $300.00 to $500.00

    LoJack System $300.00 to $600.00

    Subscription to $100.00 Per Year

    Live traffic for GPS

    Purchase new Maps $100.00 Every 2 years

    For GPS

    Hands free Head Set $25.00 to $150.00

    Total $775.00 to $1400.00 per year

    $150.00 yearly renewal costs

    OnStar Package

    OnStar $299.00 per year

    $28.90/per Month

    Subscription to

    XM Radio $155.00 year $12.95/per Month

    Total $455.00/Per Year

    $43.00/per Month

    In addition to the above you get emergency road side assistance, Concierge Services, real time mechanical diagnoses and a great radio service with over 170 channels.

    Based on the above comparison. It would take you at least 2 year to break even on an individual purchase and you would have to replace much of the above equipment eventually. While OnStar would automatically up-date services as things became available.

    • BillinMich

      Karen,

      Clearly, you are an On-Star fan. Do you also work for them or General Motors? If so, would you disclose it publicly, please?

      I own a fairly new GM vehicle with On-Star. Though I still have several months left on my free first year of On-Star, I have begun to consider whether or not to continue it.

      Right now, I am inclined to continue the “Safe and Sound” portion of the service. However, I am not inclined to include the turn by turn navigation.
      I understand that you have listed all of the GPS options one can possibly obtain without On-Star. For me, however, I would need only a GPS with BlueTooth calling through my phone. I found a Garmin nuvi that will do this for under $189 on Amazon. That includes real-time traffic and hands-free calling. Lifetime map updates are only $85 dollars more. Plus, I can take it from car to car.

      In summary, my GPS plan beats OnStar’s annual price ($100 extra for turn by turn) in less than three years. It gives me portability options that OnStar will not plus hands-free calling through my BlueTooth phone without paying OnStar a whopping 30 cents per minute. Unless someone can make a compelling counter-argument, I think that I’m going with my plan.

    • Don Culp

      I can see by your map prices you don't have a TomTom. I can get 4 maps for ~ $50 per year.

      I was in fully loaded GMC Terrain 2 days ago. The owner wanted to impress us with his On Star features. The gentleman addressed them by their name and asked where they would like to go. It was only 20 miles away to this golf course restaurant but On Star couldn't find it. He apologized and asked if there was anything else he xould help them with. The driver said no and On Star signed off. Their comment, the driver, was I never had any luck with On Star in my cadillac and I'm sure not paying for it in this one either.

    • Alex

      hey everyone new player on the market Cellutrak Device. Available in Canada and in the U.S. as Driveit. If Onstar and Boomerand had a baby and that baby took steroids then you would get Cellutrak. And hey they have an Iphone App. And hey I can unlock my car doors myself i don't need to call anyone.

      • gr678537

        Hmm – I can lock and unlock my doors – AND – remote start my GMC Terrain with Onstar app on my Motorola Droid (or Onstar app on Iphone if you prefer) without ever talking to anyone.

        All jabs aside – it looks like the major advantage to Driveit is the ability to track your vehicle on demand (which Onstar will not allow) along with other position and speed monitoring features. The big question is – what is the cost???

  • Alan Necessary

    Onstar is a corporate rip off. I paid cash for a Silverado over a year ago and did not want the Onstar because it was a work truck and I already had a GPS, but it was free for a year. Two months ago my free year ran out. Did I get a notice, a phone call, an Email? NOOOO! What I got were charges to continue the service on my Visa bill! I imediately called Onstar and told them I had not authorized them to invade my financial network and take money without my permission. The CSR told me they automatically do that because customers want the service! Like hell I do! And where did they get my credit card number from? I did not fill out a release for a credit check because I paid cash! Now the CSR did apologize and stated a refund would show on my next Visa bill, instead I got another charge of $18.95, and not one penny in a refund! Onstar – you are pathetic liars, and after enough people voice their opinions to state attorney generals, congressmen, BBB, and local investigative reporters, your butts might be dodging questions and scandal on CNN. I hope you all burn for the ripping off that some Americans are letting you get away with.

    • Justin Teed

      Thanks for the comments Alan. The same thing just happened to me. I accused my wife of giving them our credit card info. She swears that she never did such a thing. Our free year ran out and we received no calls or mail on extending. I just happened to see a $19 charge on the credit card. I am writing my state attorney next.

  • http://www.automoblog.net/ Chris

    Sorry to hear that, Alan. Unfortunately that's going to continue to happen until someone, or preferably a group of people get together and file a class-action or something.

  • Curtis

    do you know how to dis-able On-star, if you do dis-able it, is it completely dead or does it still pulse

  • Alan Necessary

    yes you can disable Onstar by not buying a GM product-that's what I plan to do in the future sine GM/Cherolet did not assist me with my problem. As a matter of fact they stated they had no control over Onstar-funny-the people who work for me or are subcontractors on my job site are under my control. GM just washed their hands because they already had my money! By the way I have never gotten 22 MPG in my Silverado-closest was 18.1 MPG. That's another GM lie! Now that I have ranted I am pissed again-damn!

  • Katie

    They could not charge your credit card if you didn't give it to them initially. It just doesn't work that way. In fact with just about any reoccurring service they will charge your card until you call and cancel. They do not call you and let you know that your subscription is going to renew. I have had this happen for many subscriptions from Morningstar to Skype. You need to take a breath, calm down and call them and ask them to remove the charges and cancel the subscription (1.888.4.ONSTAR (1.888.466.7827). Write down the name of the person you spoke to and tell them you expect to see the refund on your card. If you are concerned that they will not do as you ask, record the call. Screaming at the attendant accomplishes nothing.

    If you want to disable OnStar look at your owner's manual, find the fuse that powers it and remove the fuse. Though if you cancel the service this seems like a waste of effort to me.

    To each there own, but I personally love my OnStar subscription. It has saved my butt on more than one occasion.

  • Alan Necessary

    Onstar does not give names or Operator ID numbers. Also I am 100% sure that I did not give a credit card since I did pay cash for the vehicle. Nevertheless, as you say to each it's own, to me Onstar has violated my financial realm without my permission. It is now taken care of but took outside influence to make it happen. Also disabling Onstar????? That's like not watching television when signed up for cable. Just because you disconnect the cord from the back of the TV doesn't mean that you do not have to pay. I'm not sure that would have worked. What did work was my calls to my congressman,senator, and the BBB. That's how far I had to go after numerous calls to incompetent liars at Onstar-so you can see why I was not calm.

  • Katie

    I’m sorry to hear you had such a bad experience with them. All of my dealing with OnStar have been very positive. I’m pretty much hooked on it. In fact, I don’t know what I did before I had it. I do a lot of traveling and use it to book my hotels as well as find 24 hour gas stations when I decide to drive like hell to get home early for the weekend. I’ve locked my key in the car once and they helped me out with that etc. I feel like I have my own personal assistance with me. So they defiantly have a good side. Too bad you did get a chance to see it.

    Did OnStar try to do anything to make a menses for the mistake? Free gift certificate or something like that. Have you tried writing them to see if they would attempt to try to make things right with you? While I’ve never had to write to OnStar, I have written letters to other company I have had trouble with and have gotten free gift certificates money off my bill etc. You would be surprised what a letter to the customer service people will get you. Anyway it’s a thought.

    I agree pulling the fuse would not stop the billing. I wasn’t suggesting that it would I was only answering Curtis’s question regarding how do you disable OnStar (Some people have issues with OnStar. “Big Brother is watch” etc).

  • clayton

    Hello,I feel obligated to place my two cents in regarding onstar..For one thing weather you pay cash or not for a gm vehicle you(must)subscribe to onstar to activate it.Even if it is free for the first year you also have to give them your credit card information to activate the system.This is how they have your numbers.Also in the litriture it states if prior cancellation of services is not recieved they will assume you wish to continue services and hence the charges to your credit card.P.S i use onstar in two of my vehicles and feel more secure with it.Regards..

    • Mcarr

      Not true. I just bought a GMC acadia. We bought went ahead and bought the acadia based on the promise that the "service" was disabled and wouldn't be enabled.

      I tested the blue button the day we picked it up and was satisfied and went on our way.

      Then…the onstar system started to talk to us. Offer us deals and services. When we investigated, we discovered that the dealership had enabled the service anyway, as a courtesy.

      I was livid and have yelled at every person at the dealership as well as onstar.

      they have finally agreed to disable the power to the unit. we'll see how that goes tomorrow.

  • Wayne

    What all of the stories miss is that the onstar hardware in the car costs GM about $1,000, wireless activation and airtime costs another $200 per year, and the call center another $200/year. System design, testing and validation costs are in the $10-100 millions. How can they only charge 199-299/year then you ask? Easy, the rest is baked into the price of the car. Just one of the resons why GM is now bankrupt, etc. All things being equal if GM dumped onstar they could reduce the price of each car by at least $1k. Once you know the true costs involved and the subscription scams they practice, you relaize this is just another corperate fleecing of US citizens.

  • Alan Necessary

    Absolutely Wayne, couldn't have said it better myself, however as gulable as the American consumer is, they would buy anything to be hip, or to better their neighbor! And yes GM is union driven, and have CEOs who make way too much in pay and bonuses. like I said in previous memos-I will never buy Gm again and will do everything possible to keep anyone I know from buying the crap they sell!

  • Somebody

    Anybody who uses the term "financial realm" is probably the kind of guy who wears aluminum hats and thinks the Trilateral Commission is after him *personally*…..

  • Alan Necessary

    To " Somebody"-Nice poke at me haha-but we were discussing Onstar-not my personal headgear. LOL Too bad you didn't leave your name so I would know where that shot across the bow came from. BTW is the Trilateral Commission still active?

  • cool head

    Im really concerned with the aggressive and threating behavior some people have. What's wrong with you people? Everyone has a right to their option, but the aggessiveness is alarming. If you do not like something or disagree with something them SIMPLY remove your self from it. If you don't like your job you fine a new one right? Well if you do not like ONSTAR than do not sign up for it. What works for one may not work for another, just loss the agressive behavior.

  • Tonyg

    I just got a 2009 h3 hummer and I activated my trial with onstar today. They asked me if I wished to put a credit card on file and I said not at the moment I wanted to get used to system and see if I had any use for it. They said no problem so as of right now if I get charged in a year I know they stole my financial information from some where. It is also true that having onstar in your car. GM collects data to see your driving habits and they now offer discounts on insurance if you minimize your driving. I also assume cops can get ahold of those records to see where you were if there was a crime. Im not a conspiracy theorist or anything but I wouldnt be suprised if some guy gets caught for a crime. Because onstar placed his car at the scene lol.

  • http://www.automoblog.net/ Chris Burdick

    Tonyg: Come back next year and let us know if you're charged.

    I think you're right to be concerned about privacy; I think this is something we will all have to consider as vehicles become more "connected."

  • clayton

    If you are using onstar or not,,,all vehicles dating from 06 now have a BLACK box wired into your vehicles computers.It continually records the last fifteen or twenty seconds of driving that includes speed,vehicle yaw,if brakes were applied ,,,etc. These recordings CAN and HAVE been used against the owners after certain vehicle accidents,Examplea lad struck a lady on a crosswalk and killed her, He stated he was driving thirty miles an hour(however police recovered the black box and it showed his speed to be in excess of sixty miles per hour,So he was chargerd with vehicular manslaughter, and convicted..So big daddy IS watching everytime we drive now!

  • Tonyg

    I bookmarked this thread so I'll do my best to keep up here and report my interactions with onstar. The other thing was I signed a contract at dealer for 1 years free service and when I activated with person she told me 3 months so i have to get that straightened out aswell. With the black box what stops us as citizens from using it to show cops are liars about giving speeding tickets when we truely didn't speed?

  • clayton

    This would be good for us HOWEVER the average joe cannot access the contents of the black box.The police have to show the vehicle manufacturer true cause before a special code is given that allows access to the recordings.However there is a plug in for the average person so we can plug it in the computer interface under the dash which monitors EVERYTHING from vehicle speeds to the location of said vehicle.It was intended to be a big brother for the parents to verify what there kids were doing when they use mom and dads car.The parent can just unplug the device and plug it into there computer and download all activaties since it was plugged in.I think if you got stopped by an unscripulous officer and got charged you could prove your innocence with it.

  • http://www.automoblog.net/ Chris Burdick

    Great point Clayton, that might be a good idea for anyone.

    The CarChip is a great little small device that will record time, date, distance, speed, events and up to 4 separate engine parameters. It will note any hard acceleration or braking as well and can record up to 300 hours of data. This would be perfect to attach to your OBDII sensor (only on 1996 or newer cars) and keep on.

    Here's a link to it:

    CarChip Pro

  • marshall bennett

    my new vehicle with onstar was hit in a near fatal accident. i was never notified by phone or email and there was no damage to onstar. any info on this matter or direction would be appreciated. i have since purchased a new malibu and informed onstar i dont want or have faith in their service and explained why. they have no record and basically blew me off. however they offered me an estra year free and i informed them i dont want it but they credited me anyway. my wife is permanently disabled as a relult and our life has changed dramatacilly. any info on similar matters would be appreciated. my stomach turns when i see automatic crash res-ponse commercial on tv from onstar all the time.

  • clayton

    Very sorry to hear about the bad accident,but you left out some information,On star only knows of an accident IF the airbags deploy(usually only in a frontal collission)SO if you had a rear end collission or a side impact then possably the airbags did not deploy(hence no notification of onstar)I am in no way defending onstar,Just giving the facts as i know them.If the airbags deployed then there is absolutly NO excuse for there omission,Again so sorry to hear about your terrable accident and wish the very best for you and your wife.

  • marshall bennett

    hey thanks for that info. appreciated..however onstar never asked about airbag nor informed of that fact ..nor do i see airbags depoloyed on their dramatic commercials where onstar calls to check on accident victims to see if they are ok..it was a side impact and no airbags were deployed..thanks again for your useful knowledge, my friend.

    • OE

      Marshall Bennet, My appologies on your accident/experience- purely for your information- Certain vehicles have automatic crash notification (your dealer can verify this for you but its generally on newer models, your malibu most likely has it) which means that there are crash sensors at certain points in the vehicle (varries per model and some older models do not have this at all) If your vehicle had this and those sensors were hit even if your airbag didnt deploy OnStar should be automatically notified telling them what direction and severity of impact was recorded for EMS use. Otherwise your vehicle would have automatic airbag notification which means that if any of your airbags deploy OnStar should be automatically notified. If your vehicle does not have these sensors and your airbags did not deploy unfortunately there is no way for OnStar to know you were in an accident if noone hit the red emergency button. I agree that some of the commercials are not the clearest although in their defence 30 seconds is really only long enough to get the basics out. The rest can be found in your glove box. I sincerely hope you dont have a need for the emergency services in your new vehicle and understand your lack of faith if your airbag did deploy. If it didn’t I hope that this has helped you to understand the system a bit better.

  • TMBucz

    So, if airbag deployment is required for Onstar notification, is that any airbag in the vehicle? ie: if only side curtain/head bags deploy? Also, what is the real truth behind whether or not OnStar can be contacted in an emergancy if you don't have an active subscription – either manually(red button) or automatic(airbag)? I just purchased a '07 Envoy SLT, my first vehicle with OnStar and am contimplating the service… thanks in advance.

    • OE

      TMBucz- Technically it is possible for OnStar to receive a notification initiated by your vehicle in a crash or if you hit your red emergency button. However, once your account is disabled and inactive they cannot guarantee this and often times the location information on a disabled vehicle is incorrect. Also once your account is disabled OnStar cannot track or unlock your vehicle under any circumstances, many people think they are lying or it is a money grab when they discover this- not the case and if it were OnStar would just allow you to renew unlock or track your car and take your money. OnStar needs the vehicle to be reactivated from inside to have any authority over the location/locks for your security.

  • clayton

    hello tmbucz,On star is notafied if any airbag is deployed,As far as contacting them without a subscription (onstar says no) however before i subscribed i once used the red button and after several minutes they did answer.I am a believer in the service especially the hands free phone,however every system has it 's pitfalls as marshall found out(sorry to say).

  • Tonyg

    So I told everyone I would be back in a year to see if onstar some how gets my credit card info outside of contacting me. I got a letter for them today saying that I have less then a month left on my free trial I was told the trial was for a year. Im at almost 3 months and they are getting ready to end my trial, its all very interesting.

    • OE

      ALSO- Tony G- was this a brand new vehicle or a ceritfied previously owned vehicle? Brand new OnStar equipt vehicles get one full year of service free. Certified previously owned vehicles will only get 3 months of service as a courtesy to allow you to try the service and see if you like it. The first owner got the full year of service so that vehicle is no longer eligible for the full year. The advisor that you spoke with at the time of your activation was correct if it was previously owned. Sometimes your dealer is misinformed when it comes to OnStar and they just assume every vehicle they sell gets a full year which is not the case. The full free year is one time per vehicle.

      • TonyG

        OE My truck is brand new 09 model. I got it at the end of November, they sent me information saying mid feb it would cancel. I have not heard anything since .

        • OE

          Hmmmm ok, as a brand new OnStar equipt vehicle owner you are entitled to 12 months of OnStar service 'complimentary', this is essentially built in to the price of your vehicle. I would call and inquire as to why you are only getting 3 months. If for some reason they insist that you are only getting 3 months, call your dealership and ask them why this is. Sometimes the dealer activates an OnStar acount prematurely and a sale falls through, the account is never cancelled. Normally the dealership would top up the service so you get your full free year in a case like this.

          • Ron

            My CTS came with the one year free subscription as you mentioned. My 2011 Avalanche only had a 3 month subscription. And that's exactly what was stated on my window sticker.

            I've dealt with OnStar customer service a couple times over the last year and a half. I am completely satisfied with their service. At one point, probalby through my own fault, I had trouble with my navigation system. I spent an hour on the phone with OnStar getting it straightened out. After we were done they credited my phone account for an additional 100 minutes, just because it took so long.

            I'm sold on OnStar. No, I do not work for GM or Onstar.

            Ron

  • greg

    just call your credit card company and tell them that these are unauthorized charges and they will block it. simple takes about five minutes

  • OE

    As a CSR for OnStar for 7 plus years I can assure you that OnStar does not have any super power magical ways of getting your credit card if you don’t provide it to them or your dealer at some point. Also at the time that you provide it to OnStar (whether it be for minutes or to upgrade or renew your service) they also tell you it will be kept securely on file so that your service is not interupted when it is up for renewal. For legal reasons CSR’s must attempt to give you the scripting, and if there is any doubt, the calls are recorded. You can call to cancel or have it removed at any time. Most people don’t listen to this scripting but it is there, just like its on your service sales agreement that you sign with the dealer, granted as a consumer myself I’m sure this is in the small print but it is there. If they have overcharged you or you didn’t want to renew, all you have to do is call and a) ask that your credit card be removed from your file, and b) advise that you want your account closed and the amount reimbursed to your credit card. If this does not happen in a timely manor call and speak with a supervisor. I assure you that there is no conspiracy to overcharge you. Word of mouth is huge and they get that and their advisors are told to basically bend over backwards to keep their customers happy. If you don’t get a satisfactory answer, escalate your concerns to customer care or a supervisor and 9 times out of ten your concern will be addressed to your satisfaction. You do not have to provide your credit card to get your free year of service, however they will try and get you to put it on file so they don’t have to run around after people to get them to renew. You can’t please everyone because for every customer that calls to complain that their credit card was charged without their permission (when really they permitted to it when adding it to the file) we have just as many people calling for door unlocks that did not have a credit card on file and ignored our renewal notices. They now want to rip us a new one because we closed their account without telling them(when in reality we tried) and they have their dog or child locked in the car(For the record, just like any other service if it is not paid for we cannot provide unlock service. There is a more than fair grace period and then the vehicle hardware is disabled. No matter what the personal emergency is an unlock is not possible once this happens. The vehicle needs to be reactivated from inside the car with a button press before we have the ability to perform these services. This is for the former customers privacy). Also, you can decline OnStar service within the first year so I am going to hazard a guess that the advisor that you were speaking to did not know what they were talking about(unfortunately). I suggest asking to speak with a supervisor as that is incorrect information. OnStar has no desire to randomly track/call/monitor your vehicle and adviser activity in customer accounts is monitored. They have absolutely no reason to decline your request to cancel your service in the first year. My understanding is that your dealership can disconnect the system as well and some dealerships are more knowledgeable than others as with anything. If you aren’t sure about the answers you are getting with your dealership, check with the next closest!

  • rob

    I have a 2009 sierra, and got into an accident which left my truck on its side. Turned a corner to sharp and it tipped. Airbags did not deploy as it just tipped over, does this mean onstar did not know about the accident and its information about the time of the accident?

    • joficus

      I have a CTS and an Escalade(older models with On Star).

      I have not subscribed for the service for many years.

      However, as with any cell phone, I can still activate the

      system and dial 911 if I am in trouble. This to me is a valuable resource if I am in a remote area and alone.

      • TMBucz

        I have a previuosly owned 2007 Envoy. I did not subscribe to ONStar after purchasing it. On a recent trip i had some issues on a barren interstate(faulty fuel gauge and ran out of gas). I pushed the OnStar button and received immediate response from the OnStar operator. HOWEVER – the location she indicated i was at was some 200 miles east of my actual location. Should this have been an actual "crash emergency" i would have been out of luck. Therefore – if you have not subscribed DO NOT ASSUME IT WILL WORK PROPERLY. In my opinion, calling 911 on my cell would have been just as efficient had i needed emergency response.

  • George

    I just got here from the year 2095. The time travel feature in my 2095 Chevfordet truck allows me to travel into the past. It is against the law to change the past though, or I would be rich!

    You are gonna love the MPG of these mini-nuke power vehicles!

    Oh, and about Chevfordet? Long long story.

  • Michele

    When I subscribed to OnStar, they told me about the consierge option and said to me that if I had a dog, they would walk it for me….hmm… I wonder what this entails

  • BIG CHRONO

    The current BBB rating for OnStar is "F". The full report can be viewed on the BBB site. Since OnStar

    is NOT a BBB accredited business, this means it does

    not have consumers' best interests in mind, otherwise

    it would be more cooperative in resolving problems

    working in unison with drivers & the BBB. Plus, it

    would be inclined to initially avoid troubles. This

    rating is a disgrace for any business, but it's worse

    when the company literally places peoples' lives in

    its hands. Sadly, OnStar & many other poisonous firms

    thrive due to infinite factors that enable them to

    still exist, aggravate & blatantly bilk the public.

  • JOE

    Lets see if I have this straight. GM goes bankrupt. We the tax payers bail out GM. The U.S. Government is the majority interest holder in GM until they exit bankruptcy. Now our tax dollars are being used to flood the airwaves with misleading ads to lure us to buy a vehicle with ON STAR which has the capability to watch us, call the cops on us, listen to our conversations, record our driving habits, etc. If you agree this is wrong speak with your pocket book and buy a Ford or Chrysler.

  • craig kafton

    What do all you people expect from a giant national company that advertises everywhere every five minutes? If they DIDN'T take your the money without asking, then i would be surprised! What island have you been living on? Eharmony does it, Timelife books does it,credit card companies do it1 its standard procedure in this country for YEARS! All they have to say is READ THE FINE PRINT. Anyway if your bought a brand new gm vehicle your assumed to be rolling in dough anyway, so who cares about a couple of bucks on your credit card, who even looks? For all you people complaining, there are thousands who havnt noticed or cant be bothered to call and complain. GET REAL

  • brandon

    I've got a 93 camaro z28 haven't needed on* once people become too reliant on that stuff my HTC phone does all of that for free through Google and Sprint except call if I'm in an accident then the price seems steep. I love gm vehicles but nobody needs to know I'm doing 100+ on the way to California from az unless they can see me

  • Truck Accessories

    I likje the concept and Onstar is an awesome service. I just wish it was simpler for older vehicles.

  • Keith Place

    OnStar, has it's place and is it for everyone? maybe maybe not. I pay for it in my wife's car and would probley pay even 2 or 3 times the rate to know that there is someone watching out for her and my children when they are driving 3 hours out the city to the lake. She gets a flat, she cant change it " most people cant "and really do you know where you are when you get one other then " Im on route 66 mmmmm maybe 10, 50 miles from who knows where, can you come help me mr tow truck" Well Onstar will know once you push the blue or red cross button and be able to tell the tow truck right where you are. Before you bash something try talking to the people the system really has helped. You buy home insurance hopeing you never need it. Well Onstar is like insurance for my family safety. Who's watching your kids?

  • BTI

    What is BTI and who invented Onstar? Is it time for GM to offer BTI a fair settlement before they go public? What companies are still with BTI, Pre-Onstar. Is Onstar only a small piece of an amazing technology? What did StarVisors' Inventor have in mind? It isn't like it was mainstream. Is this where GM stops? Why did HUMMER refuse Breakthrough Industries, and why did Breakthrough rufuse Cadillac? Did GM have permission to go forward with BTIs' proprietary intellectual propety? Keep in mind what the Winny the Poo Scandal almost did to Disney. Is America being cheated out of the true economic blast StarVisor was meant to infuse? Lack of an appropriate settlement may crush GMs' current market. Our address has not changed! The time is now – quiet or public, you decide! Motion Curve, Motion Spike and Motion Spring

  • gr678537

    1) I suspect you looked up the wrong Onstar?? If you check the BBB – there are many companies in different business segments with the name “Onstar” The only “Onstar” with a ‘F’ rating is Onstar Limousine – totally unrelated to GM and its Onstar service

    2) There is no conspiracy for Onstar to be “Big Brother” and monitor you – they are not allowed to without your consent. As a matter of fact – even if you wanted to track your car’s location (to see where a family memebr may be driving) – they will not let you. It has to be a request made through a law enforcement agaency only as the result of a theft.

    BTW – your cell phone company has a lot more ability to track you than Onstar does without your consent. Either through the tracking of your phone by which cell tower you are near or the GPS tracking information which most cell phones have autmatically enabled when new.

    3) Whether it be in Onstar’s TV ads, mailers, or otherwise – it is always made clear that automatic crash notification is made only if airbags are deployed in some models and anytime only on newer models that have the extra sensors. Just like as in the “they invaded my financial world” – the small print and disclaimers hold a lot of information that people usually ignore or conveniently forget. You probably gave your credit card when you bought the 300 minutes of hands free calling for $10.99 when you picked the car up or your when the free trial was inititated.

    4) Not all cars have one year free Onstar anymore. Many now have only 6 months but it also includes the Directions and Connections for the 6 months. Found that out by surprise on my new GMC last month. BTW – they were very clear when I gave my credit card duriong activation that it would be automatically charged at the end of the trial period and I had to confirm that it was acceptable to do that.

  • Jake

    I have a new (Dec 09) Silverado with on star and they called me in July 10 to advertise. I was driving at the time and almost ran over a curb because my radio was Booming and some voice started trying to sell me OnStar stuff. I lit them up, verbally because OnStar almost made me have and accident. They had my truck info and sales stuff and called me on the truck.

    As I screamed at the operator she tried to explain why they called me on my Onstar system. I would have none of it and blew her off.

    I then looked up disabling the system on Alldata. From my reading I could pull a fuse but that would take out the Sat radio and other stuff. I thought I could take off the antenna, but that would get the XM too. I will try and disconnect the black box and see what stops working, but they thought of this first and integrated it into the vehicle so you would have trouble disabling it.

    Interesting about all the troubles with Onstar. Great idea but lacking solutions security issues and Onstar employees, who wants it? How great would it be so it CAme with instruction so people with these issues could take action and easily adjust the setting on their property to satisfy their hearts desires? Then the heart ache would be gone. Onstar take note. ( you idiots.)

    • gr678537

      I understand your frustration. I can't say I have ever had them call me or my wife on any Onstar equipped vehicle we have had. Which is surprising because her hands free calling minutes are expiring in two days and they haven't tried to sell us more although I know other people have had the calls too.

      I think they make it hard to disable because of the stolen vehicle feature (tracking and ignition disable). It wouldn't be much of a feature if it could be easily disabled. Would be nice to have a secure method of doing it through the vehicle settings, though.

  • Keith Place

    Dear Jake

    Next time your driving with the radio cranked, hopefully you will be able to hear the Fire Truck or Police car racing to help someone. If a person talking to you causes you too near crash, maybe you should take some driving lessons as you dont sound that safe on the road. Hopefully when you get in that crash the other car will have onstar so they can send rescue people to help save both of you. And dear sir, take a chill pill!

    • Jake

      Kiss my ass.

    • gr678537

      The Onstar volume is independent of the radio volume – having music cranked will not make the Onstar too loud.

  • Joe

    If you want to disable it pickups remove trim around cluster and radio remove the cluster and take out the onstar box it will say motorola on the black box did it to mine (2004 silverado)

  • tom

    received letter from on star to update credit card info

  • David Fiorio

    Not a fan of On-Star, it was hit or miss with using the turn by turn. Sometimes they just could not find the location I needed when my trusty Tom Tom could…. And the phone service is a definitely a rip off!

  • Chet Zaiko

       I have a 2005 Buick LeSabre with On-Star. I did not want On-Star but an end of the year savings of over $8,000 on the car did sway me. I really have no use o interest in On-Star, but when it was operational I tried it in some locations that I knew cell service was poor. I found that I could drive ten miles from my house and On-Star was useless because the mountains cut off the cell signal. I live in Montana, and I can guarantee you that there are many places within the state that have no cell service. I tried it in numerous other areas of the state and again, On-star was useless. I knowa number of other people with On-Star up here and really nobody really wanted it. Only one out o over 40 people I talked to ever really needed it, and it ended up that again, where they were, On-Star was again useless.
       I ahve been buying Gm cars and trucks since I bought my new ’65 Corvette, and so long as I as I have no choice about On-Star, I will never buy another GM car. I sure can’t see paying for something that I don’t want. Others I know have the same feeling. I wonder how many sales GM is loosing over this ?

    • gr678537

      Onstar only adds $85 to the cost of the vehicle (based on credit for fleet vehicles with Onstar delete). I understand not wanting to pay for something you won’t use – but it is only $85. There are other things on GM and other manufacturers vehicles that you don’t use and pay for. If you get a good deal on a vehicle you like – I wouldn’t think this cost would be a big issue.

  • Pingback: No discount from insurance for onstar??? - Page 2 - Chevy Cruze Forum : Chevrolet Cruze Forums

  • LaserGuy

    I had a 6mo free subscription with my new Canyon.. When it was activated, I was asked about minutes. I have a cellphone that I rarely use, and it currently has about 400.00 of unused time. However, I bought 60 minutes for 10 bucks just in case I needed it sometime.. At 5.5 months into the service, I got the email that told me my minutes were low and I only had 58 left.. ha.. In almost 6 months I used 2 minutes of cell time. I had previously asked them to remove the credit card info they had, and they did. When the free 6 mo. was up, and they wanted me to renew, I told them that I had never needed the system during the period, I had a bluetooth phone that worked well with the truck, a Garmin on the dashboard, and the truck info system kept track of oil change time and other required service, as well as 5 years of free roadside assistance, and seeing they do not offer the emergency response as a stand-alone feature, I could not think of a single reason to keep it. If the truck is upside down or on it’s side in a ditch the Onstar won’t work anyway. I wonder, if you have a accident, and push the blue button to ask for help, and they refuse because your subscription has expired, could you make a fortune on the lawsuit? ;=)

  • Russell

    I just bought a new Chevy and it came with Onstar free for 6 months. I got a come-on for 60 minutes cell phone minutes for $5 or $10 so I gave them my credit card number. They read the script but I don’t remember hearing anything about allowing them to auto-renew Onstar just because I gave them my card number. I came across this site, checked the on-star web site and sure enough they had me on auto-renew. There’s no way to ‘unsubscribe’ from the web site, either, so I had to call them.

    I hate companies that think I have SUCKER written on my forehead. The script they read probably legally covers their behinds, but it’s phrased to mislead you into thinking it’s only on-file and nothing more. This is very dishonest and I will NEVER subscribe to this service, even if they lower the cost to $5 a month.

    Large corporations are NOT your friends.

    • LaserGuy

      I ‘Specifically’ told them that my card number was for buying these minutes only, this ONE time, and still they put my card on Auto renew.. Just push the Blue Button, and TELL them to remove your card, or you will do a chargeback on any future illegal pillaging of your card.

    • http://www.automoblog.net/author/csburdick/ Chris Burdick

      Yeah, that’s really shitty of them – I hope your comments help at least one person avoid this. Thanks so much for sharing

  • Booter

    I’ve found that in order to acquire turn-by-turn navigation, you must “HOLD” for nearly 10 to 15 minutes to tell them your destination… that’s ridiculous… I could guess my way in that amount of time… I’ll use it while it’s free, they can have it back when it’s done. They never got a card number from me – I’m no fool!

  • Jed

    I bought a used 2007 chevy silverado this past fall and the truck came with 3 free months of onstar. The salesman warned me not to give them my credit card number or they would automatically bill me

  • Marsha

    Is there a simple way to unplug onstar on 2007 hummer h3? Satellite radio fuse, etc?

  • Daryl Hanson

    If payment for plan stops, and the car is involed in a major accident does the Onstar still notify police of accident?

  • Ford Man

    Onstar Stinks. I’ve had 2 car with it & I HATE it. As long as GM builds Onstar into most of their cars then I’m buying Fords instead.

  • Robert Wayne

    I bought a new Chevy truck recently and it came with Onstar. It’s a nice gadget, but I’m not going to shell out $20 a month or whatever the fee is, mainly for going back and forth to work and running errands around town.

    • http://www.automoblog.net/author/csburdick/ Chris Burdick

      Hi Valorie, thanks for the report, and sorry for all the problems you’re having. Needless to say, your next truck won’t be OnStar-equipped!

  • Patti

    I have had NO ISSUES with OnStar.. Maybe it’s those people that are talking bad about it, don’t know how to properly use it or tell the person the correct address that they need to get to. And as far as electrical issues with an automobile, every automaker has issues. In addition, if you purchased your vehicle used, you never know what was done to “rig” it up by the previous owner or dealership that sold it. I used to work for an auto auction & I have seen it ALL!! Simple repairs that could have been made, but poeple chose to rig up something to save money causing other problems to happen to the vehicle… There is also something called “Lemon Law” for new vehicles still under warranty. You would likely get a new vehicle if the manufacturer was at fault for something like an electrical wiring fire. Just an FYI.

  • Jim

    Is OnStar FMV (For my Vehicle) worth it? Starting to seriously wonder. I pay the same for FMV as regular Onstar, yet I don’t get: to review the route on the radio; ability to disable car if it is stolen; ability to open the car if locked out, or start it; the emails indicating status of the car like oil, air pressure; the only thing I get is turn-by-turn.

  • bubbah

    my 2004 vehicle in the EU has a radio that even when shut off activates (or diverts from current programming) to announce traffic alerts ahead including inclement weather conditions like fog, icy roads, etc. as well as accidents & blockages… it works like a charm & is free… gps devices in the EU are bi-directional enabled so you can press an alert button (if yours is so equipped) which transmits to the GPS system about dangerous conditions …free …I have no seen on-star like devices in the EU, but cellular & gps fully integrated into the car, yes…

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