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OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation


GM has announced a new feature to be available with some of their OnStar equipped vehicles. The new feature will allow drivers to call an OnStar operator and ask for audio directions. The directions will be downloaded to the vehicle and a computerized voice will guide the driver to their destination via voice.

An important note though….. there is currently no on-screen display. Have you ever tried navigating with your GPS navigation system by voice alone without looking at the screen? This can be very challenging even with the best GPS navigation systems I’ve tested. When the voice says “turn right on Main Street in 800 yards” and the street signs are not very visible figuring out which street is in 800 yards can be challenging. However looking at the map you can normally see “it is the second turn from where I am” for example.

You can watch a demo of the system here.

OnStar president Chet Huber said the new system is easy to use and safer than screen-based navigation because drivers never have to take their eyes off the road. It also will be less expensive than installing a navigation screen, which can cost between $1,500 (U.S.) and $3,000, he said. Directions are available in English, Spanish or French. “It will demystify the user interface with navigation,” Huber said. “It will be easy to use. Normal people will be able to get value out of it.”

I don’t see how a system could be easier to use because it provides more ambiguous information…. but hey…. I haven’t actually used it. I also wonder where Chet Huber is buying GPS navigation systems from. You can purchase basic GPS navigation systems for one-tenth the high price he quoted.

In fact, with the new OnStar system costing “less than $34.95 per month” you can probably purchase a great portable GPS navigation system with a screen for less money than a year of the OnStar service.

We are skeptical the system will be a huge success. However we would love to be proven wrong and can’t say for certain until we test it.

14 Responses

  1. Thanks for the news about another OnStar service. I’m an OnStar user primarily because it provides a sense of security for my spouse who has a heart condition.
    Is there a viable competitor to OnStar? My 2002 model vehicle is analog-only and OnStar says on 1 Jan 2008 I’ll lose my service because of FCC mandated rules requiring all cell phone service to go to digital. Not sure I want another GM car, just for OnStar.
    Is anyone marketing portable “OnStar-like” equipment than can be move from vehicle to vehicle?
    Robert F. Danner, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army, Retired

    Robert Danner - February 27th, 2006
    • Hi Robert,

      Sorry for late reply, but check this website.


      Carshield designed for individual car owners to bring safety, security and convenience to thier lives.

      Anayis - May 16th, 2011
  2. Hi Robert,

    I don’t know of any companies who provide comparable services to OnStar. I don’t have much experience with OnStar, however my understanding of the features it provides leads me to believe “aftermarket” services would be difficult to integrate.

    Sorry I can’t help more. Outside of GPS technologies I’m not too familiar with the automobile industry.

    GPS Review - February 28th, 2006
  3. I love on star turn by turn nav. I is far easier to have someone tell you when to turn than to try to look at a map and drive, also for my 35 per month I get my doors opened if I am locked out, the police can find my vehicle if it is stolen, I get vehicle dianostics emailed to me, I can find the nearest pit stop facility (geat with small children) I have an emergency button, and the fire dept can find me if my airbags go off and I am knocked out.On star checks to see of you are ok if the airbags get deployed. So that is where your well spent money goes.

    Dana Ayers - October 19th, 2007
  4. This navigation system is a terrible idea. I have had new GM’s for years and seldom use the free one year of service. The idea of having to call someone at onstar and telling them where I am going is rediculous. I don’t want to talk to anybody no matter how wonderful they are. My car is a machine and I want it to stay that way. When I am so old I need a system like this I will likely realize I should not be driving. And to pay top dollar for a service like this is laughable. I would not use it even if it was free. I do hope this experiment is over. I don’t mind GM making my car but I don’t want to travel with them in my car. I could go on and on but I won’t.

    Scott O’Donnell - February 8th, 2008
  5. I was looking for a addon for Onstar that connects to the Onstar GPS system already in cars, why does onstar not have a GPS screen you can buy and install in your car that connects to the Onstar GPS already in the cars ? seems like a no brainer to sell some touch screens to Onstar customers so they can use this instead on getting a person to tell you where to turn just look at the screen like all the other GPS driving direction units only you don’t need the GPS because it’s already in your car with Onstar etc.

    Randy - March 30th, 2008
  6. I’ve had my On Star equipted vehicle (with ‘turn by turn’ navagation) for just over a year now. Most times the turn by turn directions are right on, but on at least 4 or 5 occasions during the last year, On Star has said “You have arrived at your destination” when actually the destination is several miles away (sometimes on a different street entirely). Has anyone else reading this had this problem?

    Don Carroll - May 2nd, 2008
  7. I have had OnStar turn-by-turn since April 2008. I find that the voice guidance is easy to follow. However, I find that in virtually every case the directions given are neither the shortest or easiest. On three different trips I was given directions that were 15 to 20 miles longer than the same trip directions from MapQuest. When I called OnStar to complain about this, they recommended that I use the MapQuest download feature. When I tried to do this, I did not get the MapQuest directions fed back to me but rather the very poor OnStar directions. After working with 14 different Tech Reps or Customer Service reps (none of whom could understand why this was happening) I finally got an answer. When you download from MapQuest to OnStar, you are only downloading a destination, not directions. So the directions you get will still be the same lousy OnStar directions. When my subscription expires, I will not renew it.

    Edward Sambuchi - November 20th, 2008
  8. I tried Turn-By-Turn. The most frustrating thing to me was, when you pull off the freeway into a Rest Stop, you get the prompt, “You have left the chosen route. Onstar turn-by-turn navigation has ended.” Then you have to recall Onstar to reload the trip. A dash mounted GPS is cheaper, and offers far more amenities than this “Gizmo”.

    Dennis Janoch - August 1st, 2009
  9. First time I tried to use the On Star Nav, the operator said there is no direct route and could not provide turn by turn directions, instead, he said he could read the directions and I can record him giving them with the on star. That’s stupid, it was an expo center on a main road. Heaven forbid if I have to find something on a small street in a small town. And I don’t see a way to save a location, I have a hunting spot I find, my old GPS I hit save this location, I don’t think I can call onstar and say save this spot so I can find it again later.

    Gary - January 11th, 2010
  10. I purchased a 2009 Pontiac G5 equipped with onstar. I love the car but Onstar literally sucks!! Turn by turn directions are way off. I have asked for directions on several ocasions and 9 out of 10 locations are wrong.
    one time in peticular i askedto go to my home town from where i was and the directions were over 115km off.
    once i got to the location were i wanted to go i called them back and they could see on there end that i was several km away from where they directed me. I have complained several times and they keep saying to me that someone from head office will give me a call to rectify the situation but i have never received a call. Also their directions take you the longest route that you could ever go at least an hour our of your way in many instances.
    I hope that Onstar see’s this because there customer service is about a #2 out of 10 in my books. when my subscription expires I will not renew it. You need better business practices if you want a long lasting business.

    Dave - February 26th, 2010
  11. I know many people have commented about the navigation. I have used it and at times it is off. Altho my cell phone has navigation it at times leads you wrong. Nothing is fool proof and with construction roads change all the time. We use Onstar for the safety not navigation! I dont really care about the nav unless Im going on a long trip!

    Matthew - February 27th, 2011
  12. I have a new travers and we trird the On Star Navigation feature and we liked it. Turn by turn appears on a small screen in addition to the adio instructions. I ge off track
    you will be prompted to say yes or no if you want an update.
    If you say yes it re routs you and it is quick. Gps will make errors from time to time all of them will. I will subscribe to the navigation part of onstar far safer to use whe driving. It shows the upcoming turn and and shows the distance and beeps when yo need to turn. GM nailed this one.
    Maybe just the audion is for older vehicles tha don” have any screen at all. They made my screen pard of the radio screen and is just big enought to give a turn by turn map, distance and street name as well as audio.

    DARRYL - July 7th, 2011
  13. I just got OnStar with my new Chevy Equinox (2012), and I kinda hate it. The turn by turn navigation seems great at first, but on our last road trip it became quite a burden just asking for simple directions. Thursday night we provided specific hotel names, city and state names, while the OnStar assistant apparently couldn’t hear us correctly (had to spell out the city name three times, it was extremely frustrating). She didn’t give us correct directions and we had to cancel/call for another assistant after. Friday afternoon, we tried visiting Harvard and MIT. Four assistants had no idea what MIT was, and after saying “Massachusetts Institute of Technology”, three still had difficulty providing us directions there. One gave us directions that had us driving around a single block over and over again (I am NOT joking or exaggerating). Their inability to listen when we had all the destination information was both ridiculous and frustrating. It was like they were just trying to give us any old directions and get us off the phone asap. I don’t know who OnStar is hiring, but they seriously need to rethink their service. Thank God we brought along our old GPS.

    Mary - October 17th, 2011

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