By on January 5, 2011

Dying to have OnStar in our car, but don’t want to buy a GM car? No problem! At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, GM unveiled an add-OnStar that fits (nearly) any car.

It comes as a retail, boxed version of an OnStar-equipped rearview mirror, providing the joys of OnStar (crash response, turn-by-turn navigation, stolen vehicle location assistance, emergency and roadside services and hands-free calling) to the less fortunate who can’t call a GM product their own.

According to ZDNet, GM thinks this is “a bold move.”  ZDNet predicts that the boxed mirror “will no doubt irritate rivals like Ford, Lincoln, Kia, Toyota, Lexus and Audi, which all have similar platforms deployed or in the works.”

The mirror will be available in the U.S. in spring 2011 for $299. Installation will run another hundred bucks. Service plans for non-GM vehicles will start at $18.95 per month, or $199 per year.  GM thinks that the OnStar mirror will work on 99 percent of the top 20 selling non-GM vehicles made during the last 10 years.

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27 Comments on “OnStar, Now Available As An Out Of The Box Experience...”

  • avatar

    I’d get one if it included the following features:
    GPS & location of red light & speed cameras (with updates)
    Radar detector
    Laser jammer

  • avatar

    In June of 2006 during my “you got it with the car for a year” period I was in a multi-car rear ending accident that required ambulances, police cruisers, and tow trucks.  Just seconds after climbing out of my car to inspect the damage (I was the first car, so rear ended only) I could hear the sound of a phone ringing coming from the car.  It was OnStar calling me, asking me if I was in an accident and if I needed assistance.  The coordinated police, fire, and medical response for all the cars at the accident (five involved).  My car was not airbag deployed.

    I’ve been a subscriber ever since.

    Now if Ford would just do this with Sync…

  • avatar
    N Number

    With the advent of cell phones, iphones, smart phones, smart keys, gps, lojack, ect, I would have thought OnStar would be rather irrelevant in the marketplace.  I guess I’m wrong.  I really don’t care to have it in any car I own or drive.

    • 0 avatar

      Where do you keep your phone?  If it’s in your pocket will it work after being stressed by the lap belt?  If it’s in a console will it still be there after your car has been tossed around?  If by chance your phone is still reachable and functioning will you be awake, aware enough, and physically able to make the call to 3 different agencies?

      Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have OnStar and might not ever but I don’t believe that both I and my cell phone will unite to contact every emergency response org necessary after a violent accident.

    • 0 avatar

      Celebrity208 has it right. In 2003, I was involved in a pretty bad wreck at 11:45 PM. My cell phone totally disappeared, and my glasses did too! I dug out my spare pair easily enough, but I had to borrow the policeman’s cellphone to call work and tell them I wasn’t going to be making it in that night. The next day, I went to the towing company to get some stuff out of my truck and I found my broken glasses under the front seat, but my cell was jammed inside the crack of the back seat, and it was broken too. I was wearing the glasses, and the cell was in my shirt pocket. If I had been out in the boonies, it would have been nice to have Onstar. I have a cell holder now in my car to prevent flights, and I use the Uconnect bluetooth hands free with it, so as long as the radio works, I should have cellcall ability.

    • 0 avatar

      “where do you keep your phone?”

      Where do you keep your Onstar? :)
      Seriously, my phone lives in a dock on the center stack when I’m driving.
      It’s as solid as my rear-view mirror, so really the differnce in terms of device survivability is strictly a matter of luck. Maybe Onstar’s doodads will survive the wreck and help me out — or maybe it’ll fail and the blackberry will work. Maybe neither will survive. Shall I spend $20/month, “just in case”? Lots of people are wired that way, I guess. Not me, I already pay too damned much for a data plan, plus tend to be a fatalist (“if I’m meant to cash out in a car wreck, I will regardless of whether I play the safety toy game or not”). IMO Onstar and LifeAlert are the same idea — false security for gullible people who are terrified of their own inevitable end. But when it comes for you, you’ll go. We all will. Who ya gonna call?

  • avatar

    There’s a lot wrong with this, in typically GM fashion.

    It’s simply repackaging functionality that is already available in your car (if you want it). Only you can’t take it with you when you leave (or wouldn’t want to even if you can).

    Also, will you get rid of your cellphone, or just add another monthly bill to your budget? And it’s also too bulky.

    A smart phone can do all of this and more. Sorry GM, you can keep it.

  • avatar

    I do not recommend onstar. Several years back I had signed up for their plan, and added minuites onto the built in phone as a backup to my cell phone. My wife was on a long trip, and found to her dismay, that her cell phone had run out of charge. When she went to use the phone in the onstar system, she was told that there were no minutes left, even though it was only six months after I added the minutes, and was told they are good for a year. I wrote a letter to the President of Onstar, and his solution was to have one of his flunkies call me, apologise, and you guessed it, offer to reinstate the minutes and offer me 30 more for my “inconvenience” In summary, the Onstar system failed me when I needed it most, and I cancelled after my term ran out. While I am sure there are a few people out there that have found it useful, I am not one of them. For what they charge for their service, I expected a much better response. Personally, I will never do business with them again, and I try to warn everyone I can about my experience with them.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s a really odd experience with OnStar. When you’re running out of minutes on the phone, you should get a reminder email letting you know you’re running low. Usually, the system will let you know that you’re running low and give you the option to purchase more minutes right over the phone. (Your account is linked to a credit card or debit card, so the purchase is immediate).
      My complaint is that the minutes have an expiration date, but I suppose that’s how most of the pay as you go phones seem to work. I wonder if that’s some sort of limitation with Verizon (OnStar carrier)?

    • 0 avatar


      I agree that it was very odd. I have the system in my 2006 Acura MDX, one of the few non GM vehicles to have it. I do not know if the installation in a non GM vehicle was somehow crippled. In my case the minutes were just gone.What was even worse was that they could not give me a reason, or guarantee that it would not happen again. I had even checked every couple of months with the rep by pressing the button inside the car for non emergency contact. What bothered me the most was their cavalier attitude to my problem. In essence I paid them over $200 just to have a standby lifeline that was useless when I needed it. Had they offered me a free year of service, or a hefty discount, I might have stayed with them. In my case it sounded like a great idea in theory, but their implementation, and my customer service experience, was just horrible.

    • 0 avatar

      geozinger, I just rolled over my minutes when my renewal came up.  Just purchase the minimum and my remaining minutes were rolled over.
      Can’t wait till the spring.  Then I can stop using the useless Navigation system and UConnect in our Town & Country.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      When I had OnStar I didn’t have any complaints about it. It was certainly better than the options in the Benz I had previously. But I was very annoyed that it was permanently tied to Verizon, and that rollover between OnStar and my regular cell phone was also limited to Verizon. That alone made me cancel it after awhile.

  • avatar

    I say good for GM, although I hope they are not subsidizing the equipment too much – the average American Mr. and Mrs. Joe Sixpack aren’t smart enough or care enough to consider the alternative ways they can get these features.  However, what would have been smarter was to add on Onstar to a TomTom or Garmin.

  • avatar

    And it comes with an electrochromic rearview, something that has taken foreign automakers twenty years to implement in anything but flagship models!

    Now how about mandatory automatic headlamps for cars with electroluminescent gauges?

  • avatar

    Wow, and I always thought of OnStar as a reason to avoid GM cars. . . . .

  • avatar

    I have OnStar in our 09 Pontiac, I’ve been very happy with the service. I have not had to use it in an extreme circumstance like Holden, but I’ve used to help people stranded at the side of the road in a remote area where regular cell phone coverage sucked. We have the Directions and Connections service, we use it just about once a week. If we get stuck in traffic, I can get them to re route us. I was once stuck in traffic and smelled raw gasoline; I thought it might have been our car, called OnStar, they did the remote diagnostics and found nothing wrong with our car.
    I have Generation 8 on mine, many of the neat features previewed in the Volt version of OnStar are incorporated into Generation 9, I wish I had an upgrade path for my 2009 vehicle. There was a lot of functionality for smartphones added to Gen 9. Going forward, I see upgrades as an issue for massive improvement on anyone’s telematic system, upgrading will become a huge issue in the future. We easily upgrade smartphones and other devices, I’d like to be able to do the same thing.
    For my daughter who travels a lot, this would give her dad some peace of mind. You may carry a cell phone with you, but it won’t dial the local emergency crews when you’re in an accident. Everyone has a different idea of value, but this would be valuable to me.

    • 0 avatar

      “I was once stuck in traffic and smelled raw gasoline; I thought it might have been our car, called OnStar, they did the remote diagnostics and found nothing wrong with our car.”

      Speaking as an Automotive Technical Instructor, contacting On-Star to check a fuel smell is the wrong approach. Fuel smells occur during mechanical failure such as cracked fuel lines or bad o-rings. The On-Star “Diagnostic Check” only looks at electrocnic data and Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) that may NOT occur during this type of mechanical failure.

      In most cases, if the vehicle has a DTC it ALSO has a check engine light, SRS light, or ABS light. If the gauge assembly does not have an indicator lit up, asking for an On-Star diagnostic will return a clean bill of health 99% of the time. I’ll concede that On-Star operators may be able to explain the cause of a trouble light and provide advice on how to proceed. But I would NEVER use On-Star to check a fuel smell fault. For your own protection, get out and look for fuel drips under the vehicle.

  • avatar

    Can it make my car catch on fire?

  • avatar

    Yet another thief magnet. No thanks.

  • avatar

    Does it have auto-dimming function?  Or just the 80’s-style tab you hit to angle it down…

  • avatar

    I’m honestly surprised that nobody cares about OnStar’s open-door policy for any rogue LEO who thought you slept with his wife, or in fact anyone impersonating a LEO. I understand that the probability of it happening to any given customer is miniscule, but still.

    • 0 avatar


      I agree, which is why I disconnected the power to my onstar module after cancelling. In my case, there were no adverse effects, but on a GM car, IDK. I have heard, although can not verify, that they can remotely activate the in car microphone to listen in on the conversations in your car. Just another reason not to have the service IMHO. We have enough big brother in our lives without this “service” All for just $199 per year. What a “deal”

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      Well, semi-miniscule. My father in law was shot dead in his home by a rogue LEO. And interestingly enough, because he suspected him of cheating with his wife.
      Got off scott-free, too. Gotta love small-town justice.

    • 0 avatar

      @Pete: The incident you’re referring to was when the FBI demanded that OnStar use that capability for them. Not unlike what the government was doing with all of our ISPs and actively forcing them to spy on us. All any of this proves are two things: The federal government can (and will) do whatever it wants without our approval, and that privacy is dead.
      Regardless, I can’t imagine some sheriff in Podunk somewhere calling OnStar and telling them they want to listen in to see if Suzie Jo is giving Billy Bob sexual favors. Especially without some sort of subpoena and verification of the accusation.
      @M 1: Yes, small-town justice indeed. I’ll take my chances in the city…

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I like having Onstar, even with a cell phone. I was on a snowmobile trip once in a remote area and I had 3 guys sitting in my truck calling their wives because non of their cell phones worked. But my Onstar did.

    Probelm is that it is too darn expensive for the one or two times I might use it in a year. Which is why I know longer have it active. They really need to look hard at their pricing.  

  • avatar

    Meh. I had it for a year on my Saab. Never used it, removed the control unit the day the free year was up. Had a really irritating LED on it that drove me to distration. I simply do not worry about accidents enough to keep it for that silliness. Anywhere that you have decent cell coverage, there are plenty of people around to call 911. Anywhere that a built in sos would be helpful, there is no cell signal.

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