Help me replace OnStar with a GPS
April 23, 2010 4:27 PM   Subscribe

Help me pick out a GPS to replace my OnStar service.

So with my new car I got a free year of OnStar, which was really nice. But I figure that I could take the cost of 1 year of OnStar service ($300 if I pay the year at once, $360 if I pay monthly) and put it towards a nice GPS, and perhaps use any leftover for AAA service to take the place of OnStar's roadside assistance.

Features I'd like:
1. It will speak the directions (with street names!), but it doesn't have to be voice activated (that is, I don't care if I can talk to it or not like OnStar).
2. If I could plug it into my computer and set my own routes via their mapping software that would be great. If it can use Google Maps, so much the better... I like their "avoid tollway" feature. OnStar doesn't allow you to choose your route, which is its major downfall.
3. It can recalculate the route on the fly if I miss my turn. OnStar is annoying in that it will tell me I've gone off route and ask me if I need new directions... if the GPS avoids that and just automatically gives me new directions, super.
4. I've always wanted to try geocaching so bonus points if it has that ability to use latitudes and longitudes, but definitely not required. I'm focusing on the car features here.
5. If I can press a button on the go and find say, all the restaurants in the area, bonus points.

I do not need live traffic information or anything like that, unless it's free. I already have bluetooth handsfree calling in my car so I don't need that either.

I know nothing of GPS units so forgive me if these are standard features. I also don't know the major differences or ease of use between TomTom, Garmin, and Magellan (and any other brands). I only own an iPod Touch, so iPhone apps are out.
posted by IndigoRain to Technology (8 answers total)
This isn't exactly the answer you want, but OnStar's directions and roadside assistance are secondary features. The biggest benefit is automatic crash notification. If you're willing to give that up, almost any moderately priced GPS unit will have the features you're looking for.
posted by pupdog at 5:01 PM on April 23, 2010

I totally, totally love my Garmin nuvi, and it is years old, by no means as snazzy as the current Garmins. Besides being a great GPS, it automatically syncs via bluetooth with my phone and will dial ahead for me, and reads me books, and holds my photos, and has an excellent traffic receiver that tells me what's up on the roadways. (This is the old model.) I will also say that hands down, I think Garmin makes the best GPS out there. I don't care for their mounts that came with the models I have used, so I use this one. It fits all our cars and leaves no telltale mark on the windshield.

Another great option if you are interested in a phone which is also a fantastic GPS is a Droid. It has very, very good voice recognition too. I especially like the way it shows me a photo of my destination when I near it. The Droid windshield mount is also a snap to put on and take off (literally.) And of course the Droid will do a zillion other smartphone things for you if you want.
posted by bearwife at 5:07 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

My husband and I really like his Garmin. I think its a 255W (W meaning wide screen).
It has maps of all N. America, not just the US, and cost about $199 at Target.
However, getting the software to allow lifetime map updates is another $100, and we have not purchased that.

There are some that come with updates, but the only one in the store that day had a tiny tiny sreen, so I passed it by.

It does include points of interest, stores, restaurants, etc., but that feature can be a little spotty.
You can choose the voice you want to listen to. You can avoid tollways, pick a biking route, avopid u-turns, and other cute things like that. You need to be careful about your settings. It will send you around Robin Hood's barn if you are driving the car with the bike setting on.

Don't know about lat/long. Never checked.

And you will someday start to make wrong turns on purpose just to hear that prissy little voice say 'Recalculating...'
posted by SLC Mom at 5:13 PM on April 23, 2010

My current voice is Daniel, the Brit, who has a somewhat pompous and very smooth Brit voice. I especially like the pronunciation errors that sometimes come up, like calling a "Dr" location (drive) "Doctor." And though making the GPS say "recalculating" is fun, my favorite thing is the somewhat smug tone all the voices have at the end of a route when they announce you are "arriving at destination."

By the way, the ability to set the Garmin for pedestrian mode also makes it extremely handy for getting to things like restaurants on foot. I almost always take it along when I travel, whether or not I rent a car.
posted by bearwife at 5:21 PM on April 23, 2010

I looked at the Garmin website and the nuvi 755 looks nice, but the reviews say that the touch screen is awful. The Magellan website doesn't allow me to choose units based on features and I found it frustrating, and my neighbor hated his TomTom, saying it was hard to use. I guess all the really nice GPS units with mostly positive reviews are out of my price range right now ($300-350). If no one else has anything to add, I guess I'll take a look at this issue again closer to August when my free year of OnStar will expire. Maybe some new models will come out by then.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:42 AM on April 24, 2010

I had a Garmin nuvi that I quite loved--until I got a Droid. The Droid's Google Maps integration is perfect (and doesn't need the annual update that a Garmin does), it speaks the street names to me, can find about any gas station/cafe/restaurant/book store/etc, and has traffic data. I realize that a smartphone might not be the best/most affordable fit for you, but it's something to keep in mind.
posted by rockstar at 12:28 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm blown away by MotionGPS Drive for the iPhone. It's a $2.99 app, and if you want voice prompting it's $2.99 a month, month by month so you can cancel any time. Love love love it.
posted by unSane at 7:57 PM on June 13, 2010

Thanks unSane, but like I said, I only have an iPod Touch, which doesn't have GPS.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:29 AM on August 24, 2010

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