Although several recent studies have reported that GPCRs adopt multiple conformations, it remains unclear how subtle conformational changes are translated into divergent downstream responses. In this study, we report on a novel class of FRET-based sensors that can detect the ligand/mutagenic stabilization of GPCR conformations that promote interactions with G proteins in live cells. These sensors rely on the well characterized interaction between a GPCR and the C terminus of a Gα subunit. We use these sensors to elucidate the influence of the highly conserved (E/D)RY motif on GPCR conformation. Specifically, Glu/Asp but not Arg mutants of the (E/D)RY motif are known to enhance basal GPCR signaling. Hence, it is unclear whether ionic interactions formed by the (E/D)RY motif (ionic lock) are necessary to stabilize basal GPCR states. We find that mutagenesis of the β2-AR (E/D)RY ionic lock enhances interaction with Gs. However, only Glu/Asp but not Arg mutants increase G protein activation. In contrast, mutagenesis of the opsin (E/D)RY ionic lock does not alter its interaction with transducin. Instead, opsin-specific ionic interactions centered on residue Lys-296 are both necessary and sufficient to promote interactions with transducin. Effective suppression of β2-AR basal activity by inverse agonist ICI 118,551 requires ionic interactions formed by the (E/D)RY motif. In contrast, the inverse agonist metoprolol suppresses interactions with Gs and promotes Gi binding, with concomitant pertussis toxin-sensitive inhibition of adenylyl cyclase activity. Taken together, these studies validate the use of the new FRET sensors while revealing distinct structural mechanisms for ligand-dependent GPCR function.