Some Rental Car Companies Charge an Extra $15 per Toll!

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Via the Washington Post, some rental car agencies have been charging very high fees for using their transponders, up to $15 per toll!

Some Rental Car Companies Charge An Extra 15 Per Toll

Enterprise and Dollar Rent a Car Are Being Sued for Charging Customers an Extra ~$15 per Toll

I’ll tell you how to avoid these fees and save money while renting a car.

How Rental Car Agencies Turn a Vehicle Into a “Fee-hicle”!

According to the Washington Post article, there is a lawsuit against Dollar Rent a Car because of “false and inflated administrative fees.”  Mentioned specifically, a couple went through 4 toll booths on the North Texas Highway that should have cost ~$5 each.

Instead they received a bill from Dollar Rent a Car charging them an additional $15 per toll.  Their total bill was ~$65 for what should have cost ~$20!

Some Rental Car Companies Charge An Extra 15 Per Toll

Some Rental Car Companies Charge Exorbitant Fees per Toll and for Using Their Transponder Device

And Business Week reports that Hertz reached an $11 million dollar settlement for a class-action lawsuit.  Hertz was hiding fees they charged customers each day they rented a car that had a transponder in it, even if they didn’t use it.

Many rental car companies charge ~$10 per day for you to carry their transponder.  And that doesn’t include the fees you’ll pay per toll.  And according to the article, that fee could be as high as ~$20 per day in New York City.

And you pay the charge for EVERY day you rent the car, even if you don’t pay a toll on certain days!

3 Ways to Protect Yourself From the Fees

Is cash the best option?  Should you avoid toll roads?  I’ll explain, you decide!

1 – Avoid Toll Roads

Tell the rental car agency that you do NOT want to rent their transponder.  Then set the car’s GPS to skip toll roads.  Your trip might take a bit longer if the free road is further away or has more traffic, but you’ll save money.

Or you can use an app on your phone such as Google Maps.  Set “Route Options” to avoid tolls.

Some Rental Car Companies Charge An Extra 15 Per Toll

You Can Get Directions That Specifically Avoid Toll Roads Where Possible

In some cases, your trip will take longer because of the greater distance or traffic on non-toll roads.

For instance, you might choose to save money while visiting New York City by staying in a hotel in Queens.  Your trip to the Bronx Zoo could take up to ~30 minutes longer (depending on traffic, etc.) if you avoid toll roads.

So do what makes sense for you.  And put a price on your time!

2 – BYOT – Bring Your Own Transponder!

When you’ll be driving within states that use the same transponder as you already own, bring it!  And tell the rental car agency you do NOT want to rent theirs.

For instance, you can do this if you live in Ohio and you’ll be renting a car while visiting New York.  That’s because Ohio and New York both use the E-Z pass toll system.  So remember to pack your transponder in your suitcase!

But say you live in Texas and you’ll be flying to Massachusetts and then renting a car to see the colorful autumn leaves in Vermont and the Northeast.  Because Texas has a different toll system, you’ll have to get the E-Z pass transponder.

Some Rental Car Companies Charge An Extra 15 Per Toll

E-Z Pass Is the Toll System of 15 States, Including Most of the Northeast

To get an E-Z pass device (the toll system of much of the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and Midwest) sign-up online and add at least the minimum $25 into your account.  This money will be used to pay future tolls.

The transponder will be mailed to your address within 5 to 10 business days.

Check the toll system of the states you’ll be driving through and make a plan!

For example, folks who will be renting a car in Florida can purchase the SunPass transponder at 1 of 2,000 locations including CVS, Publix (a large supermarket chain) and at Turnpike service centers.

Or you can order the SunPass transponder online for ~$5 plus the required $10 starting balance.  It will be mailed to you within 7 days.

So if you’re renting a car to use on toll roads in Florida for more than 1 day, you’ll probably save money buying your own SunPass.  That’s because according to the state, rental car companies charge anywhere between ~$4 per day (Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, National) to ~$9 (Dollar, Thrifty) to use their SunPass plus the cost of tolls.

Some Rental Car Companies Charge An Extra 15 Per Toll

You’ll Save ~30 Minutes Taking the Toll Roads From Universal Studios in Orlando to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida

When renting a car in Florida, you may find this page helpful.

Each state has different rules (and fees!) for getting a transponder.  Naturally you don’t want to pay more for a transponder than what the rental car company would charge you!

And some toll programs require to put an initial minimum balance on your transponder.  So if you won’t be using it much, you might be better off not getting one.  That said, you might qualify for a discount using your AAA membership.

Pay-by-Plate Might Be Easier

There are new programs making it easier to avoid purchasing a transponder by taking a photo of your license plate.  This is sometimes called Pay-by-Plate.  You cross the toll and then you’ll have a certain amount of time to pay your bill online.

For example, you can pay online in the San Francisco area here.  But it will cost you a bit more than using a transponder.

If you already have a transponder that works in the places you’ll be visiting, it’s an easy decision to bring it.  

But if you’re consider purchasing 1, look carefully at the charges associated with it!

3 – Pay With Cash

This is certainly the easiest option!  But unfortunately, not all tollways accept cash anymore.  For example, parts of California and Florida do NOT accept cash.

For example, you can’t pay cash at a toll booth to drive over the Golden Gate Bride in San Francisco.

Some Rental Car Companies Charge An Extra 15 Per Toll

Toll Booths on the Golden Gate Bridge Are All Electronic With No Cash Option

Folks visiting Orange County, or driving from San Diego to Los Angeles, or driving from the Inland Empire or mountains to Orange County beaches, you may find this toll app helpful.  Because you might find it difficult to pay with cash!

When paying cash, keep in mind you’ll sometimes pay more.  For example, in New York, folks who pay cash are charged 5% more than those who use E-Z Pass.

Bottom Line

Many of the major car rental agencies charge you daily fees (usually ~$10) to rent their transponders.  And some charge you an additional ~$15 fee per toll!

To save money, you can tell the rental car company that you do NOT want their toll transponder.  Be sure you know exactly what you’ll be paying per day and per toll.

You can use your GPS or map program to skip toll roads.

Or if you already have a compatible transponder, bring it with you!  Otherwise, you can purchase a transponder for the states you’ll be traveling through.  When visiting Florida this is relatively easy.

But double-check the price and required toll balance to be sure it makes sense! Because each state has their own rules and fees.

You might try to pay cash instead.  But not all toll roads have cash lanes and sometimes the cash price is more expensive.

See my series on rental cars for more money saving tips!

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16 responses to “Some Rental Car Companies Charge an Extra $15 per Toll!

  1. Are you sure I can buy an EZ Pass and use it on a rental car? It is asking for the license plate of my own car when I try to sign up.

  2. @Maury as long as you have an active EZpass it doesnt matter in which car you are using it.

  3. @Tony Thank you for the clarification.

  4. A word of advice on getting an EZ-Pass – my husband and I recently relocated to the East coast and signed up online for a pair of transponders – it took about 9 weeks for us to recieve our transponders in the mail. Definitely plan ahead if you decide to do that! And to the commenter above – I know when we (finally) got our transponders in the mail the paperwork specifically said they could only be used in our (registered) vehicles and to not switch it to a new vehicle without first notifiying the EZ Pass gods

  5. We learned the hard way this summer visiting San Francisco. Only crossed the bridge once…got hit with a TON of fees on top of the fee normally charged. At first I was mad at Avis, but since that point I have found that most rental car companies do this.

    I went to Orlando this summer and specifically took the non-toll roads due to the cost of the daily fees they were going to charge me.

    Same thing in Chicago…… I borrowed an EZ pass for part of my trip from a relative and the other part had me pulling over and paying in the booths!

    Now my GPS is set to avoid toll roads.

  6. You can use your ez pass with a rental car you just have to logon each time and/or call them to update the plates and actually “register” the car….kinda like with the Sunpass except you can say its a rental car and set when to activate and expire.

    Source: I do this all the time when I travel for work.

  7. >>You can use your ez pass with a rental car you just have to logon each time and/or call them
    >>to update the plates and actually “register” the car….

    …and one day you will forget to “unregister” a rental car after you drop it off or will just do it several hours later after, let’s say, the flight home… and a week later – BANG – you’ll see lots of toll charges of some prick who rented the car right after you and decided to fly through a couple of toll plazas without paying 🙂
    Then there will be a lengthy letter exchange with EZPass authority where you will send them a rental receipt clearly indicating the time you dropped your car off, but they will pretend they are stupid (or maybe they really are) and ask you for “proof that you sold the car or otherwise transferred it from your possession”. Several months down the road you’ll just say “F**k it” and eat those $30+ charged for someone’s tolls.

    ^^ THIS is actually what happened to me once – I also used to register my EZPass tag in all rental cars until I ran into this issue above – since then I just use my tag without registering the car – probably in violation of EZPass rules.

    And just a quick side note to Daraius – please be very careful trying to “avoid tolls” in NJ/NY (especially NYC Metro Area) unless you know exactly what you are doing. I live in NJ and I experiment a lot with Google Maps and route settings and in most cases it is not worth the hassle (specifically if you are not local and don’t know all possible routes). You may well save 50c or $1 by “avoiding tolls” and easily make your 15-minutes trip to last 40 minutes an more.

    One more “last-minute hint” about getting EZPass tags in NY – if you happen to find yourself ALREADY in NY without a pre-arranged tag – it’s absolutely not the end of the world. EZPass NY has a great program called EZPass On-the-go ( https://www.e-zpassny.com/en/onthego/general_info.shtml ) – basically it’s just an easy way to get a prepaid tag – both of my tags were acquired at retail locations using this program. There’s no need to fill anything in, wait etc. – you just pay $25-30 at participating 7-11 (there’s even a couple of locations in Downtown Manhattan, I think), get a new tag, register it online and you are good to go right away. Another big plus is that EZPass NY tags (unlike ones issued by some other EZPass authorities) do not carry a monthly fee, so you can have a tag for months and potentially years only using it occasionally when you need it…

  8. Thanks for covering this…I regularly pay the national car rental toll rip off rate in orlando. Maybe I will get my own transponder now. The biggest concern for me is the 91 toll road in SoCal from Disneyland to Temecula area to the casinos. Last I knew, no rental car toll tags allowed, no cash, no national rental car transponder coverage=me sitting in the Carona Crawl. Can anyone address solutions?

  9. My experience in Orlando is that what you “tell” the rental car agency has no effect. The transponder service is contracted out and the rental car company cannot deactivate their car’s transponder. If you have a verified way of deactivating a rental car transponder, please post it.

  10. Sometimes you can avoid toll roads with minimal effect. When I was in CA this summer. We were driving back from San Diego to LAX in a rental car. The GPS said to take the toll road. I selected “avoid tolls” and the trip time was extended by 2 minutes. Although we headed back to the airport to return the car and catch our flight. I was able to spare the 2 minutes. When we got to the Delta terminal at LAX there was an approx 20 minute wait to check our bags so I walked outside when to the skycap line which had 1 person in front of me and for a $1 per bag tip the skycap was happy to help me out. 🙂

  11. Also, when traveling with my EZ Pass tag I always keep it in the special bag it came with that prevents it from being charged if you don’t mean to use it (like if you’re getting a ride with someone to the airport, taking a taxi, etc).

  12. @blanca Some of the California toll roads allow you to pay using a credit card on their website. Google the toll to find the agency in charge of that toll and see if they let you pay. I Calif toll I was thinking of using said you can pay using a credit card on their website if you do it within 48 hours of going through the toll. You need the date/time you went through the toll as well as the license plate #. Then they mark your toll as paid before they send the notice to the registered owner (the car rental company).

  13. https://www.sunpass.com/rentalcar explains the contracted out orlando toll service

  14. I ran into this when renting this week from Dollar in Dallas @Love Airport (May 2015). When they explained to me that I would be charged $15 per toll camera plus the toll if I didn’t “rent” their device, I was astounded. I refused to pay their daily charge of $13 for a toll tag device, and avoided toll roads, which took some effort, but saved me a lot of money. What a ripoff! Would love to join this lawsuit!

  15. I was about to rent from Dollar in Denver and was going to be driving to and from Colorado Springs. The toll highway is faster for the time I will be returning to the Denver airport. I assumed that Dollar would be “reasonable” about fees until I read the various news stories about the $15 PER TOLL CHARGE fee. I quickly switched the rental over to Alamo which appears to be purely the $3.95 per day plus my toll. Thanks for spreading the word, and maybe the bad publicity will be cause for the rip off artists to either do it more fairly….OR they all go the other way and conspire to made it fee heavy just like the airlines are doing to people with baggage fees.

    Travelling in America has become horrible. Bad for tourism.