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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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.