Tolls Taking a Toll on Travelers

Nothing gets a traveler hot under the collar faster than having to spend extra money on tolls.  If paying for gas, hotel rooms and meals weren’t enough, several states have increased the amount of cash they are requiring road warriors to fork over for the privilege of driving on their asphalt.

The expansion of the electronic toll system allows locals and visitors alike to speed through the express lanes without having to shell out cash each time.  Rather, drivers can pre-purchase toll devices and use them on highways, bridges and tunnels, from California to Maine.

The largest toll program is E-Z Pass.  It runs through 14 states, including Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. EZ-Pass is also accessible on the Peace Bridge in Ontario, Canada.  However, there are a slew of other systems that a driver will encounter, such as FasTrak in California, Freedom Pass in Alabama, Peach Pass in Georgia, SunPass in Florida and TxTag in Texas.

It’s one thing to encounter tolls when you are driving your own car, but when you are behind the wheel of a rental vehicle, they often add insult to injury.  However, there is some good news for vacationers when it comes to tolls.  Some rental car agencies are allowing customers to use their own electronic toll device and enroll in the toll programs they encounter during their trip.  Rental car customers also have the option of using an agency’s device by paying a fee which averages around $3 per day.  However, keep in mind that you are paying the fee even on days in which you don’t incur any tolls.   Translation:  The device can put a real dent in your travel budget.

What’s more, some monitoring systems misidentify rental cars and you may get hit with hefty, unexpected charges.  Consequently, you should check the program’s policies before you hit the road.  For example, The SunPass website features detailed instructions for rental car customers.  Also, grill the rental car company on the toll programs.  Dollar and Thrifty promise a “low daily rate” for unlimited 24-hour toll usage.  Meanwhile, Avis promotes a “low daily fee plus the cost of tolls,” and Enterprise’s website says it charges a “service fee of $2.75 per rental day to a maximum of $13.75 per rental period.”

Finally, don’t forget to read the fine print before signing on the dotted line:  Hertz states: “You will be charged a $2.95 service fee for each day of the rental including any days on which PlatePass is not used, up to a maximum of $14.75 per rental month, plus incurred tolls at the Toll Authority’s cash toll rate or highest undiscounted toll rate.” Clearly, the tolls can add up fast and put a real damper on your vacation if you are ill-informed.

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.