Many toll roads across the U.S. have converted to electronic toll collections where there is no booth to accept payment. If you live in an area with this type of tolls, you probably have a transponder that pays as you drive through – in Virginia it’s called an E-ZPass. But how do you pay cashless tolls when traveling in rental cars?
Rental car solutions can be expensive.
If you drive through an electronic toll without paying, cameras snap a photo of the license plate and send a bill to the registered owner of the vehicle. If that happens in a rental car, the fees can be steep. Rental car companies offer the “convenience” of an optional transponder that pays electronically. For a daily fee over and above the cost of any tolls incurred, you can purchase this “convenience.” Fees can be as much as $12.95 per day, including the days it is not used. Some companies have a cap on the convenience fee ranging from $20 to $90, others don’t have a maximum.
A monthly or unlimited flat fee that includes the tolls may be an option to compare for your expected usage; however, every rental car company has different rate structures. Even sister companies such as Hertz and Thrifty maintain different fee policies. Also, rates within a single company may differ from state to state.
Know the policy in advance.
To manage your rental expense, you may need to do some homework. But keep in mind that any convenience fees for cashless tolls in rental cars are only a fraction of the total rental price. A significantly lower daily rate or corporate discount may offset a higher convenience fee. Here are links to the major car rental agency’s cashless toll policies:
In addition to understanding the specific rates if you do opt-in, know what happens if you do not accept the “convenience.” If you drive through a cashless toll in a rental without paying for the transponder, most companies will charge you an administrative fee per toll, in addition to the transponder fee and the toll itself. Again, there may or may not be caps on the administration fee.
Do you need a transponder?
At the rental desk, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by information overload as you make decisions about (or are pressured to buy) prepaid gas plans and insurance options. Whenever possible, check your routes in advance to see if you will even encounter cashless tolls. That way you can make an informed decision about paying the transponder fee. Travel Maestro tip: Use this Google Maps Toll Calculator.
Alternatives do exist. GPS systems give directions that avoid tolls, or you may be able to take your own transponder with you to pay cashless tolls in rental cars. Travel Maestro tip: Some transponder issuers may require that you register a rental vehicle with your account.
Understand that not all transponders are equal. Toll pass compatibility was mandated by Congress in 2012, but it hasn’t happened yet. Your Virginia E-ZPass works in 18 states from Maine to North Carolina and west to Illinois, plus only the Orlando area of Florida. California uses the FasTrak system and is not interoperable with other systems, while the Texas TxTag, Kansas MyKTAG, and Oklahoma Pikepass are all interoperable throughout toll roads of only those three states.
With a little preparation, you won’t get an exorbitant bill for breezing through a cashless toll in a rental car without paying. Next time you need to rent a vehicle, contact Covington to make your arrangements.