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Rental cars: Life in the toll lane

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If you’re planning a business trip or vacation, you may have to make a decision about how to pay tolls when you rent a car. Most rental car companies offer ways to pay tolls automatically, but that convenience comes at a cost.

Here’s how the devices work. In many parts of the country, your rental car comes with a transponder — a small electronic device on the windshield. Once set to ON or OPEN, tollbooths or scanners automatically scan and charge you when you drive through. In other parts of the country, your rental car’s license plate may be scanned and charged.

What you pay depends on both where you drive and the rental company you use. For instance, once you use the rental car’s program or service to pay a toll, the company might:

  • charge you a service fee for every day of your rental — even if you don’t use the service again. There’s usually a maximum dollar amount for the rental period.
  • add a service fee each time you pay a toll with the device.

Some companies offer the device for a set fee, which covers all tolls you pass through. But that means you pay for the device even if you don’t go through any tolls.

Here are some other things to think about:

  • If you’re going to travel on toll roads, how much will they cost? Maybe the convenience is worth the cost – but maybe not.
  • Will you be on any cashless toll roads? If you don’t want to use the rental company’s service, you can use your own device (if it’s compatible) or choose a different route.
  • If you want to avoid fees on top of the toll costs, use the “Cash” lane, if there is one, or use your own electronic toll device, if it’s compatible.
  • Before you get on the road, get written information about the terms and costs of using the rental company’s program or service.
  • If the car is equipped with a transponder, make sure you know how to activate or deactivate it.

For more information, check out Renting a Car.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


Tampa Fl doesn't give you a cash option, so typically they charge you for the daily fee like $ 20 even if it's a $3 toll.

You then have to call and fight for them to lift the fee.

Pro Tip BOSTON. I have a NH EZ-Pass account. So I take my transponder with me, and use it in the rental car. THREE caveats. 1. You have to go online (before midnight, is as late as I have pushed it, before using it is ideal) and update the plate on record to the plate of the rental vehicle. 2. The burst of activity gives NH EZ Pass the excuse to up it to a higher reserve ($40 currently). So it affects short term cash flow, but it is an investment. 3. You have to remember to grab it out of the rental

Before I rent a car I use the Tollsmart app to plot out our route and to see if we'll be driving through any tolls, how much they cost, and if any will cashless. It's been a godsend in places where there are lots of tolls like Florida and the northeast.

Deactivated my activation.

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