Toll roads can take a bigger toll than you expect in a rental car. Rental agencies often impose fees of $4 to $6 per day for the transponders that let customers use cashless toll lanes. Opt out of that perday fee, and you might be charged $10 to $15 for each cashless toll you incur— in addition to actual toll charges. Avoiding cashless tolls isn’t always easy—some toll roads and bridges no longer accept cash. Three potential solutions…
Stay off toll roads. Select the “avoid toll roads” option in your phone’s map app when driving a rental car. If that isn’t feasible, avoid cashless tolls. One way to do that is to check PlatePass.com— click “view map” for the area you’re visiting. Toll roads/bridges that don’t accept cash are marked with asterisks.
Warning: If you intend to pay tolls in cash, ask the rental agency how to shield or disable the car’s transponder. Otherwise the transponder—and you— could be billed even though you paid cash. Request and save receipts for tolls paid in cash in case you’re billed.
Choose a rental company that charges reasonable toll fees. Carshare company Zipcar has no toll fees— it passes along only actual toll charges. (Zipcar membership costs $7 per month or $70 per year—$9/$90 in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New Jersey/New York—plus a onetime $25 application fee, but its usage fees may be comparable to car-rental companies depending on the time and distance of your trip.)
The others: Alamo, Avis and Enterprise charge $3.95 to $5.95 per day, sometimes with a perrental cap of $19 to $30. Details vary by company and state— search “tolls” on the company’s website before booking. Worth checking: Will this fee be applied for each day of the rental… or only for days when tolls are incurred? Dollar, Hertz and Thrifty offer the electronic toll-payment system PlatePass, generally for $10 to $30 per day depending on location, which includes the cost of any toll you go through.
Bring your own transponder… maybe. First, confirm that your transponder works where you’re headed— E-ZPass works throughout much of the northeastern US and some parts of the Midwest, but most other transponders work only in a small number of states. (You could buy the correct transponder for your destination, but it might be as expensive as a rental-car company’s toll fees.)
Contact the government agency that issued your transponder to confirm that it can be used in rental cars—not all programs allow this. Or you might have to add the rental’s plate number to your transponder account, a potential hassle.
Reminder: Position your transponder directly under the rental’s windshield when passing through cashless tolls— you’ll face rental company fees if it fails to register.