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When you’re driving a rental car… Bloomberg Business has a good article talking about the various fees that get charged when you go through toll plazas in a rental car.

From the article, after a Florida Dollar Rent a Car added $30 in administrative fees to a bill for $2.74 in tolls, Roxanna Usher of Redwood Valley, Calif., vented her spleen on the entire state. “I’m angry beyond belief and can’t even imagine coming back to your state,” she wrote in a Jan. 13 complaint to Florida’s attorney general. “Talk about a corrupt state! It’s disgusting what you’re doing to tourists—the mainstay of your economy.”

My experiences

I bought an iPass transponder several years ago when I was in Chicago for 2 weeks doing some training for work.  The tolls were twice as much if you paid with cash versus having a transponder, and since I was going to be doing a fair amount of driving, it was worth the $40 upfront cost to get a transponder.

iPass is compatible with E-Z pass, which is the toll company that I typically have to deal with (no tolls where I live, but if we are on the Ohio or West Virginia Turnpikes, those are both E-Z pass).  Since we don’t need the transponder every day, I keep it in a drawer at home and just bring it with me when I’m going somewhere I’ll need it.

Since then, I’ve had 2 recent experiences with tolls in a rental car.

  • When we went to Miami, their tollways use the proprietary “Sunpass” system which is not compatible with either iPass or E-Z pass.  In talking to Avis, they said that the cars had transponders included.  There was a bit of discussion as to whether we could go through the Sunpass lanes or not.  It’s been awhile since that trip, but I remember the Avis employees not being particularly helpful or knoweldgeable (or perhaps they were being deliberately obtuse in hopes of jacking up the fees I’d get charged).  We did a lot of driving in South Florida, so there were a good amount of tolls charged on our receipt.
  • Most recently, I rented a car to take part in the Family Travel 4 Real Life conference in northern Virginia.  After I finally got Avis to stop trying to triple my rental price, it went off without a hitch.  The Dulles tollway is an E-Z pass tollway, but I hadn’t realized there would be a tollway so I had not brought my transponder.  I just got my toll receipt, and I ended up getting charged the $7 in tolls that I paid, plus a $3.95 “convenience fee”.  It wasn’t too bad given that the cash prices would have been higher and less convenient.  It’s actually $3.95 / day, which would have been annoying, but I only had the car for (part of) one day.  All in all, I wish I’d have remembered my transponder to save the $3.95, but it was definitely worth the convenience since I forgot it.

What about you?  Have you ever been outrageously gouged by a rental car company for tolls?

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