Are Toll Policies the Biggest Rental Car Scam Going?

23

Join over 5,000 people who are subscribed to receive a once daily email with all of our posts. Never miss out! Click here to subscribe.
Learn how to maximize your points & miles! Join Our Facebook Group!

rental car tolls florida
Photo by Atomic Taco

Car Rental Scam – Toll Policies

Car rental companies have long had a reputation of “scamming” consumers. Just look at Yelp or another review site to read the stories of ripoffs. Of course some companies are seemingly better than others and the bigger brands tend to be more reliable than smaller budget agencies.

Almost all of the complaints I see come because of high pressure sales and/or un-disclosed fees. With some of the budget agencies with off-site locations, there are often complaints of long lines, slow service and unfriendly agents. I would say in most cases the complaints stem from a consumer not understanding what they are getting into. In other words, you get what you pay for.

Renting From A Budget Agency

I generally rent from the cheapest agency, but read a few reviews if it is an unknown company. This week I am in Florida for Family Travel for Real Life and decided to fly into Miami because of a cheap fare. I’ll be flying back from Orlando, so I wanted to find a cheap one-way car rental and did indeed find one. Fox was less than half of anyone else at $119 including all taxes/fees for a one week rental.

While Fox is definitely a company with mixed reviews, I have rented from them in Denver, Los Angeles and Las Vegas and haven’t had any issues other than a longer than normal wait when picking up the car. For half price, I am willing to deal with a wait, but I discovered another scam going on. In fact, I re-discovered it, because I actually discovered this same thing with Fox in Denver, but was able to avoid it more easily.

rental car tolls florida

The Toll Scam

Florida is a state full of tolls and Fox knows this. In fact, in many/most areas tolls are automatic and there are no cash lanes. This means that you are stuck using the rental car’s built in transponder. Like other companies (such as Hertz), Fox uses a service called PlatePass. This is a service you purchase for $9 per day. One unique and potentially nice thing is that your tolls are included in that fee.

So what happens if you decide not to pay an extra $9 per day? They charge you $15 per use plus the toll. (Capped at $90 total) Given there are tolls in and around Miami and Orlando, I could easily see someone maxing this fee out on even a short rental. Of course I did end up paying the extra $9 per day to cover my tolls. Yes I do think this $15 fee is nothing short of extortion, but Fox is not alone with this policy.

I found a reference guide on TripAdvisor discussing the toll policies of rental car companies in Florida. Many charge a few dollars per day plus the toll only when it is used, but a couple have the same policy as Fox. For example Dollar, Thrifty and Sunrise all charge the same terrible $15 per use fee, while on the flip side, Family Auto Rental only charges $1 per rental plus the actual tolls.

rental car tolls florida

What to Do

This fee is obviously in place because it makes the rental car companies a lot of money. In fact, while I was waiting for my rental from Fox, the guy in front of me spent 10 minutes asking questions about how the tolls worked and I still don’t think he “got it”. I sure hope he ponied up the $9 per day or he’ll have a huge surprise coming. While it is pretty much impossible to avoid tolls in Florida, there are some ways to save.

How to Avoid the Toll Scam

When you are traveling to states with tolls, it is always important to know the policy of the company you are renting with. I had forgotten how high Fox’s fees were, but knew that they did charge and that it would be an additional cost. In my case the rental cost is still far cheaper than other companies even with the $9 per day, so I am doing alright.

If you travel to Florida or another area with a lot of tolls then consider buying a transponder of your own. Many systems are inter-operable, so one transponder may work in multiple areas and having one will most likely save you money over time.

Conclusion

Cashless tolls are the wave of the future and for the time being there is really no way to avoid these rental car toll “schemes”. Some companies are better than others and as long as you factor in their toll policy into your overall cost comparison, then you should be alright. In other words, informed conumers come out on top. Still, $15 per toll is a scam in my opinion, but a perfectly legal one it seems.

What do you think? Are tolls the biggest rental car scam or is it something else? Let us know in the comments!


This post may contain referral, affiliate or sponsor links that provide Miles to Memories compensation. Thank you for your support.

23 COMMENTS

  1. A Sunpass transponder that is movable from car to car costs $20 plus toll money. I am going to buy one next time I am in FL since last rental I had to pay a couple of tolls plus a $10 “administration fee”. Nice profit center…..

  2. I’m originally from FL and visit a good amount. Toll roads are a fact of life in Orlando – literally no reasonable way around them. I always bring my own transponder. I also bring my magnetic shield bag and put the rental car transponder in the glove box or I just cover up the transponder with the box (Budget).

    The great thing about the Sunpass transponder is that it allows you to add rental car license plates to your account for a limited duration (e.g., 1 May – 5 May). If the car misses a toll Sunpass will run the plate number and match to your account to “hopefully” avoid the charge to the rental company. Sunpass only works in FL, but if you visit once a year or more it is worth every dime!

    I’m so over the electronic toll rental car scam. and yes it is a total scam.

  3. If you don’t want to pony up for the reusable SunPass, you can get one that is temporary (i.e. it’s not movable from one car to another) for $5. You can load it with a credit card (Citi…travel) and set it to auto reload once you hit a minimum. However, the minimum to initially load is $10 and each reload has a $10 minimum. Thus, you may end up with a balance on it and I’m not sure how good they are (or if it’s even possible) about refunding unused $. I rented from Fox in Miami, figured out a way to get to a CVS without tolls from the airport, bought the Sunpass, loaded with $10, used it over a few days, was “reloaded” with $10 one time, and then turned the car back into Fox with ~$6 left on the Sunpass. Overall, it cost $5 + $10 +$10 = $25. This may be cheaper than $9/day. Just make sure you know how to get from the airport to CVS without hitting any tolls!

    • Yeah it is only probably worth it if you visit often. I know there are tolls between the airport and Disney, but it has been a few years. Since I am coming from Miami my tolls will probably be $20-$30, so I suppose the $63 total fee isn’t terrible, but that $15 is insane.

  4. Silvercar is the only company that I’m aware of that passes on tolls without any markup. They rent in MIA and FLL.

    • Yes they do and I love Silvercar, although for this trip with a one-way they didn’t make sense. Some companies are better than others, but I wish more would adopt the Silvercar toll model.

  5. If you’re returning the car in Orlando, make sure you avoid ‘Sun Gas’ right outside the airport. They are more than TWICE the price of the rest of the state. Literally they are $4.59 per gallon, when if you go a mile up the road there’s a Sunoco that charges $1.90 per gallon. The sole mission ‘Sun Gas’ is to rip off uninformed folks about to return their rental car. Oh, they don’t advertise their price from the road either. You don’t find this out until you’re at the pump.

  6. Will the sun pass take priority over any plate scan or other transponder? I always wonder if the rental car company transponder would get hit rather than a personal one. I rent exclusively from national in Orlando and haven’t looked around the car to see if the transponder can be disabled/covered/etc. So far, there are still manned booths on the southern toll to Disney. It would be nice to get a small discount for the many times we go there.

  7. Just dealt with this same annoyance at Fox in Miami — it’s a total scam and absolutely should be illegal to charge these absurd amounts. My advice is since you have no choice but to pay the $9 a day, make sure to use the Express lanes anywhere they’re available. Might as well get the convenience of skipping the traffic since you’re paying for it anyway, and with any luck you can push the cost to the rental car company above $9 a day and make them cough up some dough.

  8. I went thru this legit scam in Colorado and also in Oslo, Norway in rental cars. Would the E-Zpass transponder work all over the US. I am thinking about buying one, the next time I go to Florida. Does it have an annual fee or is it per use basis only?

    • The EZ Pass works in these states, don’t think it works in Florida.
      https://www.paturnpike.com/toll/where_to_use_it.aspx
      There is a one-time charge to buy the pass ($10) and you have to add a credit card to your account for automatic replenishment of $35 each time (you could mail in a check or pay in person but defeats the purpose of convenience). If your account goes below $15, it automatically charges your cc for replenishment. $3 annual fee to use. Not the best option for a visit to Florida.

    • Florida’s SunPass is a different/unconnected system from EZPass, unfortunately.

      I’m going to buy a SunPass portable transponder for my twice-yearly trips there. Though most of my driving is NOT on toll roads, I got slammed with rental car fees last time.

      As of this writing (1/24/2017) the transponder cost is $19.99 plus a $10 minimum account balance.

      • Paytollo is an app for paying for toll crossings in Florida. For rental vehicles, it is important to enter the end date/time of the of the car hire. You can edit the end date/time if your actual vehicle drop off time changes (earlier or later than planned). When using PayTollo, always stay in the express lanes… no waiting.

        The application does use GPS technology and messages the user when crossings occur. BUT, if the application is turned off, phone is off, battery dead, or destroyed due to an awesome Kali River Rapids experience, your toll crossing will still be paid from your PayTollo account. Note: when depending on the OCR (camera) abilities of the toll plazas, there is a delay in receiving the charge from the toll authority (sometimes weeks if it is a holiday weekend).

        For additional information your can go to the PayTollo website. I would start here… http://www.paytollo.com/pt_Rental_Car_Toll_Payment_Solution
        Always read the app description in the Apple or Android store to see if any promotions are happening.

        Disclaimer: This response is from PayTollo, Inc.

  9. I agree it’s a huge scam all over the USA if not the world. It’s really bad in Texas as well. Silvercar has the best policies I’ve seen. I’ve also had good luck around NYC with Avis on the flat amount per day.

  10. well, I may be the ultimate cheap skate here, but on recent trips in and around Orlando, I often would use a map tool, then insert “avoid tolls” and I often did. (yes, with a few extra minutes off the freeway).

    Yet you mention that Florida is a state where “many/most areas tolls are automatic and there are no cash lanes.” (thus forcing you to use/pay for the transponder) Are you sure about that? On my last four trips to Florida, (and I’ve covered both the east and west coasts), I’ve yet to encounter an automatic toll without a cash lane option. That doesn’t make sense. So what if you’re a tourist coming down from another state — and you don’t have such a devise on your car — and there’s no cash lane???? Maybe I’m still stuck in the 80’s.

    BTW, while I’m ranting, I’ve often done the run from FLL to Orlando, and those toll booths every damn five minutes on the last half hour or so from Cape Canaveral to Orlando are a scandal. Typical republican mentality — soak the ordinary folks and tourists.

    • Pardon my surliness, the subjects of rental cars and toll highways — not a pretty combination. 🙁

      The one major metro area I have yet to drive in Fl in Miami and south of there. I do see that apparently in that area, some of the highways apparently do require electronic tolls…. Amazing they can get away with that, yet thanks for the alert.

      PS: I’ve done better with the car rental places in Orlando, including even Fox. If you come in knowing what you want, no games, you usually sail right through…. I’ve never yet paid for the transponder thingies there…. (just dealt with the occasion cash tolls I couldn’t avoid — like that miserable stretch just east of Orlando)

  11. A new option (for Florida) is PayTollo. PayTollo is a mobile payment platform for toll roads and bridges, allowing drivers a payment option for cashless lanes. The app includes account management, payment processing, and customer service. PayTollo is a complete solution for the casual or infrequent driver. To learn more go to PayTollo.com.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here