Rental cars are special sets of cars put up for rent by rental companies for a fee. Usually, what happens is the renter takes temporary sub-ownership of the car for an agreed period.
Question is, during this period, who takes care of financial obligations like tolls on the road?
Is it the rental company seeing as they are the actual owners, or is it the renter considering their temporary stake in the car?
In this article, we will look critically at this nuanced question while providing conclusive answers.
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Here’s the Short Answer to Whether Rental Cars Pay Tolls:
Rental cars do not pay tolls in the sense of taking the toll fees upon themselves. However, some rental companies do offer a way of charging the fees to your debit card in the agreement. They often have transponders for which they charge a daily fee of between $3.95-$5.95 plus the toll fee.
How Do Tolls Work With Rental Cars?
Rental companies have varying ways of handling toll fees with rental cars. Usually, the big reputable companies like Avis and Hertz have a transponder installed in the cars. In this case, you are charged a daily convenience fee for the transponder and non-discounted toll fees.
We should also mention that these companies charge the “convenience” fees even on days when you don’t use the tolls. These fees add up to a lot, especially if the rental cars will be in use for multiple days/weeks.
However, these companies often have a maximum cap per rental. For instance, Avis and Budget have a maximum cap of $29.75 per rental, while Enterprise, Alamo and National cap the fee at a maximum of $19.75.
Companies like Dollar and Thrifty have juicy all-inclusive offers-daily fee of $10.49 or a weekly fee of $52.49, including all the tolls. If you, however, turn down this offer, be ready to pay an administrative fee of $15 for every toll you pass.
Then there are companies like ZipCar who do not charge a cent for using a toll, although you’d still have to take care of the toll yourself. Fair enough, right?
Summarily, rental cars charge you every time you pass a toll and may also charge you daily convenience fees. While all of this might add up to ridiculous amounts, there is usually a maximum cap per rental.
Please note that some rental companies have varying convenience and administrative fees for different states.
Do Rental Cars Have Toll Passes?
Most, if not all, rental cars have their own toll pass program, which often includes a daily fee alongside the toll fee. Like we mentioned before, some also have all-inclusive toll pass programs covering all the fees, including the toll.
These programs are considered important because of the growing reduction in the number of cashless tolls across the country.
How Do I Know If My Rental Car Includes Tolls?
Truth is, there are hardly rental companies in the United States that don’t have a toll policy. It is a rarity. So, if you want to know what the toll program of your choice rental company looks like, you can visit their website.
Admittedly, descriptions of the company’s tolls programs on the website may be grossly confusing. In that case, we advise speaking directly to a customer assistant and asking direct questions to make sure you are clear on their policy.
After all, no one wants to find out after payment that they’ve been getting charged an extra daily toll fee they knew nothing about.
You should also read the agreement thoroughly and decline any charges you aren’t comfortable with. Also, make sure you are aware of the consequences of declining those charges when you use a toll.
Are Toll Fees Lower For Rental Cars?
Toll fees are not at all lower for most rental cars. If anything, they are usually more expensive and can turn a cheap rental contract into a grossly overpriced one.
So, the deal is, not only do rental companies charge you for the toll fee, but they also charge a daily fee for everyday you use a toll. These fees vary, and they often have a maximum cap per rental. Some companies even offer daily or weekly all-inclusive options covering all the fees.
That would mean that, mostly, you’d have to pay even more in toll fees if you are driving a rental car. An exception, however, is companies like SilverCar that only charge the toll fees with no additional administrative or “convenience” fee.
How Do You Pay Toll Fees When Driving a Rental Car?
If you are driving a rental car, you can decide to pay toll fees without the company’s input. Here, you’d have to turn off the company’s transponder and bring your own transponder. You can also choose to pay in cash, but that might pose a problem if the tolls you will pass through are cashless.
You can also have the toll fees charged to your rental debit card every time you pass a toll. Be advised that you will likely incur additional fees.
Are There Any Way to Avoid Rental Car Toll Charges?
Rental car toll charges can be exhausting and frustrating, especially with the additional daily charges. It feels exploitative, and it’s totally normal to seek ways around it. Below are some tips to avoid rental car toll charges:
1. Go Through Cash Toll Lanes
Truth is, most tolls are now cashless, meaning you’ll have no option of paying in cash. However, there are still toll lanes that allow you to pay in cash. If you are using a rental car in areas with cash toll lanes, then you are better off paying in cash.
So, before signing up for the rental toll charges, find out if the state or region you are in has cash toll lanes. If they do, you may be in luck.
2. Avoid Toll Roads Altogether
If you consider the rental toll charges unacceptable and there are no cash tolls; how about ditching toll roads altogether? Sure, that’d mean a significantly slower and more stressful trip, but it’ll save you some cost.
To do this, however, you’d have to prepare ahead of time. This means using Google Maps and other mapping apps to figure out alternative routes that will help you in your quest to avoid toll lanes. Some of these apps even have “avoid tolls” options to aid your search.
We should mention that this is a risky move that you should only make if you are familiar with the city/state.
3. Have Your Own Transponder
Another way around these ridiculous rental toll fees is to bring your own transponder if you have one. There are many transponders that let you use them on multiple states and highways. An example is the E-Z pass transponders that let you through 15 states, including Illinois and North Carolina.
You can also buy a new transponder, especially if you’re a regular traveler or tourist. Contrary to what you may have thought, they are relatively cheap and easy to get. The cost of the transponder would be credited to your account, after which they will be available to use for tolls.
However, if you are going to do this, you’ll have to make sure the rental car’s transponder is turned off or closed. Use your smartphone camera and take a photo of the charges on your own transponder in case the rental company charges you, anyway.
Also, it’s important that you update your transponder account with information, including the rental car’s plate number and the rental dates.