Skip to comments.How Does A $3 Toll Turn Into A $20 Rental Car Charge?
Posted on 09/22/2017 7:57:46 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Cashless payment systems like E-ZPass have helped make highway driving a less irksome experience by speeding up lines. Rental car companies even offer this option so you don’t have to worry about an embarrassing last-minute scrounge for change at the tollbooth, but rental car customers are now realizing that this convenience can come at a huge price.
We’ve previously told you about some of the steep fees involved in using a rental company’s toll-paying device, but those fees could be small change compared to penalties for drivers who use the car’s device without even realizing it.
The Pew’s Stateline recently took a look at how the convenience of cashless toll roads has turned into a cash machine of sorts for rental car companies, while draining the pockets of their customers.
You rent a vehicle from your favorite car rental company.
The car you receive is equipped with a transponder that detects when the vehicle passes under an electronic toll.
While driving through a designated toll lane, the transponder records the toll, adding the charge to your bill.
While that sounds innocent enough you use a toll road, you pay the toll lawmakers and consumer advocates say theres more to it.
Many rental car companies will charge convenience, administrative, or service fees for this toll service, turning a hypothetical $1.50 toll to a more than $20 charge on your bill.
Stateline reports that rental companys fees for these services vary depending on how the company handles the service for example, if they contract with a third-party, the fees could be more and how it is presented to a customer.
For instance, an Avis customer driving on Maryland’s Intercounty Connector might be charged $3.95 in fees after going through a $2.11 toll, Stateline reports, adding that the fees dont stop there. Once the customer goes through the toll, the customer will continue to pay the $3.95 fee each day they have the car.
Most car companies cap these fees, Stateline reports. Hertz, for example, limits toll rental fees to $24.75, while Avis caps its fees at $19.75/month.
In the case where a customer opts out of a tolling option, Hertz subsidiaries Dollar and Thrifty will charge drivers as much as $90 if they trigger electronic tolls during the course of their travels, Stateline reports.
This is all too much, according to lawmakers and advocates who have begun to file complaints against companies charging the fees.
Back in March, the city of San Francisco sued Hertz for allegedly gouging tourists by fraudulently charging them millions of dollars in extra fees when they drive over the Golden Gate Bridge.
According to the suit [PDF], Hertz offers customers an automatic toll-paying service called PlatePass that they can use on Californias toll bridges, or just pay cash. But paying cash isn’t an option on the bridge, where motorists can use a FasTrak toll tag, or pay online, in person, or by phone after their car has gone through.
The lawsuit claims that Hertz doesnt tell customers about these other options and instead, once they drive over the bridge, PlatePass is triggered. Hertz customers are charged an undiscounted toll rate of $7.50, the city says, as well as a $4.95 convenience fee.
But they often arent charged that fee once, according to the complaint, and instead can be hit repeatedly by that fee for up to $24.75.
San Francisco isnt the only municipality or governing body to take on toll fees.
Stateline reports that earlier this year the Florida attorney general agreed to a settlement with Avis, along with its subsidiaries Budget Car Rental and Payless Car Rental. Under the agreement, the companies must disclose their fees on their websites and at service counters, and inform customers they can forgo the companys tolling system by using their own transponders or avoid toll roads altogether.
Renters also have other options when it comes to paying for tolls. However, Stateline notes, these options might not be clear to customers.
Some states allow drivers to pay for fees in advance online, while in others it is perfectly legal to use your own transponder in a rental car, as long as that car has been added to the customers account.
Stateline notes, however, that this option doesnt work everywhere, as the tolling systems vary by state. This, despite, a five year old federal law [PDF] requiring states to begin implementing a single one-device system.
Combined General and Maryland “Freak State” PING!
I hate these tolls in states that do not have toll booths.
It is a royal pain
I am disputing some of these charges myself.
It’s very confusing, when you are out of state, in a place with differing systems of toll collections.
What ever happened to paying cash to a human being in a toll booth??? I don’t drive on toll roads very often, but last time I did, there was a human being you could go to, if you didn’t have the transponder system.
I’m sure the transponders work well for locals who use the roads a lot, and are familiar with how their local systems work. But out of towners in an unfamiliar area, will be hit with this, because who can keep with so many different types of transponders, toll rates, etc.
If you replace the rental car’s EZ-Pass with your own, probably no one will ever know. You’ll get the charges on your own account.
human employees are expensive
Back when I was renting all the time the cars didn’t have them so I took my EZ Pass with me. You weren’t supposed to, but it worked out great.
I recently rented a large SUV for a family vacation and the agent tried to sell me on renting a GPS when the vehicle had a navigation system, something like $30.00 for the week. Same with satellite radio, the vehicle already had it but they tried to get me to pay extra for it. I’d imagine people on expense accounts aren’t paying close attention and they get away with stupid uncharges like that all the time. So, they invent this “convenience” with the tolls and mark it up all to heck. The rental SUV had one of those things on the windshield, so I suppose I was fortunate that the route did not take me through any tolls. Toll roads are very uncommon here, to the point that I can drive seven hours and not drive on one.
Yes, as far as I know, NC only has one toll road near Raleigh so far.
This whole toll thing is a scam. We have no toll roads where I live and travel, but I remember being forced to drop piles of change in baskets at toll booths back in the ‘70s when I made a trip back east through Illinois, New York, Mass. and other eastern states. Illinois was the worst offender with toll booths every few miles or so. I had never experienced anything like it before or since.
Of course they’ll never do it, but tolls should only be charged to people living IN THE STATE where the tolls are administered. That little change would would, finally, force tolling to be ACCOUNTABLE.
Just be sure to wrap the rental’s transponder in a couple of layers of tin foil.
We have had the option many times on rental cars to get the transponder to be able to drive on toll roads. We decline it and don’t drive on the toll roads. Problem solved.
I learned that the hard way. The transponder looked closed but when I went to pay the human at the booth he said the transponder already paid. Spent hours dealing with budget rental car crooks getting my money back. waste of time.
It’s only beginning in WNY
Here’s some low hanging fruit for Schmuck Schumer.
When the charge hit my credit card some weeks later I called the 800# on the statement and adamantly told them I'd only pay that fee for the days we were actually charged tolls. They said that using the license reader even one days charges for each day of the rental like the electronic device. The extra charges were eventually reversed as a "courtesy".
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