Sometimes we like to travel by modes of transportation other than our own cars, such as planes or trains. When we do this, we typically need to rent a car when we get to our destination. This, however, can get quite expensive for some. Here are some tips to save some money while using a rental vehicle.
Rental companies can trip up even the savviest shoppers by offering prepaid gas plans, unnecessary insurance plans, and post-rental charges for little dings and scratches that they supposedly find.
As tollways are becoming more and more prevalent, charges have been finding their way into people’s bills, and they’re much more than what they actual tolls are. Customers are increasingly getting dinged with surprise, hard-to-understand fees for the “convenience” of driving a rental vehicle on a tolled road.
How Renters Get Caught
Drivers really start to get caught when they use cashless toll roads. Because the rental vehicles don’t come with transponders like the Sun Pass, I Pass, or E-Z Pass the electronic scanners don’t have anything to scan, so the vehicle’s license plate gets captured by the cameras.
Once the picture is taken, the owner of the vehicle get a bill in the mail for the tolls used, but because the rental company owns the car, they charge the renter for the tolls and add more to the bill because it’s a convenience. Renters who skip paying transponder fees up front and travel on a toll road anyway can be dinged with even higher charges and added administrative fees.
Here’s Where The Fun Begins
“Here’s where the fun begins,” said Chris White of RentalCarTransponders.com, a website that sells activated Tolltraxx transponders to rental car customers for use in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. “Depending on which rental company you got your car from, different charges will be applied.”
Different companies charge different fees, which can lead customers to be extremely confused when searching for a rental. For example, Avis and Budget charge renters a $3.95 per day convenience fee for the transponder, including days the transponder isn’t used while the fee is capped at $19.75 per month. Then the Hertz PlatePass program charges tolls at the highest, undiscounted toll rate plus a $5.95 convenience fee each day tolls are used with no convenience fee cap. At Dollar and Thrifty, if you don’t purchase the transponder at the time of rental and use a toll, you not only pay for the transponder and the tolls but get charged a $15 administrative fee for each toll, with a $90 cap per rental.
Finding how much a company will charge for tolls and transponders is typically quite difficult as most companies don’t display an exact number due to fees constantly changing. Some clearly state the toll and transponder fees on the company’s website, but others bury the information, making it very confusing.
Many rental customers don’t learn about the transponder fees until they’re at the rental counter being asked to sign multiple “accept” or “decline” lines on a contract. It can feel intense with all of the information on the screen and many renters feel pressured to sign up for toll road plans with the company, spending even more money.
Ways To Avoid Extra Fees
Although it may mean a slower trip, you can plan your journey ahead of time and take routes that go around tolls. You may find that it is possible to decline the transponder rental and get from here to there without traveling on toll roads altogether. Google Maps, Waze and other mapping programs have an “avoid tolls” option that can be turned on to look for free routes around the area.
Another way to save some money when renting a car is to bring your own transponder (I Pass, Sunpass, E-ZPass) with you and declining the offer from the rental company. E-ZPass transponders can be used on bridges and highways in more than 15 states, from Maine to Illinois and down south as far as North Carolina. The SunPass can also be used on toll roads in Georgia and North Carolina.
If you do bring your own transponder, remember to turn off the transponder that the rental company leave sin the car. It’s just a simple flip of a switch or you can take it out. Snap a photo of your transponder in case the rental car company tries to charge you. You also should call or go online to add your rental car’s license plate number to your account for the dates of your rental.
Whether or not you’re a frequent traveler you can save a lot of money and avoid surprise fees by buying an extra or new transponder or toll pass to use while traveling. In many cases the fee you pay for the pass goes into your account as credit for tolls.
According to a CNBC article, “For the E-ZPass program, out-of-state drivers can purchase from any participating state’s E-ZPass program, so opt for a state, such as Massachusetts that won’t add any extra fees. And be sure to add your rental car license plate and dates of travel to your account.”
Traveling is already expensive, don’t let rental companies make your relaxing trip cost even more.
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