Paying for Tolls in a Rental Car — Reader Mistake Story

Sep 26, 2017

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We often publish stories from readers that illustrate how points and miles can help you get where you want to go. However, it’s important to learn from our mistakes as well as our successes, so I’m calling on you to send us your most epic travel failure stories. Email them to info@thepointsguy.com and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls. If we publish your story, we’ll send you a gift to help jump-start your next adventure!

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Liz, who had a huge surcharge tacked onto her rental car bill. Here’s what she had to say:

I recently rented a car from Thrifty for 10 days while visiting Indiana and Kentucky. While crossing the Ohio River, we hit a tollbooth that had options for E-ZPass or payment by mail, but no option to pay the toll with cash. I wasn’t sure how the mail option would work in a rental car, so I turned on the E-ZPass transponder and drove through.

Two weeks after I returned the car, I got a notice in the mail saying that because I had declined the PlatePass service but used the transponder, I was responsible for a charge of nearly $88. I called Thrifty and explained that I didn’t remember being given the option to use the PlatePass, but I’d thrown away my rental agreement by then. Fortunately they agreed to reduce the charge. I ended up paying the $4 toll plus a $15 administrative processing fee, but that’s significantly better than paying $88.

I know to watch out for extra charges for insurance, fuel, car seats, navigation systems and satellite radio, but this was a new one to me.

Silvercar
Some rental companies (like Silvercar) don’t tack on extra fees for toll charges.

Rental car companies have a variety of approaches to dealing with tolls, and none of them are very customer-friendly. To avoid getting hit with “administrative fees” and other bogus charges, I recommend checking your route for toll roads whenever you rent a vehicle. When a toll is unavoidable, find out whether you can use cash or pay in advance online. If not, your best bet may be to just cough up the daily fee to your rental company, or consider renting from Silvercar, which doesn’t mark up the cost of tolls.

I don’t think keeping the rental agreement would have helped Liz in this case, but it’s generally a good idea. In particular, make sure you save the pre-rental damage assessment for at least few weeks after the rental period. Those slips of paper provide valuable evidence to refute a claim against you, and they’ve helped several TPG contributors avoid disputes over damages.

Check out these posts for more tips on maximizing rental cars:

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Liz for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on future travels.

I’d like to do the same for you! If you’ve ever arrived at the airport without ID, booked a hotel room in the wrong city, missed out on a credit card sign-up bonus or made another memorable travel or rewards mistake, I want to hear about it. Please indulge me and the whole TPG team by sending us your own stories (see instructions above). I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image by Andre Kudyusov via Getty Images.

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