Hate rental car ‘convenience’ fees for tolls? Orlando has an answer
If you’ve ever rented a car in Orlando, one of the biggest rental car markets in the country, (or anywhere else), you may be familiar with the often-excessive fees many rental car agencies charge for those “convenient” toll payment transponders.
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Most companies rent out those transponders for up to $4.95 day, whether you go through a toll booth each day of your rental or not. Some charge even larger flat fees per rental. Even worse, they charge the renters the cash toll rate, which is always higher than that charged to electronic toll pass users.
Many consider those exorbitant, often unavoidable, charges a racket. Or a rip-off. After getting a lot of complaints from visitors, Orlando’s mayor, Buddy Dyer, and regional toll agency, the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) decided it was a challenge.
“We had conversations with many of the rental car companies,” said Michelle Maikisch, Chief of Staff/Public Affairs Officer for CFX). But they were unsuccessful in having those companies reduce or eliminate the fees. “So, we decided to try to come up with a solution,” she says.
And they did. Orlando’s Visitor Toll Pass, which debuted in May 2019 and was put on hold during the pandemic, is back. It allows anyone renting a vehicle at Orlando International Airport (MCO) to get a transponder tag that allows them to bypass the rental car toll devices and pay the road tolls on their own, electronically.
Getting the Visitor Toll Pass is easy. You can download an app on Google Play or the Apple App store before you arrive at the airport or at the toll pass vending kiosk on Level 1 of Terminal A at MCO. The app will walk you through creating an account with your credit card and reserve a pass that you retrieve from the kiosk with a bar code. Then– an important step–be sure to decline the rental car toll transponder option on your rental contract and hang the toll pass on the mirror of your rental car vehicle.
“When you leave the parking garage, technology pairs your toll pass to the license plate of the car and you can see all the toll transactions on the app,” says Maikisch. “You will pay the exact toll that that local e-pass customers pay.”
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There are no hidden fees, but you’ll pay $10 if you forget to drop the toll tag in a marked drop box at the airport when you return your rental car. “But we even give you a period of time to mail it back to us if you forget to do that,” says Maikisch.
Before COVID-19 landed, the Visitor Toll Pass program was just gearing up. There was an app to download, but visitors received their pass from a person in a booth at the airport. During a hiatus during COVID-19, from March 2020 to June 2021, the program was tweaked. “Now we have a team onsite to help out, but you get your pass from our vending machine,” said Maikisch. The agency has also ordered more toll tag dispensing kiosks, but supply chain issues have slowed down delivery.
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The Visitor Toll Pass program is a win for travelers, of course, saving them more than 80% over the cost of using the car rental toll schemes. But it is also a win for the city of Orlando, the tourism community, the regional toll authority, and even the airport, which is the first place visitors experience when flying into or out of the region.
“Providing our passengers with another option to enhance their travel journey while here in Central Florida is all part of what we call The Orlando Experience,” says Tom Draper, Chief of Operations, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.