How To Avoid Crazy Toll Charges When Renting A Car in Orlando

When you rent a car, there are almost always costs not included in the advertised price. Sales tax. Vehicle license recovery fee. Customer facility charge. Concession recovery fee. Parking surcharge. Insurance charge. An added fee if you’re under 25 years old. An added fee for additional drivers. Upcharges for satellite radio and car seats. Stuff like that. In Orlando, as is the case in other cities, the cost of a toll transponder is often quietly added on, as well. And folks, it ain’t cheap!
The Orlando area toll roads include:

  • SR 91/Florida Turnpike
  • SR 408/Spessard L. Holland East-West Expressway
  • SR 417/Greeneway
  • SR 429/Western Beltway
  • CR 522/Osceola Parkway
  • SR 528/Beachline (formerly known as the Beeline, for you folks who, like me, are old school. It will ALWAYS be the “Beeline” to me)

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All of the above roads primarily use electronic payment so if you stay straight on the road and get to a toll, you need a transponder to pay for the (electronic) toll. Most (not all!) of the roads still offer a cash option if you merge to the right side of the road (if you look at the right side of the photo above, which is where the non-electronic payments are, the toll booth with the blue sign is unmanned and only takes exact change; the ones with green signs are manned, and they can take bills and can give change. None of the booths take credit cards). After you’ve paid your toll with money, your “pay by cash” road merges back to the main road. There are also blue/unmanned/change only booths for some entrances and exits of the toll roads (because they don’t just charge you while you’re on the road, they also can charge you to enter and exit it), but many nowadays ONLY have an electronic option. Oh, and if you go through an electronic/cashless toll and don’t have a transponder, they record your license plate and bill you that way.

Orlando is the largest rental car market in the world, with most of the major car rental companies located on site at Orlando International Airport (MCO), without the need for a shuttle bus to pick up your rental car. Here’s a breakdown of the largest car rental companies at or near MCO and what they say about paying for tolls with toll transponders:

Advantage Rent A Car

Advantage uses Plate Pass Automated Toll Payment. The charge for the transponder is $4.95, on top of the actual tolls you have to pay, with a $24.75 maximum fee per rental month (30 days). Your opt-in decision is made when you elects to use SunPass ONLY or E-PASS ONLY lanes – it’s billed automatically to all drivers who use an eligible cashless toll road, and they charge you every day of your rental, whether you use a toll road each day or not.

Alamo

Alamo uses HTA TollPass and charges $3.95 fee per usage day (24 hour interval) that customers incur tolls (so they don’t charge you for the 24 hour period you don’t use toll roads, which is nice), plus tolls (at the posted cash/toll-by-plate rate). There is a $19.75 maximum fee per rental period (not including the tolls). Your opt-in decision is made when you elect to use SunPass ONLY or E-PASS ONLY lanes – it’s billed automatically to all drivers who use an eligible cashless toll road.

Avis

Avis uses the e-Toll program. As per their website, once you pass through an electronic toll, you will pay a convenience fee of $3.95 for each day of the entire rental period, including any days on which e-Toll is not used, up to a maximum of $19.75 per rental month, plus incurred tolls at the maximum prevailing rates posted by the toll authority. You can avoid the convenience fee and any other charges by paying the toll in cash, using your electronic toll device, or avoiding any cashless toll road or passage.

Budget

Budget uses the e-Toll program. As per their website, if you do not pay cash for tolls, you automatically opt into their e-Toll service (pursuant to which you agree to pay them their or their toll program administrator, with whom they will share your credit card/debit information, for all tolls incurred during your rental and all related fees, charges and penalties). Under the e-Toll program, once you pass through an electronic toll, you will pay a convenience fee of $3.95 for each day of the entire rental period, including any days on which e-Toll is not used, up to a maximum of $19.75 per rental month, plus incurred tolls at the maximum prevailing rates posted by the toll authority.

Dollar Car Rental

Dollar uses Plate Pass Automated Toll Payment and charges a $10.49 flat fee per rental day (maximum $52.49 weekly fee). You must opt-in or decline this service at the time of reservation or at the rental counter. If you decline PlatePass at the start of the rental period, but still use electronic toll roads and/or bridges during the rental period (including “cashless” or “all electronic” toll roads and bridges), you will be liable for and will be charged for: (a) all tolls incurred for such use (at the highest, undiscounted applicable toll rate); (b) a $15 administrative fee for each toll incurred (subject to a $90 cap for such toll-related administrative fees for the rental period); and (c) all other applicable toll charges or fees, if any.

Enterprise

Enterprises uses HTA TollPass and charges $3.95 fee per usage day (24 hour interval) that customers incur tolls (so they don’t chrge you for the 24 hour period you don’t use toll roads, which is nice), plus tolls (at the posted cash/toll-by-plate rate). There is a $19.75 maximum fee per rental period (not including the tolls). Your opt-in decision is made when you elect to use SunPass ONLY or E-PASS ONLY lanes – it’s billed automatically to all drivers who use an eligible cashless toll road.

E-Z Rent A Car

Renters can opt to be included in EZTOL program which allows for quick by-pass of unmanned toll booths. Acceptance of EZTOL includes a daily fee of $6.99 and this daily fee includes the price of the tolls used. EZTOL must be accepted at the time of pickup and be applied for the entire length of the rental. If EZTOL is not accepted and a toll violation occurs on the rental, an admin fee of $25 per violation plus the cost of the toll will be applied to the rental contract.

Fox Rental Car

Fox is off MCO property – they have a shuttle to get to/from the airport. Fox uses PlatePass All-Inclusive Service, which costs $8.99 per rental day, with a maximum charge of 15 rental days or $134.85. From their website: “If you choose not to purchase the optional PlatePass All-Inclusive service at the commencement of your rental, and you utilize a PlatePass Toll Road, then you will be charged a USD/15 admin fee per toll (USD/90 maximum per rental agreement) plus the price of the toll and fees from the tolling authority.”

Hertz Car Rental

Hertz uses Plate Pass Automated Toll Payment. The charge for the transponder is $4.95, on top of the actual tolls you have to pay, with a $24.75 maximum fee per rental month (30 days). Your opt-in decision is made when you elects to use SunPass ONLY or E-PASS ONLY lanes – it’s billed automatically to all drivers who use an eligible cashless toll road, and they charge you every dayof your rental, whether you use a toll road each day or not.

National

National uses HTA TollPass and charges $3.95 fee per usage day (24 hour interval) that customers incur tolls (so they don’t charge you for the 24 hour period you don’t use toll roads, which is nice), plus tolls (at the posted cash/toll-by-plate rate). There is a $19.75 maximum fee per rental period (not including the tolls). Your opt-in decision is made when you elect to use SunPass ONLY or E-PASS ONLY lanes – it’s billed automatically to all drivers who use an eligible cashless toll road.

Payless Car Rental

Payless uses the e-Toll program. As per their website, under the e-Toll program, once you pass through an electronic toll, you will pay a convenience fee of $2.95 for each day of the entire rental period, including any days on which e-Toll is not used, up to a maximum of $14.75 per rental month, plus incurred tolls at the maximum prevailing rates posted by the toll authority. You can avoid the convenience fee and any other charges by paying the toll in cash, using your electronic toll device, or avoiding any cashless toll road or passage.

Silvercar (available as of August 31, 2017)

As we posted a few weeks back, Silvercar is making its debut at MCO on August 31, 2017. As part of their “car rental the way it should be” campaign, Silvercar only charges you for the actual tolls you incur, with no charge for a transponder.

Sixt

Sixt is off MCO property – they have a shuttle to get to/from the airport. They have their own Toll Express Service Program that costs $7.99 per day (every day of your rental, whether you use their program or not), with a maximum charge of $119 per rental. From their website: “You may pass through any and all automated toll lanes within Florida even if the tolls will accumulate to be higher than the amount you have prepaid. Since you have already paid for your tolls, do not go to toll lanes with cash attendants. If you do so, you must pay the cash toll. There will be no credit for cash tolls paid.” If you choose not to use their toll program and go through one of their automated toll lanes, “You will be charged the cost of the applicable toll fee plus a $5 dollar administration fee per violation.”

Thrifty Car Rental

Thrifty uses Plate Pass Automated Toll Payment and charges a $10.49 flat fee per rental day (maximum $52.49 weekly fee). You must opt-in or decline this service at the time of reservation or at the rental counter. If you decline PlatePass at the start of the rental period, but still use electronic toll roads and/or bridges during the rental period (including “cashless” or “all electronic” toll roads and bridges), you will be liable for and will be charged for: (a) all tolls incurred for such use (at the highest, undiscounted applicable toll rate); (b) a $15 administrative fee for each toll incurred (subject to a $90 cap for such toll-related administrative fees for the rental period); and (c) all other applicable toll charges or fees, if any.

Heads up that for almost all of these companies, if you opt out of using their toll transponder and you wind up going through an electronic toll, they will charge you a huge penalty (sorry, they call it an “administrative fee”) – upwards of $15 PER TOLL.

How Can You Alleviate This?

  1. Consider renting from Silvercar, since they only charge you for the actual tolls incurred.
  2. If you want to avoid cashless toll roads and thus only avoid the crazy “administrative fees,” do your homework before you get to Orlando. Know where you will want to go and how to get there (i.e. Google SR528, SR429 etc.). If you’re going to incur toll roads in your travels, check with the websites of each road and see if cashless tolls are unavoidable (The 408 and 528 are the quickest and easiest ways to go between Orlando International Airport/MCO and the Disney/Universal/theme parks and convention/International Drive areas, and both have cash options all the way through to/from these places – but not necessarily any exit in between them).
  3. I know it sounds kind of obviously, but if you want to avoid tolls and possible administrative fees altogether, don’t take toll roads. It CAN be done in the Orlando area…just be prepared to spend lots of extra time on the road (i.e. with  no traffic backups, it will take about 30 minutes, give or take, to go between MCO and WDW if you use the 417 or 528, but a good 60 to 75 minutes if you take surface streets and non-toll roads).
  4. Consider purchasing a SunPass transponder of your own. They cost $19.99, plus a required minimum initial balance of $10, but you have the option of cancelling your account when you get back home and getting your pre-loaded money back (or you can keep it for your next trips to Central FL).
    You can purchase your transponder by mail and have it delivered, or you can buy it in person once you’ve landed in Orlando. SunPasses are available in Central Florida at Walgreens pharmacy, Publix supermarket, CVS Pharmacy and AAA Auto Club South. If you want to buy one after you’ve landed at MCO and avoid tolls until you purchase it, the closest locations are Walgreens (5702 Lee Vista Blvd.), which about 3 miles north of the airport, and Publix (4042 S. Semoran Blvd.) which is about 5 miles north of MCO. IMPORTANT! If you buy the transponder in Orlando as soon as you arrive, please note it takes several hours for your Sunpass balance to reflect the money you’ve put into your account – as per SunPass: “Please wait until 6:00 AM of the morning following activation before using your SunPass. After 6:00 AM of the morning following activation, your SunPass will work on all Florida toll roads and most bridges.” So if you land at 2pm, buy your transponder at 3pm and go through an electronic toll at 3:30pm, chances are YOUR SUNPASS ACCOUNT MAY NOT HAVE MONEY IN IT YET and you may incur whatever fees & charges your car rental company lists. Purchasing your transponder by mail, ahead of time, will alleviate this issue.
    IMPORTANT INFO AS PER SUNPASS’S WEBSITE:

    SunPass customers using a rental vehicle may have their tolls applied to their SunPass account. Customers with SunPass Portable transponders may use their transponders in their rental vehicles. (It is strongly recommended that SunPass customers access their online SunPass accounts or contact the SunPass Customer Service Center to add the rental vehicle subscription to their account for the rental period.) If the transponder is not in your vehicle or functioning properly, tolls from other agencies will not be posted to your SunPass account, and may be charged to you by the rental Service Provider. Please remember to remove your transponder upon return of the vehicle. SunPass customers that do not have their transponders in the vehicle are subject to the tolls, fees and charges set forth below and in their rental agreements.

    SunPass also sells stickers for $4.95 but once attached to your rental car, you can’t take it with you when your rental period is complete.

    Renting a car in Orlando has its advantages – you have the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want during your vacation/holiday. However the costs of car rentals can be a bit ridiculous. Hopefully this article can help you avoid some of the more ridiculousness.

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5 thoughts on “How To Avoid Crazy Toll Charges When Renting A Car in Orlando”

  1. How does the toll system know to charge my personal purchased SunPass and not the toll payment system used by the rental car company?? What are the chances of me getting charged the excessive fees by the rental car company even though I purchased my own SunPass??

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    1. Hi Mark! The tolls look for a transponder first – as long as you have one in use, your transponder will be charged. If you don’t have a transponder (or if it’s in the wrong spot – so make sure you place it where the instructions recommend, or not functioning correctly), then it takes a picture of your rental car’s license plate and, depending on the rental car company you’re using, you could incur the toll price and/or administrative fees and/or you then automatically opt in for the car rental company’s automated toll payment for the time you rent the car. As Sunpass suggests, make sure to access your online SunPass accounts or contact the SunPass Customer Service Center to add the rental vehicle subscription to your account for the rental period.

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    2. Good question and thanks for all the info! I am from NYC and have Ez-Pass. I understand it is NOT accepted in Florida. Is this correct?

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      1. Hi Kim! That’s correct – EZ Pass doesn’t work with the SunPass system at this time. I’ve read they’re trying to get them to sync up, but it’s been a long process so far.

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