In 2012, the government gave toll operators a 2016 deadline to make their systems compatible. Spoiler alert…it didn’t happen. There are roughly a dozen different toll systems across the country and even today, only some of them are interoperable with others.
E-ZPass is, by far, the largest of the systems and even it is only usable in 19 of the 30 or so states that charge tolls for riding on some of their roads (E-ZPass finally became usable throughout the state of Florida in mid-2021).
So what’s a road tripper to do?
If you’re renting a car, you’ll have an option for a toll payment system and it should be good for whatever states you’re visiting (that you’re allowed to visit. Not all car rental companies allow you to drive to all states). However on top of tolls incurred, you’re going to pay a premium for the use of that toll payment system – here’s what you can expect to pay for most of the major car rental companies.
You can buy a transponder, sticker, or similar electronic payment doohickey for nearly every state that charges tolls – they’re usually not limited to just residents, and some even are usable in bordering (or not-so-bordering) states. But then you may be stuck with having to keep your credit card on file, maintaining a balance, etc. So that may not be really practical.
Some tolls still accept cash, so that’s a potential option. But frankly, more and more tolls are “electronic only” and cash sometimes may not be an option anymore.
I know it’s very “place specific” but if you’re visiting Central Florida, there’s an awesome program where you can get a toll tag just for the length of your stay – for FREE! – AND you get the discount that residents get. You can learn more about that in this post. But again, of course, that’s a very localized program.
It seems that for just about everything out there, “there’s an app for that.” And that’s the case for paying tolls – some toll road apps have been available since as early as 2013. But are the apps worth it?
Caveat – Whether or not something is “worth it” will vary from person to person. Here’s something about that – it may help with understanding how people make decisions.
There are a bunch of apps with the sole purpose of paying tolls. They use your phone’s GPS to know where you are and a toll’s electronic eyes to know when you’ve gone though a toll.
Note: some apps are only for very specified places – certain roads in CA or IL, for example. They would typically be for comparatively small groups of people so I’m not including those. I’m only listing ones that focus on several states.
- GoToll (works in 5 states)
- ParkMobile (works in 11 states)
- Paytollo (works in 14 states)
- PlusPass (works in 8 states)
- Uproad (works in 39 states – but some of the states where they say their app works doesn’t charge tolls for its highways. So there’s that.)
The Costs Involved
Of course, nothing is ever free; on top of having to pay for the tolls themselves (obviously), you do get charged fees for using these apps.
- GoToll: $0.85 fee per trip (“Per trip” is admittedly fairly odd verbiage. They don’t specify what a “trip” is, but it sounds like it means “per toll.”)
- ParkMobile: $0.99 fee per toll
- Paytollo: $0.40 fee for each credit/debit card transaction
- PlusPass: 15% fee per toll
- Uproad: 4.9 to 15.9% fee (up to $1.99) per transaction (they also have a “Pro” plan where you pay them $1.99/mo and then “only” pay a 4.9% fee per transaction)
Are they worth it?
Not surprisingly, whether or not a toll app is “worth it” is very much a Your Mileage May Vary thing.
With all of the apps, you get to go through the electronic/express lanes. You don’t have to deal with a transponder, sticker, etc. And, of course, you have the convenience of everything being electronic.
What states each app covers in relation to where you’re going is probably a big deal ;-). That set aside, for some people, having to pay 99 cents per toll, for example, is worth not having to sit in a Cash Accepted lane. For others, the fee may be cheaper than what a car rental company charges (heads up that some of these apps specify they can’t be used in rental cars).
Whatever the case, it’s a good concept, even though it still doesn’t fix our problem of having a toll payment program that works across the board.
Feature Photo: Pixahive
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