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When Does a $5 Toll Cost $30? When You're Driving a Rental Car

The rise of electronic payments means higher charges for renters

Across the country, state highway authorities are replacing tollbooths with electronic payment systems that collect fees using windshield transponders. About 75 percent of U.S. toll roads have at least some cash-free lanes, and most newer turnpikes in Florida, North Carolina, and Texas have eliminated cash tolls altogether. “Cash is effectively being phased out,” says Neil Gray, director of government affairs for the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association. Toll agencies argue the all-electronic setups benefit drivers by keeping traffic moving unimpeded through toll gates.

But what happens when you’re driving a rented car? Rental companies don’t absorb the cost of tolls. Instead, they typically offer customers two options: paying a flat daily fee upfront to lease a transponder, or paying administrative fees of as much as $25 for each unpaid toll to the rental company, plus anything owed to the state. Both greatly inflate the cost of tolls for car renters.