Getting stuck with a toll violation in a rental car can be a pricey addition to your trip. That's because the violation will be sent directly to the rental car company, and you'll be billed not only for the toll and penalty fee but you'll like pay the rental car company an additional admin fee.
Violations have a nasty way of snowballing. For example, the Chicago Skyway toll in Illinois is $5.30 for a passenger car. If you pay your violation within seven days, that's all you owe. But the rental car company might not even pass on the violation notice within that week, and if you don't pay within seven days, the cost jumps to over $30 for the violation and collection fee. Expect an other fee on top of that from your rental car company.
There are several reasons you can get a toll violation, some of which are less obvious than others. Plan ahead and be sure not to make any of these mistakes.
Common E-ZPass Violations
Toll Evasion: This is probably what you think of when you hear "toll violation," and it's pretty straightforward. Toll evasion occurs when you drive through a lane without paying and without a valid E-ZPass tag mounted in your vehicle.
Be aware that it's getting easier to end up unknowingly driving on a toll roll. In states like New York, for example, toll plazas are disappearing and being replaced by cashless toll overpasses that record your car as you drive underneath.
Insufficient Funds: When your account is below zero and you travel through an EZPass Only lane. This could be because you forgot to reload your account funds, or because your credit card on file is no longer valid. Be sure to check your account balance before you hit the road in a rental car with your own transponder.
Transponder Error: You could get stuck with a toll violation if your transponder isn't properly mounted in your vehicle, or if something blocks the transponder signal.
Class Mismatch: When your E-ZPass tag designating the vehicle class does not match the vehicle you are driving, it's a violation. This is unlikely, but if you plan to switch your transponder between multiple vehicles or to a rental car, just make sure they're in the same vehicle class.
Speeding: When you travel through the E-ZPass lane at a speed in excess of the posted limit, you can snag yourself a violation. While many electronic toll plazas don't even require you to slow down anymore, keep an eye on posted speed limits to make sure you don't end up in trouble. Common lane speeds are 5 mph and 20 mph.
How to Avoid E-ZPass Toll Violations
Bring your own transponder. If you have an E-ZPass transponder on your car at home, bring it along to save money and a lot of hassles. Most electronic toll systems use the car's license plate as a backup if the transponder can't be read properly, so if you're using your own transponder, consider logging on to your E-ZPass account online to add your rental car license plate to your account. Just don't forget to remove it when your trip is over.
Use cash toll lanes. While electronic-only toll plazas are becoming more common, you'll still find cash toll lanes in many states. TollGuru can help you find routes with cash toll lanes in addition to E-ZPass or other transponder lanes.
Map out your route to avoid tolls. It may seem like tolls are everywhere, but they can often be avoided. You might add some time to your trip, but you'll save money, avoid traffic, and get to enjoy the scenic route. Use a navigation app like Waze to find a toll-less route.
If you decide to travel on toll roads, use a toll calculator to estimate your costs before your trip.
Do your homework on your rental company's toll policy. Some rental car companies charge a steep daily fee if you opt to rent their transponder, while others offer reasonable rates if you simply can't avoid electronic toll plazas. It's a safer bet to opt for the daily toll fee than to risk paying a pricey fine after the fact. Silvercar is one brand known for fair toll rates with a one-time admin fee, rather than a daily rate that adds up over the course of your rental.
How to Dispute an E-ZPass Toll Violations
Be forewarned that disputing an E-ZPass violation is a bureaucratic nightmare. It requires writing a letter sent to an E-Z Customer Service Center within 180 days of the disputed charge. You may need to contact multiple agencies that handle E-ZPass on different roadways or bridges, and each will likely have a different collection agency.