Renting a car in Chicago? You can easily get around the Chicago area without encountering tolls, but if you want to get out of the city and explore the Midwest, you're bound to hit a few tolls as you exit the city. You definitely want to be prepared so you don't get caught paying extra to your rental car company.
When you drive a rental car in a state with toll roads, having a toll pass not only makes your life easier but it can also save you a considerable chunk of money. Sure, you can buy a toll transponder from the rental car company, but that's the expensive option.
The smarter way to go is to bring along your own toll pass, but not all toll passes are created equal. If you're driving in many states in the Midwest, you have a few options.
Toll Passes That Work in the Chicago Area
E-ZPass: Do you already have an E-ZPass transponder? E-ZPass is accepted at all Chicago toll plazas. You can use your E-ZPass transponder on all toll roads with specially marked E-ZPass lanes. This currently includes roads in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia,West Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky.
I-Pass: If you're buying a transponder specifically for travel in Chicago and other parts of Illinois, I-PASS is the local toll pass agency for travel in the Chicago area.
NC Quick Pass: Finally, as unlikely as it sounds, a third—and likely the cheapest—option is the NC Quick Pass from North Carolina, which works in 18 states—all 15 E-ZPass member states plus North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Cars with the NC Quick Pass should use the E-ZPass lanes at toll plazas.
Tips on Paying Chicago Tolls in a Rental Car
For a smooth experience renting a car in the Chicago area, you'll want to take a few precautions to prepare for your trip.
Opt out of the rental company's transponder. Decline the rental company's offer of a toll transponder, as they'll charge you a daily fee on top of any toll prices. When you get to your vehicle, verify that there's no transponder on the windshield when you do your initial inspection.
Get your ducks in a row. Make sure the license plate of the rental car is listed on your toll pass account, as some toll plazas use the license plate in addition to the transponder to verify the toll payment. It's easy to add additional license plates to your account.
Avoid tolls when possible. Some tolls can be avoided with a simple re-navigation. If you're using Google Maps or Waze, you can select routes without tolls when planning your travel.