Are you planning a road trip or interstate travel? Well, you might want to consider downloading a toll app. Toll roads are found all over the US, covering over 5000 miles across 35 states. So, it’s likely you’ll encounter them on your journey.
Not only do toll roads mean parting with some of your hard-earned cash, but they also make your travel planning that extra bit trickier. The biggest issue comes down to the fact that there isn’t a universal tolling network within the US. Instead, different tolling agencies have their own toll roads, each with a unique payment system.
In 2012, Congress mandated that these electronic tolling companies create a single system to make it easier for toll paying drivers. However, this law has pretty much been ignored by toll agencies.
Planning your interstate travel
If you’re planning to drive across multiple states, it’s wise to plan ahead and identify any toll roads you may encounter. If you forget to pay an unpaid toll notice, you’ll have to pay an additional penalty.
Google Maps is a great way to identify toll roads on your route. There is even an option to avoid toll roads altogether. But keep in mind, the toll-less route is often significantly longer.
Under route options, click ‘avoid tolls’ and it’ll provide you with a toll-free journey.
However, as of now, Google Maps doesn’t provide a price, or even an estimate of toll fees.
For a price estimate of tolls on your route, you could use Tollsmart – a free toll calculator. Tollsmart can help you plan your route while providing price estimates for all the toll roads you drive on.
Uproad is also a great app with a built-in trip calculator. Uproad is primarily a toll payment app but it also provides a toll road cost estimate in advance of your travel. It also keeps track of your tolls as you travel.
How to pay for tolls
Paying for tolls can be complicated.
There are almost 30 different toll pass systems scattered across 38 states. Some payment systems overlap, but many don’t. This is why it’s smart to plan your travel before you jump in the car.
E-ZPass is probably the most recognized toll payment system in the US. The E-ZPass electronic toll system currently stretches across 19 states.
An E-ZPass device is a transponder or ‘tag’ that is linked to the driver’s bank account and attached to either the windshield or license plate of a vehicle.
Each time this vehicle uses an E-ZPass toll road, toll bridge, or toll tunnel, an antenna will read this transponder. The toll amount is then automatically withdrawn from the linked bank account.
Unfortunately, however, E-ZPass doesn’t cover every toll road in the United States. This means if you’re planning a road trip across the entire country, you’ll like to need several different transponders for each toll agency.
There is sometimes the option of paying cash for toll roads but bear in mind that many toll systems are now fully electronic. So, if you drive through a toll booth without paying, you will need to jump online afterward and figure out how to pay.
Do I need to pay for tolls if I hire a rental car?
If you hire a rental car, you’ll be responsible for paying for the toll roads you use.
Rental car companies often provide the option of hiring a transponder that should work for whatever states you’re visiting. However, this will come at an additional cost to the rental, and you’ll often end up paying more for tolls than you should.
Fortunately, several toll apps out there make paying tolls simple. Instead of a transponder, these apps often use your phone’s GPS to communicate with toll road antennas.
Here are some excellent toll road apps that work across several states:
Uproad: Active across 39 states, Uproad has the most comprehensive coverage of all toll road apps. Set up an Uproad account to pay for future tolls and you’ll fly through the toll lanes without having to stress about paying tolls again.
PayTollo: Covering 14 states, PayTollo allows you to add a credit card to a vehicle and automatically charges you for any toll roads you pass through.
Peasy: Covering 18 states, Peasy registers your vehicle with all of the tolling providers so that they can then quickly identify your vehicle and charge the correct amount.
GoToll: GoToll is a newer app but is only available in 6 states (Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, California, Illinois, and Florida). Simply add your license plate and credit card to the app and drive through tolls without worry.
PlusPass: Currently available in only 8 states but looking to expand to other states. PlusPass allows you to register a payment method and links it with your license plate image to automatically pay tolls.
With Uproad’s Basic plan, you’ll be charged 15.9% transaction on top of the toll fee. The Pro Plan is optional but allows greater payment flexibility, has an auto-refill feature, and brings each transaction cost down to just 4.9%.
Each toll transaction fee costs $0.40. There is also a 4% recharge fee every time you top up your balance (minimum $25).
There is an annual fee of $30, then an additional $1/month per vehicle (promotional deal). For tolls under $3, a $0.16 charge will be incurred. For tolls over $3, this charge increases to $0.33.
For each toll trip taken, you will be charged the price of the toll plus an $0.85 service fee
You will be charged the price of the toll plus a 15% convenience fee.
Are road toll apps worth the money?
This largely comes down to how often you use road tolls and how good you are at remembering to pay for them manually.
If you’re planning a multi-state road trip, it is probably worth downloading one of these apps to make your journey a lot less stressful.
These apps not only save you the worry, but they’ll also save you time as you’ll get to fly through the express lanes without a tag or transponder.
So, it really comes down to how you value your time and whether it’s worth a few extra dollars to save you the stress of paying for tolls.