I’m not a fan of toll roads. But you know what’s even worse for me? Sitting in traffic! So when my husband Steve and I were planning our anniversary trip to the Florida Keys, the time difference between arriving at our first destination via the toll roads vs. non-toll roads had major sway in our decision to take those tolls in stride. If you’re debating whether or not to take the toll roads on your upcoming Florida trip, or if you just want to know what the details are, this is the post for you!
* We decided to pay the tolls with the SunPass, which was easy to use and worth it to us. This post is in no way sponsored, and we did not receive a discount or compensation of any kind. We paid our own tolls, and this post reflects my husband’s and my experience and opinions.
Should You Take Toll Roads in Florida?
That is all up to you! You can check whether or not there is a toll road on your route by using your phone’s map or Google Maps. It was worth it for us to pay the toll and rental fee for the SunPass in order to save an hour and 20 minutes of driving, round-trip, on our vacation, but if you’re on a tighter budget, you may want to plan for more time in the car.
Read on: The Ultimate List of Road Trip Tips
How Much Are the Tolls?
Here again, it depends! Tolls vary, but you will always be notified by signage when a toll area is coming up, and how much the toll will be. For more details, take a look at the Visit Florida Guide to Florida Toll Roads and Road Rules. You can pay for all the Florida toll roads with the SunPass, which will be available in your rental car. The prices for the tolls we took ranged from $0.46-$1.32. We felt this was entirely reasonable coming from D.C., we were a little afraid of tolls in the $10-$30 range like we have back home!
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Can’t I Pay with Cash or a Credit Card?
On our trip between Miami and Key Largo, we did not pass through any toll areas that were manned or had cash-taking machines. Some toll areas do have this capability, but it really is easier to just use the SunPass that is already in your rental car. If there is a manned toll booth, you can pay with cash and get change or use a credit card; however, if there is an unmanned cash booth, you must pay with exact change.
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How Will I Be Charged?
The toll cameras, like the ones in the photo below, will scan your SunPass or license plate and charge your credit card, SunPass account, or bill you to the address registered to your license plate accordingly. You don’t have to stop or slow down, and you don’t have to pay with cash or a credit card.
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What If I Go Through without a SunPass?
There is a “Toll-by-Plate” method of payment, but you’ll pay more than you would with a SunPass. You will be mailed a bill for the cost of the toll, plus a $2.50 service charge per toll as well. The bill will go to the address on file of the person to whom the car is registered or to the address associated with your rental car agreement. More on that here.
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How Do I Get a SunPass for My Rental Car?
If you’re picking up your rental car in Florida, there will already be a SunPass attached to the windshield! The pass was at the top of the windshield on the passenger side of our car. To activate the SunPass, you will need to open the pass by “swinging” the plastic tab down. I didn’t get a photo of the pass when it was closed for a “before and after” comparison, but it’s very easy and self-explanatory when you get in the car!
*Please note that from the driver side, it can be difficult to see the SunPass holder mounted to the windshield, as it may be to the right of and obscured by the rearview mirror. Don’t forget to open it if you plan to pass through tolls.
The rental fee for the SunPass in your rental car varies by rental car company. We went with Avis, so for us, there was a “usage day” fee of $4.95 per day that we used toll roads (so, not every day of your trip). We only used the toll roads on the first and last days of the trip, so we were charged $4.95 twice, along with the incurred tolls.
Other rental car companies charge a fee for each day you have the rental car, up to a pre-determined monthly cap. But no fee is charged if you do not use toll roads at all. That is, even if the SunPass is made active by swinging it open, if it is never detected on a toll road, you are not charged any rental fee.
If you know the toll road that you want to use, and you know that some other form of payment will work for you, such as a personal SunPass, credit card, or cash, then you can keep the rental car’s SunPass enclosure shut, and it will not be detected. In this way, you can avoid the extra rental car company fees that are described above.
In our case, it was definitely worth the fees. Taking the toll roads saved a tremendous amount of time and helped us cover a lot of ground on our long driving days. Since didn’t know what exits we would be using, however, it was a challenge to know in advance how each toll road we would use would accept payment. As it turned out, we incurred five tolls in each direction on our trip from Miami International Airport to Key Largo. The prices for the tolls we took ranged from $0.46-$1.32.
Even in a short distance, however, tolls were charged in different ways, including via overhead monitor and automated booth. Some routes seemed to allow other forms of payment, but everything passed so quickly at highway speeds that it would have been nerve wracking to sort out the correct lane to be in if trying to avoid using the SunPass. So, in the end, though we try to be frugal where we can, it was definitely worth it to simply open the SunPass holder and drive freely! Click here for more information on the SunPass.
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