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Car rental - pre paid tolls scam ?

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Hong Kong, China
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Car rental - pre paid tolls scam ?

When picking up our prepaid car at the new Rental Terminal, the agent pushed very hard to sell us a pre paid toll package, which cost I think $35/week ( I may be wrong but it was definitely $35, and our rental period was only 10 days.) He said that as of now tolls could not be paid at the plaza, and therefore without the pre payment wewould either not be able to use tolls, or we would be fined for driving through without paying. I declined the offer, then we drove across Alligator Alley and back over the week, paying $2.50 at the toll booth each way. Was I being scammed or is the toll system changing to allow the rental companies to fleece renters?

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1. Re: Car rental - pre paid tolls scam ?

He lied to you and you sould report him to the head office and maybe the police for fraud. The agent gets commission for each package he sells.

These packages are sold for convenience and timesaving (saves time as you don'thave to stop to pay you drive thru the left lanes where indicated. But you can always pay your tolls with cash in the right lane. Unless you are commuting daily on toll roads it is cheaper to pay in cash for each toll.

Hong Kong, China
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2. Re: Car rental - pre paid tolls scam ?

Thanks for that information, the pre paid tolls was advertised throughout the terminal and particularly at the Thrifty counter, as i remarked on it to my wife as we waited in line. It was pushed very hard at the desk, and when I asked for the best route to Naples, he specifically told me i couldn't drive across I-75 as I hadn't bought the toll package, and sent us across Tamiami trail. Which I ignored and went I-75 anyway. I couldn't believe that the state of Florida would want to deter all tourists from driving across their toll roads.

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3. Re: Car rental - pre paid tolls scam ?

Like I said, telling you you can't use I75 was a lie, and I think may even be against the law in this case.

Call the head office of the company and ask for suctomer service. If you don't like their respaonse (and in any case it always better to repoprt things in writing) write a follow up letter and say you will be contacting the police and their trade association.

Miami, FL
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4. Re: Car rental - pre paid tolls scam ?

Well actually its not a scam. Florida is changing all toll booths to "toll-by-plate". It is being put into place in phases. I-75 as you noted has not been phased in. But it will be in the future, sorry this guy was misinformed.

With Toll-By-Plate when you come to a toll booth, a computer will take a snapshot of your license plate. Then the system sends the current registered owner a bill. These rates are slightly higher than those using SunPass, Florida's electronic pre-paid system. How this applies to rentals can be found here: floridasturnpike.com/all-electronictolling/f…

Within a few years Florida will have no people at toll booths, just electronic billing.

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5. Re: Car rental - pre paid tolls scam ?

In which case buy a sunpass mini responder card for $5.

Miami, FL
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6. Re: Car rental - pre paid tolls scam ?

Yeah you could buy the mini, but upon removal it will be destroyed (and leave a mess on the windshield in the process). Also it doesn't work with vehicles that have glass coatings on the front windshield, impossible to tell in rental. And when going through a toll, since it doesn't beep you won't know if its working. Also at then end you will have to call and cancel it, if there's a screw up, someone will be riding free on your dime.

mini sunpass would be $5.00 plus $10 minimum balance= $15. For an extra $20 (or roughly two frozen drinks) you get unlimited tolls with no hassle, sounds like a no brainer to me.

Edited: 17 August 2010, 15:31
Ipswich, United...
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7. Re: Car rental - pre paid tolls scam ?

I found the Sunpass Mini 'difficult' to register if not a US resident - so much so that I gave up and took it back to Publix.

Having bought the mini I called the toll free number to register it.

They assign it to your vehicle licence tag (which can be for a short duration) and it can be for a rental car (providing it doesn't clash with their transponder/plate recognition, which they say it should not, once registered).

They also need to take credit card details and your address - their system doesn't handle non US addresses properly. I spent 30 mins on the phone with a lady trying to enter it as she thought she could get it to work. I then got cut off. When I called back they had no record of the transaction and I would have to start over. The second operator then said 'it wasn't possible'.

After 40 mins on the phone to 3 people from my hotel room I gave up as I had better things to do. There was no problem returning it to the counter in Publix since I hadn't opened the packaging nor got as far as giving the serial number.

I noted a few places, including the Miami area, where they were notifying people (through posters etc.) there would be no cash soon on some toll roads. That will make life difficult for the visitor, particularly non US ones, unless the sign up for the car rental firms program. This wasn't yet the I75.

The car rental operative clearly mislead the OP, intentionally or otherwise.

Edited: 17 August 2010, 15:36
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8. Re: Car rental - pre paid tolls scam ?

Well, I have a us address to use, so I will try it.

In any case, ot seems from the website given this is a miami-dade only thing for now. The only tolls I go over regularly is the Sunshine skyway bridge. The $5 pass I was thinking of, came with $5 worth of tolls. and I only need $2 in most cases. And the Skyway isn't listed as being changed to non cash for at least 5 yearsor more.

Hopefully by then they will find a way to make the minis transferrable, or competition in the marketplace will reduce the price of a transponder rental. $35 for a few dollars woth of tolls is way too high. And I will take MIA off my list of airports to use as I drive I75 to my house from there and I won't pay $35 for the priviledge of doing so.

Ipswich, United...
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9. Re: Car rental - pre paid tolls scam ?

I recall one or two sunpass only exits on the Turnpike, with no cash lane close by, but otherwise, yes, it seems to be a Miami Dade thing.

If you use a US address they may wish that to match the credit card billing address. You can opt to have auto payments when credit drops below a threshold or make manual top ups, if you can get the Sunpass registered.

They do come with $5 worth of tolls as such - the $4.99 (plus tax) purchase price is credited to your account, but you have to put $10 minimum credit on as well. You can claim any unused credit back if you no longer use it, but that could mean extra hassle for a short term rental/short term use of the Sunpass mini.

As mentioned, the Sunpass mini is a one time fix only and can't be removed from the rental vehicle for reuse. I'm a radio engineer and have looked into RF ID tags which they use, and there is some merit in them using the glass or the windshield as an antenna - it acts a dielectric affecting the tuning of the RF ID tuned circuit.

Edited: 17 August 2010, 18:07
Miami, Florida
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10. Re: Car rental - pre paid tolls scam ?

There are now Sunpass only Toll lanes on I-95 in Miami -- both north and southbound -- they come in quite handy during rush hour traffic (just understand that there are no exits between the entrance and ONLY final exit at the end of the lane). A number of other toll exits in Miami are Sunpass Only -- and more are headed that direction.

If you happen to be doing extensive driving on Toll Roads -- especially the relatively expensive Florida Turnpike system -- then $35 a week is quite reasonable -- especially considering that you don't have to slow down, make sure you're in the right set of lanes, find a tollbooth that's open, and fumble for money. The ticket for running a toll point without paying is $130 per occurrence - whether you do it inadvertently (i.e. malfunctioning or no-balance available transponder) or deliberately.. Plus, possibly points on your license (reciprocity on this with other states varies).

Edited: 18 August 2010, 00:25