There are over 5000 miles of toll roads in the United States. So, if you’re traveling across highways and tunnels in bigger cities, you’ll probably encounter at least one toll road. You may be used to paying tolls if you use them frequently, but if you’re planning a road trip or interstate travel, paying for toll roads can get rather complicated. That’s because there isn’t one universal tolling system in the US. In 2012, congress passed a law requiring electronic tolling authorities to join forces and create a single tolling system. Yet, none paid any attention (due to a lack of funding or penalties). To date, numerous electronic toll collection systems co-exist. Each with its own payment system – making it more difficult for drivers like you and me.
How to plan your trip to avoid toll fines
If you’re planning a road trip or simply entering a new state with unfamiliar roads – it’s wise to plan ahead. Firstly, you should find out if there are any toll roads on your route and then determine what form of payment is accepted. Don’t make the mistake of not paying a toll. Forgetting to pay will result in a toll violation. You’ll have to pay the original toll fare plus a penalty. In California, for example, the penalty is $57.50, increasing to $100 if you miss paying the violation. In Texas, toll evasion fines can cost up to $250.
Thankfully, there are several useful apps out there available for iPhone and Android that can help you plan and pay tolls on time. Google Maps can help you identify toll roads on your route. There is also an option to map a route without toll roads (although this can lead to longer travel times and driving on dodgy two-lane country roads). Under route options, select ‘avoid tolls’, and you’ll be given directions for a toll-free route. The only downside of Google Maps is that it doesn’t estimate how much each toll will cost you. This is where an app l can be convenient.
Primarily a toll payment app, they also have a built-in trip calculator for toll roads, highways, tunnels, and bridges. It will also keep a running total of your toll fees as your drive. Tollsmart is an app that functions as a free toll calculator. Tollsmart can help you plan your route and provide toll fare estimates for different routes, so that you can travel roads that work best for you.
Paying for Tolls
So, how do you pay for tolls?
Toll companies often accept various payment methods. But with over 30 different toll systems across the states, it can be hard to know exactly which company accepts what. E-ZPass is probably the most well-known toll company in the United States, with over 35 million E-ZPass devices in circulation. However, it seems this system may soon become outdated. An E-ZPass device is a tag or transponder that is attached to the vehicle (usually on the windshield or license plate) and associated with the driver’s bank account or card.
The transponder is activated whenever the vehicle uses a toll lane and the necessary fee is deducted from the linked bank account. E-ZPass compatible toll roads can be found across 17 states, with all toll roads in Florida compatible. However, not all toll roads across the country are E-ZPass compatible, which is where things get complicated. Different toll roads operated by different companies will require different transponders.
If you’re willing to pay for each toll road manually, you could also pay either pay with cash (for toll roads that accept it). Otherwise, you’ll have to figure out how to pay for each toll online after you pass it. Fortunately, however, there’s one more option. Toll road apps.
The Best Toll Road Phone Apps
Toll road apps make using toll roads a whole lot easier. It’s as simple as that. The only thing is – they often charge a small fee. So, are they worth it? Instead of a transponder, most toll road phone apps use your phone’s GPS to communicate with toll road antennas and automatically pay the associated toll fee.
Here are some of the best toll road apps currently available:
- Uproad: With the broadest coverage, Uproad toll app is probably your best option if you’re heading on a road trip.
Active across 39 states, you can check out their coverage here. Download the app, set up an account, and you’ll fly through toll lanes with less stress than ever before. With it, you have greater vehicle flexibility with the ability to register up to 10 vehicles under one account.
- PayTollo: PayTollo allows you to link a bank account or credit card to a vehicle, charging you for any tolls you pass through.
However, PayTollo’s coverage is limited to 14 states.
- Peasy: Peasy currently covers 18 states and registers your vehicle with all of the tolling providers in their covered areas, allowing them to withdraw funds from your card or account.
- GoToll: Available on both Android and Apple devices, GoToll works like all other tolling apps, allowing you to register your vehicle and credit card.
However, GoToll’s coverage is currently limited to just 6 states.
- PlusPass: A Texas-based company, PlusPass is currently only available in 8 states. PlusPass also provides an option to top-up your account using cash.
With Basic plan, you’ll be charged a 15.9% transaction toll fee. The Pro Plan is optional but allows greater payment flexibility, has an auto-refill feature, and significantly brings each transaction cost down to just 4.9%.
PayTollo requires a starting balance of at least $25. Tolls will be deducted from your preloaded amount plus a transaction fee, which costs $0.40. There is also a 4% recharge fee every time you top up your balance.
There is an annual fee of $30, then an additional $1/month per vehicle (promotional deal). For tolls under $3, a $0.16 additional charge is 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. If you’re using cash to top-up, you’ll also be charged a reload fee of $2.
Are toll apps worth it?
This comes down to how much you value your time on the roads. Toll apps can make traveling a whole lot simpler and stress-free as you won’t have to worry about unpaid fines. You’ll also get to bypass the queues at the toll cash lanes.
If you’re road-tripping – consider a toll app with wide coverage.
Otherwise, find out which apps cater to the roads you frequently travel on.
In our opinion – toll apps are worth it.