4 Ways To Avoid Rental Car Toll Ripoff!

4 Ways To Avoid Rental Car Toll Ripoff!

In May 2019, I traveled to Napa Valley, California, to attend Bottle Rock Napa Valley.  Since Bottle Rock is a camping festival, I rented a car from Dollar Car Rental at the SFO airport.  Hello, car camping!  After I picked up the car, I headed to the store to buy enough food and water for the rest of the trip.  Then I headed to the festival to set up camp.

When I returned the car to SFO, I mentioned that going through the toll was confusing.  Was I supposed to pay cash?  Was there a transponder inside the car that I didn’t know about?  (In Florida, the transponder gets charged whether or not you pay cash.  If you do pay cash, you get double-charged.)  I also didn’t understand how much the toll costs.  It roughly depended on the volume of traffic, but the cutoff times were not clear.

The rental car employee told me I should have been offered to rent a toll device when I picked up the car.  If I declined, I should have paid cash.  But I could call fastrak (the company that collects tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge) and pay afterwards if I set up a PlatePass account.  She handed me a PlatePass brochure.  I was thoroughly confused.  And I was definitely never offered to rent a toll device.  Now I was left even more confused and frustrated…Good talk!

When I got home, I called PlatePass, but they were unable to find any charges on my rental car.  I called back several times a week for a month.  They never found any toll charges.  Umm…ok?

Several weeks later, I got a $40 charge for rental car tolls on my credit card statement from a third party.  What!?  The Golden Gate Bridge toll was only $7 at most??  I tried to call Dollar, but I got an automated phone tree where none of the branches went to a human.  I tried several different numbers, including the one on my credit card statement.  But there was no possible way to speak to a human.

I called my credit card company and disputed the charge.  The credit card company strongly advised against it.  They said people never win against rental car tolls.  But after calling back two more times, I found someone willing to try, and I won.  Awesome!

Until November 2019.  I got a bill for rental car tolls for over $50.  This felt like a scam.  I did my due diligence in trying to pay this damn toll, but they are still upcharging me 800%?!  No part of this is acceptable.

After more calls, getting the run-around, and getting transferred in circles, I finally found someone willing to talk.  Here’s what rental car companies don’t want you to know about how tolls work, and how you can avoid Rental Car Toll Rip-Off:

1. When you pick up a car, always ask how are tolls paid.  Never assume there’s a toll device in the vehicle.  Never assume there’s not.  Ask for all the details.  Some companies will give you a toll device for an extra charge.  Sometimes they will refund the charge if you don’t go through any tolls. What if I pay cash? Will it still charge the transponder? Always ask if that’s the case and make them put it in writing.  They are preying on your ignorance in order to nickel and dime you on the order of $50 per toll.

2. Make a free PlatePass account.  PlatePass is a company that handles tolls for rental cars.  When you pick up the car, register the license plate number on your PlatePass account.  When you return the car, remove the license plate from your PlatePass. That way you don’t get charged for the next persons tolls.   PlatePass has a daily charge, but it is much lower than the rental car company will charge.  PlatePass is not available in every state.  Make sure to double check it is available in the states you are driving through.

3. It seems like there isn’t an easy way to automate PlatePass when you pick up and return a car.  In the future, if I end up making regular trips to California, I might have to buy my own fastrak toll tag (transponder).

4. Never rent from Dollar Car Rental!

I may have gotten ripped off in tolls, but I had one of the best festival experiences yet!  I got to see Neil Young, Imagine Dragons, and Mumford and Sons.  Some of them jumped into the crowd and were standing right next to me!  Check out my video below!

Want more Bottle Rock?  Check out the vlog I made last year about my my first festival camping experience.)

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