Category: camping

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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Cross-Country Road Trip: California and the accidental stop in Las Vegas

Cross-Country Road Trip: California and the accidental stop in Las Vegas

I was very excited about my next adventure on this road trip – camping in the Redwoods in my hammock tent.  On my way, I drove through the Northern California desert. There’s a lot of desert to drive through before you get to civilization.  I got run off the road for having a “Love Conquers Hate” poster in my car.  It had the names of all of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub victims on it.  I don’t understand how someone could be so hateful that they become violent towards a complete stranger for having a memorial poster in their car.  Just like I don’t understand how someone could initiate a mass shooting to begin with.  It just goes to show there are hateful bigots everywhere, even in California.


Aside from the haters, being off the grid for a few days was very liberating.  But coming back to civilization was very stressful.  I stayed in Redding, CA for a few days to rest before continuing my adventures.  That was before I learned that off the grid adventures were more relaxing and energizing than anything in town.

My campsite was somewhere in the Redwoods, far from cell phone reception and civilization.  I made sure to stop by REI to get hammock extension straps to be sure the straps were long enough for the trees.  There were lots of other people at the campsite, and they were all very friendly, though none of them spoke English.  They asked me if I came here to work, and it took me a long time to figure out what they were talking about.  What jobs could there possibly be that are off the grid in the forest?  Eventually, I figured out that they were all there from other countries to trim marijuana leaves.  Apparently, it pays well.


I stayed there three nights.  I spent the days reading books, exploring the forest, and going on hikes.  I found the lookout point on the main trail, but got lost on the way back to the campground.  It was starting to get dark.  I wondered if they had bears and wildcats.  Luckily, I made it out of the woods before finding out.


The next stop was Monterey.  I stayed in a very welcoming hostel just a block from the coast.  I explored the beautiful beaches and enjoyed the nice cool weather.  I got a massage on the pier, and went on a tour of an old lighthouse.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  The full Redwoods camping trip and Monterey photo album is on my facebook page.

I fell in love with the coast and decided to take the Pacific Coast Highway the rest of the way.  The roads were narrow, winding, and on the side of a cliff.  But there were spectacular views of the ocean.  Here is a picture from the Pacific Coast Highway, just outside of Big Sur.  You can also check out the rest of my Pacific Coast Highway pictures.  Check out the waves crashing at Monterey Bay:


My next stop was at a friend’s house outside of Los Angeles.   It was good to take a break from the road for a bit.  I got a chance to get an oil change on my car, as well as have some job interviews over the phone.

14642475_530517580471970_9029717842036202476_nHe let me experiment in his kitchen with homemade dog treats.  His dog loved the treats, but unfortunately they got moldy a few days later.  We also went to an awesome local food truck rally.  Over the weekend, we hiked to the place where the TV show MASH was filmed.  Thanks, Marcos!

You can find the rest of my MASH hike pictures on my facebook page.

I had originally planned on heading straight to Kanab, Utah.  But I got a late start on the road.  I decided to take an unplanned trip to Las Vegas, NV.  I stopped for gas just outside of town.  Guess what the gas stations have?  Slot machines!  Inside the gas station!  I was amazed, but gambling isn’t my thing so I did not partake.

I found a hostel on The Strip in Las Vegas for $30/night.  It turned out to be a party hostel (no surprise there!).  There was a huge fenced in backyard with a bar area.  Everyone met up and went on a bar-hopping excursion together, so I didn’t have to deal with any unwanted drunken shenanigans.  I found an Arepa restaurant not too far from the hostel, so I walked down and ordered some food.  When I sat down, I looked out the window and saw The Stratosphere!


The last time I was in Las Vegas, I did not know you could pay $100 to jump out of The Stratosphere at 855 feet high!  Ever since I found out, I wanted to go back and jump.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford it this time, but I at least wanted to see it up close.  After dinner, I went over to the base of The Stratosphere and watched two people jump out.  I was very excited, and hope that next time it will be me jumping out of The Stratosphere!




Road Trip Series:

Road Trip Part 1:  Cross-Country Road Trip: Washington and Oregon

Road Trip Part 2:  Cross-Country Road Trip:  California and the accidental stop in Las Vegas

Road Trip Part 3:  Cross-Country Road Trip: Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico

Road Trip Part  4:  Cross-Country Road Trip: Texas

Road Trip Part 5:  Cross-Country Road Trip: Mississppi, New Orleans, and arrival in Florida