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With no state income tax, Florida has to get money somewhere, and tolls are a major revenue source. Travelers can minimize this expense, and hassle of toll booths, by getting a SunPass.
Here are the flawed non-Sunpass alternatives:
- Rental cars: each company now has some form of toll program which SunPass helpfully compares. Dollar/Thrifty uses Pass24 that charges a high flat fee for unlimited toll usage, but is only justified if covering major ground, and has major penalties if declined. HTA TollPass used by National, Alamo and Enterprise is quite reasonable with the lowest daily/max fees. Nonetheless, all charge the cash rate, not the discounted SunPass rate. The different rates can be found on this online calculator by those who have the patience to deal with it, but each ‘location’ saves $0.25 and a trip from Orlando to Miami saves several dollars.
- Personal vehicles: Miami-Dade Country now has all-electronic tolling, which will eventually be extended to other areas. Driving through these tolls without a SunPass will result in a ‘toll-by-plate’ mail invoice to the registered vehicle owner with an additional monthly $2.50 administrative fee. The administrative fee can be avoided with a prepaid account. But this is at the cash rate and does not avoid stopping at toll booths in the rest of the state.
SunPass gets discounted rates and bypasses toll booths throughout the state. Many of the SunPass lanes are overhead on expressways so do not even require a slow down. Accounts can be managed online and vehicles, including rentals, added and deleted. The Rapid Traveler was in Miami last week with a Hertz rental; the Hertz program functions as toll-by-plate and his SunPass overrode it with no charge by Hertz for any tolls.
SunPass now comes in two types (comparison PDF), the $25 SunPass Portable (with no credit and minimum $10 charge) and the $4.99 SunPass Mini (with $4.99 credit). Online forums have reports of people moving Mini to different vehicles, but Portable is a safer play when trying to avoid triggering rental car charges.
Frequent Sunshine State travelers should get a SunPass and even those on a single trip should consider it. Without a SunPass, renters in Miami should avoid Dollar/Thrifty because they either pay the exorbitant unlimited usage fee or decline and get walloped with an outrageous $25 + toll charge for each infraction. A simple drive through Miami can involve several small all-electronic tolls on roads such as SR-874 Don Shula Expressway and SR-878 Snapper Creek Expressway. The woeful Dollar/Thrifty renter can easily exceed $100 in cockamamie fees going crosstown.
See also this post on rental car tolls in the Northeast.