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The Best Way to Pay for Tolls on a Road Trip

Heather 0

In Washington State, we don’t have many toll roads. Last summer, we took a two-week trip down the California coast. We knew that we had been on a few toll roads but were surprised at how quickly the bills needed to be paid to avoid incurring penalties and late fees. That simply won’t work for our 52-day Baseball Fan Grand Slam road trip. Neither will avoiding toll roads. I needed to find the best way to pay for tolls on our road trip.

Which States Have Toll Roads?

In a few words, almost all of them! According to World Population Review, 38 US states have toll roads. We will be driving on toll roads during at least 15 days of our trip. Google Maps indicates that we will be driving on toll roads in the following 16 states:

  • Texas (President George Bush Turnpike and Sam Rayburn Tollway)
  • Oklahoma (US 69)
  • Kansas (I-70)
  • Missouri (I-44 E Ozarks Community Bridge)
  • Pennsylvania (New Jersey Turnpike)
  • New Jersey (New Jersey Turnpike, I-80, I-95, I-295)
  • New York (Holland Tunnel, Henry Hudson Parkway, I-90, NY-28, I-190)
  • Massachusetts (I-90/Mass Pike; I-84)
  • Maryland (I-95, I-97)
  • Florida (I-275, FL-836, NW 17th, FL-836, I-395, I-95, Florida Turnpike)
  • Ohio (I-80, I-90)
  • Indiana (I-90, I-65)
  • Illinois (I90/I94, I -294)
  • Michigan (Ambassador Bridge)
  • California (I-580 W, I-80, Golden Gate Bridge)
  • Ontario, Canada (General Brock Parkway W, Express Toll Route/ON-407 W)

Several of the states we pass through don’t currently call for travelling on toll roads. However, that could change. At different points during the trip, we will also pass through:

  • Georgia – Georgia tolls for Express Lanes only, and vehicles towing trailers are not allowed.
  • South Carolina – Georgia does have two toll roads. However, they accept cash.
  • North Carolina – North Carolina has two toll roads and accepts the E-ZPass.
  • Virginia – Virginia has several toll bridges and roads, and accepts E-ZPass.
  • Kentucky – Kentucky has several toll bridges and accepts E-ZPass.
  • Utah – Utah only has one short toll road, and the toll can be paid with cash.

How Are Tolls Collected?

When I went to college in upstate New York, we drove up to a toll booth and tossed coins into a machine or provided payment to a cashier. Those days are long gone. Now almost every toll road relies on transponders in the front window of your car. There are no on-the-road alternatives for paying by cash or credit card. Instead, if you don’t have a transponder, you get a bill in the mail.

Unfortunately, the price for the bill will be higher than the price with a transponder. Sometimes significantly higher. And the bill will have a short turnaround time. For example, our Gold Gate Bridge Toll Invoice gave us one month to pay the toll. However, it didn’t arrive until about two weeks before the due date, which gave us a two-week window to return payment. Fortunately, they allowed online payments.  However, that only works if you are home in time to pay the bill.

Our daughter, Emma, will be taking care of the house and dog while we’re gone. She could certainly look through the mail for bills and get them paid. However, not everyone will have someone at home – and that’s an additional task for someone who is already busy with college and work!

What’s the Best Way to Pay for Tolls on a Road Trip?

If you will be gone got a month or more and will spend a lot of time and money on toll roads, I recommend setting up transponder accounts for the major toll roads. You’ll get the best prices, won’t need to worry about payments, and can close the account when you return home. Fortunately, there are a few companies that handle a majority of the toll roads in the USA. That means you don’t have to have a separate transponder for every state.

Here are the states we’ll be traveling through, the transponder companies that serve them best, and what they cover:

Note that Oregon will be instituting tolling on I-5 in 2024 or 2025.

The Best Way to Pay for Tolls on a Baseball Road Trip

The best way to pay for tolls on a road trip will depend on five factors:

  1. how many toll roads you plan to use,
  2. how long you plan to be on them,
  3. the fee schedule for the transponder vendor,
  4. whether it easy to pay the bill on the road, and
  5. whether you have someone at home who can pay your bills.

In our case, we will order the TxTag, the E-ZPass, and the FasTrak for use on our trip. I’ll also set up a paperless billing account for Ontario 407 ETR.

Check out my next blog post to find out how we chose where to purchase our E-ZPass!