In Florida, toll roads are often called turnpikes and they have more in Florida than any other state, over 700 miles in total and rising. There are over 150 miles of tolls roads in Orange County alone.
Tolls can be anything from 25 cents to several dollars between toll plazas. As well as toll roads you will also find toll bridges and causeways. For example, the main road from Sanford and Orlando Airport into Orlando, the 417, is a toll road.
Of course you don’t have to use the toll roads, but often they are the quickest way of getting from A to B.
On Florida’s toll roads in the past, you either had a transponder fitted to your vehicle or you stopped and paid for your toll in cash at each toll plaza. With a transponder, you can drive through special express lanes at speeds of up to 25 mph without having to stop. As toll booths are upgraded, this speed limit is being lifted.
Note that some toll plazas are manned whereas others, particularly those on minor on and off-ramps are un-manned and you must have the right change to enter or exit.
At present there are three main electronic systems in operation, SunPass, E-Pass and LeeWay where you buy a pass and fit a transponder into your vehicle. These transponders then allow you to drive straight through the express lanes without the need to stop. You can preload and automatically top them up with cash and you usually pay a discounted toll fee.
Transponders are typically either a small electronic box that sticks to the car windscreen with suckers or an adhesive pad that it permanently stuck to the windscreen. In theory, the adhesive pad models cannot be unpeeled and transferred from one car to another whereas the electronic box models can be easily moved from vehicle to vehicle, handy if you visit regularly and hire a rental car.
Electronic Toll Collection
Florida’s toll roads are gradually converting to all-electronic collection at the toll plazas, known as “open road tolling” which will improve traffic flow and reduce costs. The first turnpikes to undergo this were in Miami-Dade County. Other projects started in 2012 and will continue until all 700 plus miles of toll roads are covered.
All new toll roads are being built as cashless “Toll-By-Plate” roads using automated number plate recognition cameras. Central Florida introduced its first cashless toll road in January 2016 and you will also find them in the Miami and Tampa Bay areas.
Over time all the cash collecting toll booths will be removed and instead cameras will scan vehicles for transponders or read licence plates. The registered owner of the vehicle will then be billed for the toll plus a $2.50 monthly administrative charge. Florida’s rental companies are registering their vehicles with toll plate companies to handle the administration of these toll fees.
If you are driving a rental car and anticipate using Florida’s turnpike toll roads then you need to check how the rental company deals with toll fees, in particular whether you need to opt-in to using the system.
Be aware that you could face a toll violation fine of $100 or more if you drive through an express lane where there are still cash lanes and your vehicles is not registered with one of the toll plate companies. It is imperative that you check with your rental company how toll fees are handled before driving on a toll road.
Rental Companies and Tolls
Different rental companies have different rules about opting-in to their toll charge package and paying the toll fees:
- with most you are automatically enrolled if you drive through a toll without paying but with others you must explicitly enrol at the check-in desk
- with some you only pay on the days when you drive through a toll but with others you pay a daily charge irrespective of whether you actually drive on a toll road
If you choose to drive through the cash lanes, then you just pay your toll at the time and do not incur any fees but with the gradual introduction of cashless toll roads, this will no longer be an option.
Below are typical charges from the most popular rental companies in Florida. All fees and charges are subject to change and you should always check with the individual rental company.
Avis and Budget rental cars are registered with a system called eToll and you do not need to pre-register, you are automatically opted in. You can drive straight through Sun-Pass Only and ePass Only express lanes and you are then billed for the posted toll fees plus a daily service fee of $3.95 (maximum of $16.75 per rental month) to your credit card.
Remember that all of the car rental companies charge the cost of the actual tolls on top of the service fees unless stated otherwise.
Hertz and Firefly operate a similar system called PlatePass with a $4.95 a day service fee and maximum of $24.75 per month. PlatePass is also used by Dollar, Thifty and Fox but you must opt-in. If you choose not to opt-in and then drive through a toll without paying there is a $15 administration fee for each infraction on top of the standard charges up to a maximum of around $100.
If opted-in, with Dollar or Thrifty there is a $10.49 per rental day flat fee and $52.49 maximum weekly fee, with Fox it is $8.99 and $134.85 for two weeks respectively.
National, Alamo and Enterprise are registered with TollPass and you do not need to pre-register, you are automatically opted in. There is a $3.95 per usage day service fee with a maximum of $19.75 per rental period.