TAMPA, Florida - A bill showed up at my house the other day for $48.27. It was from one of the major rental car companies, following a short-term rental nearly a month earlier.
Because we had taken a couple short trips on Florida highways with automatic electronic tolling, we received notice that the company was charging us for the tolls they were billed.
But of that $48.27, only $3.27 was for the cost of the tolling; the other $45.00 was for "administrative fees." That's $15.00 for every electronic tollbooth we drove through.
Rental car companies' tolling surcharges were one of the "Five Worst Fees" identified by 10Investigates this week. And even though the charges are spelled out in every rental car agreement, Attorney General Pam Bondi's office is in negotiations with several companies regarding the extraordinary nature of the administrative fees.
When you rent a vehicle, you typically have the option to rent an electronic toll transponder that will help you avoid administrative fees later. Those transponders are often provided by a company called PlatePass, which happens to be affiliated with Florida's largest red light camera contractor, American Traffic Solutions. But use of PlatePass can also cost drivers $8 to $10 a day - plus the cost of tolls - so driving any of the Southeast's many toll roads may end up costing you regardless.
Cars.com expert Kelsey Mays recommends three things:
- Before you book, compare what each rental car charges you for driving tollroads.
- While you're driving a rental car, utilize the "avoid toll roads" feature on your phone's GPS apps.
- If you get a bill after you've returned the vehicle, contact customer service and see if they'll work with you to remove the administrative charges.