How to Save Hundreds of Dollars on Road Toll Charges
Tolls, those pesky, used to be small, fees for the maintenance and upkeep of controlled-access highways and bridges. Thirty-eight states have toll roads, so you are likely to encounter them if you are making road trips. If you are like us and are an RV’er with a trailer or tow vehicle, tolls can significantly increase and become a significant expense.
With a little bit of pre-planning, you can reduce your toll costs and stress drastically.
The first step is to set up an electronic tolling account. With this in place, you can reduce the stress of needing exact change sometimes and waiting in long lines at toll booths. Thirty-one states have electronic tolling, and if you are in the eastern part of the US, you can cover 19 states with two accounts.
In most states, you can do this at the toll booth or service areas, online, or can buy transponders at local retailers. Costs vary by state and type of transponder. However, if you do any traveling, you will quickly recoup the transponder’s cost. Not only will you save money, but you will also save time by using the express tolling lanes where you don’t have to stop at a toll booth.
Since we are most familiar with east coast travel, we highly recommend EZPass and SunPass. EZ pass covers 16 states fully and part of Florida, SunPass covers Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina.
So, how do I save $$$ on tolls?
First, by setting up your electronic account, you save $ by getting the lowest toll rate available at the time, and if you are a frequent traveler on some roads, you will get an extra discount. You also don’t have to worry about getting a violation if you don’t have the exact change or an upcharge for cashless tolling or bill-by-plate.
How do you save big money on tolls?
Don’t use toll roads at all.
Maybe this seems a little weird, but you have to consider most toll roads and limited-access highways are built to streamline traffic flow. So that means there is almost always an alternative route. You say, yeah, well, duh, but how much more time is that going to take? It depends, but we have found that it is an hour or less extra on a multi-hour trip in many cases.
Again, it just takes a little preplanning and using a map or mapping app. You can set the options in google maps or your GPS to avoid tolls. Be careful with this because sometimes paying the toll is worth it.
So let me give you a couple of examples.
If we are going to the Midwest, our GPS would normally route us on the PA Turnpike, Ohio Turnpike, and Indiana and Illinois toll roads. Not to mention straight through Gary, Indiana, and Chicago suburbs, which is somewhere you want to avoid driving at all costs, in our opinion. Much like the DC/Baltimore Beltways, Atlanta, I-10 through Houston, and most anywhere around LA.
So, back to the Midwest story. If we reroute off the turnpikes and toll roads onto toll-free interstates traveling through Maryland, West Virginia, middle Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, the drive is not only much more beautiful and less stressful. In that case, it saves over $80 in tolls. I am sure you would agree that is a significant amount of savings. We do it on every trip we can going and coming.
For those of you headed to Key West or the Everglades, stay off of the Florida Turnpike. The trip takes about 45 minutes more to travel I-75 through Alligator Alley, you avoid Ft Lauderdale and Miami stress and save $75.
Bonus StroTip: Instead of I-75 from Naples to Miami, take US-41 the Tamiami Trail, and you will encounter a most incredible scenic drive. This drive is one not to miss.
This next example is for those traveling I-95 from Richmond, VA to Delaware or vice Versa, who want to avoid Baltimore and Washington DC traffic and tolls. Use US-301 instead of I-95. It may take an extra 20 minutes, or it may save you hours when traffic is snarled around Baltimore and DC, which is most of the time. This beautifully scenic route will take you over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and through some small towns and with cute shops and restaurants. Just watch your speed, and be ok with tall bridges. Savings will vary on this trip. There are fewer tolls going South. Coming north, you will save at least $50.
These are just a few, and there are many others if you take some time and check it out. Our friend Steve, a trucker, follows our travels on Facebook and always has tips for us. If you don’t have a friend Steve, ask us, and we’ll have some suggestions.
Of course, there are also apps out that do this as well. Currently, we are testing TollGuru. Do you have a favorite app or way to save on tolls? Let us know.
So there you have it, another super-saver StroTip!
Thanks for reading!
Travel Safe and Adventure Often,
Robb and Maureen, aka The Stromads