A crash course in rolling with the tolling in Florida
If you're an E-ZPass user headed to Florida, unfortunately it won't do you any good there. While there's been talk for years about establishing inter-operability between the E-ZPass system and Florida's similar SunPass system, it has yet to happen. Some of the fastest, least congested roads for getting around Florida are toll roads – especially in the greater Orlando area in Central Florida. So, if that's where you're heading, or if you're traveling considerable distances across the state, you may want to avail yourself of some toll roads.
Q: Where can you use E-ZPass?
A: E-ZPass is a small electronic transponder that attaches to a vehicle's windshield for electronically paying tolls. Members pre-load funds into their account, which is debited the amount of the toll whenever the transponder passes through a participating tolling location. It's a convenient way to keep moving through toll booths without having to stop and pay, and without needing cash.
The E-ZPass doesn't work in Florida, but it works in 16 states as of this publication. They're mostly in New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions, but some of the Midwest and the South are included, too.
E-ZPass works at most tolling locations in the following states:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Q: Will you be on toll roads in Florida?
A: The Florida Turnpike, also known as the Ronald Reagan Turnpike, is the largest toll road in Florida. If you're traveling significant north-to-south distances (or vice versa), you may want to use this thoroughfare.
If you're going to the Orlando or Tampa Bay area, several convenient major Central Florida roads are toll roads. Some of these include State Road 408 (the East-West Expressway), State Road 417 (the Central Florida Greeneway), State Road 429 (the Western Beltway), State Road 528 (the Beachline Expressway or Bee Line Expressway) and State Road 589 (the Veterans Expressway and the Suncoast Parkway). Also, parts of Interstate 75 require tolls in South Florida, and some bridges throughout the state also charge tolls. Keep in mind, this isn't a complete list of toll roads in Florida.
Q: How can you pay tolls in Florida?
A: First, toll rates vary by the number of axles on your vehicle and where you are; find a handy toll calculator on the Florida's Turnpike website.
In Florida, paying at individual tolling locations is a bit less convenient than you might be accustomed to if you're from an E-ZPass state. In most places on most roads, you have to pull off the main road to pay at toll booths – unless you have a SunPass. This means keeping an eye out for signs about upcoming toll booths, merging off to the right, paying, then merging back onto the main road. It's kind of a nuisance, and it slows your roll.
Toll booths in Florida are cash-only. They don't accept credit or debit cards, checks, traveler's checks, Bitcoin, PayPal, bartering, IOUs or any other method of payment. Most tolls for getting onto and exiting toll roads are unmanned coin-counting baskets. Some booths on the toll roads are manned, so you don't always need exact change and can use bills.
The way around all this is to pick up a SunPass, Florida's version of E-ZPass. It requires purchasing a transponder and pre-paying into your account. An actual transponder will set you back $20, but you can get a mini sticker transponder instead for $5; buy it at SunPass.com. It takes up to seven business days to ship, though, so order at least two weeks before your trip to be safe.
Along with not needing cash, the biggest advantage to having a SunPass is you don't have to pull off the main road at every tolling location. The transponder is read right over the main road, allowing you to bypass all the booth pull-offs. And some stretches of toll road around Miami don't even take cash anymore, and more such locations sporadically pop up around the state; you either need a SunPass, or your license plate will be read and you'll receive a bill for the fare in the mail – and possibly a citation if you run multiple tolls.
If you're renting a car in Florida, almost all the major providers have an agreement with SunPass. You just keep driving through tolling locations, and the fares are charged to the credit card on file with the rental agency. Check with the company you're using to make sure this is available to you.