Can I pay all my tolls online?
October 31, 2011 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Rental car, no I-Pass, driving the Tollway to and from Wisconsin. Can I just pay all my tolls online to avoid paying at the plaza booths?

I am driving between Chicago and points in Wisconsin for work this week. I am driving a rental car that does not have an I-Pass transponder for the tollway; I'm doing Kennedy>Edens>Tri-State.

I forgot to rent a transponder, it's an excessive $7/day and in any case I won't have a chance to go back and pick one up before I leave anyway. So I was thinking about just driving through the plaza-less lanes -- the ones you normally drive through if you have I-Pass, and then paying the tolls online, from that sign you always see that tells you have 7 days to pay an unpaid toll.

I'm only passing through the tolls round-trip, so I'm not worried about miscounting or forgetting which ones I've passed through. For a variety of reasons, I prefer to charge to a credit card instead of just paying the tolls at the plazas (corporate reimbursement, etc. It's small change but I might be doing these trips frequently, and it adds up. Also, I don't mind paying tolls, but I'm irrationally set against stopping at booths when I know there's another option.)

Is there anything wrong with this plan? Will they flag me for continually passing through the plazas without an I-pass? Are there things I'm not considering?
posted by andrewesque to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (17 answers total)
The rental car company will probably bill you for these, since they'll get the bill from the tollway. Why not call them and ask them? That's what happened to us when we rented a car in Boston.
posted by kindall at 1:53 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Thing is, it isn't going to flag you, it's going to flat the rental car company, as they're the registered owner of the car. Doing this probably violates a provision of the rental agreement and has the potential to be a pain in the neck even if it doesn't.

As kindall suggests, talk to them first. The fact that they make an I-Pass available for rental suggests that they aren't going to look too favorably at this particular plan.
posted by valkyryn at 1:54 PM on October 31, 2011

Pay Illinois tolls online.

Also you can just not bother. Worst that happens is the rental company collects if anything even happens.
posted by michaelh at 1:54 PM on October 31, 2011

Best answer: A think you aren't considering-- when the tolls are manned, you can get a receipt. They should mostly be manned (there are few coin operated, unmanned tolls, though)

Rental car will bill you plus an administrative fee. Will you get reimbursed for that fee?
posted by sandmanwv at 1:56 PM on October 31, 2011

Yeah, the last time I rented a car they added a Steep "processing fee" even if you got the transponder. They also tried to bill us a big fine once for blowing through a toll, and we had to show the paperwork to prove it was their own employee before we'd even rented the car. I want to say it was something like $25 for the one "fine".
posted by ldthomps at 2:03 PM on October 31, 2011

Best answer: If you're doing this trip frequently, why not get your own I-Pass?

Also, here's the I-Pass FAQ on rental cars:
If I am driving a rental car on the Illinois Tollway, how can I pay my tolls?


Second, if your rental car company does not provide a transponder or you do not want to use the transponder they provide, you have two options:

Pay the cash tolls.
Use your I-PASS, E-ZPass, or iZoom transponder.
Be sure to mount the transponder on the inside of the windshield, next to the rearview mirror, to help ensure that the transponder signal is received.
Review your I-PASS account activity regularly, to ensure the charges are accurate.
We do NOT recommend adding rental car license plates to your account.
posted by mullacc at 2:17 PM on October 31, 2011

Whoops, here's the FAQ link.

Also, you can apparently buy an I-Pass at a Jewel Osco or Road Ranger.
posted by mullacc at 2:21 PM on October 31, 2011

I'm not sure the OP is doing this trip often.

For others--- I DO rent a car every week in Chicago and have my own IPASS (and holder with suction cups I bought at Bed Bath and Beyond). It works like a charm.
posted by sandmanwv at 2:24 PM on October 31, 2011

Response by poster: Apparently, this was not the best thought-out plan. Thanks for the dose of reality! I think I will just get a transponder from the rental car company tomorrow morning and consider these options for the future as I assess how frequently I end up doing these trips.
posted by andrewesque at 2:26 PM on October 31, 2011

Just FYI, I live downstate and we drive on the toll roads maybe 2-3 times a year. You can load the transponder with $20 (I think that's the minimum) and it's not like it expires. We went four years between transponder reloads once. It worked fine every time we went, and we got an e-mail when we fell under $3 or whatever amount we designated.

I've had the same transponder for seven years or so. Once you go through the hassle of getting it, it's absolutely no trouble to keep around. You can also hold it up to the windshield without mounting it, although it's not the most convenient plan.

(I think I-Pass is also reciprocal with some other states, like West Virginia? So you may find more use for it than you'd think right off the bat.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:54 PM on October 31, 2011

I Pass has been integrated into EZ-Pass, so the transponder can be used in all 14 states of the EZ Pass Group. So, all the way to the East Coast and up to New England. So if you do any significant amount of road travel, it's probably worth your while.
posted by bardophile at 4:52 PM on October 31, 2011

You can get from Chicago to points north without using the tollway. It may take a little longer but not cause you a huge delay. Take the Edens to 41 and then 41 north will eventually merge back onto 94 near the state line.
posted by JJ86 at 5:44 PM on October 31, 2011

I would just get your own iPass. You can get one for $50 ($10 deposit and $40 of pre-paid tolls). That will pay back pretty quickly with the rental car's daily charge of $7.

(Re-reading, and you don't have time to pick one up: they sell then at the Tollway Oasis plazas. You might have to stop and pay one or two tolls to get to one, but then you are good to go.)

I wouldn't rely on paying the tolls online. If there is any screwup, the rental car company will try to charge you their (likely) excessive fees.

Or, if you are from an EZpass state, get one there if it is cheaper.

Also: the tolls are about half the price with an iPass.
posted by gjc at 6:23 AM on November 1, 2011

The iPass goes with the car (linked to the plate), so you can't just take it from rental car to rental car.

You agree to:

Use your I-PASS only on the vehicle(s) listed by make, model, and license plate and with the proper number of axles and tires specified on your application.
posted by desjardins at 12:16 PM on November 1, 2011

Also, depending on where you're going, it might be worth it to take the train(s). No gas, tolls, parking, or rental fees. Amtrak is $40/RT from Milwaukee and very pleasant.
posted by desjardins at 12:17 PM on November 1, 2011

Also you can just not bother. Worst that happens is the rental company collects if anything even happens.
Typically, the rental company will charge you a processing fee of about 25 dollars for each notice they receive that you were responsible for. You may also be charged an extra fee by the toll operator.
posted by Nameless at 9:31 PM on November 1, 2011

> Typically, the rental company will charge you a processing fee of about 25 dollars for each notice they receive

This was not the case when we visited Boston last year. Our total tolls were about $30 and these were billed by the rental company without extra fees.

The car actually came with a pass transponder on the windshield, but we didn't notice until we were ready to return the car that it was in a Faraday cage and had to be slid out to actually work. The rental company (Hertz, by the way) assured us that this wouldn't be a problem and that we would simply be billed for our tolls. The pass would have been cheaper, but there was no $25 per toll fee or anything like that.

As I said, call them.
posted by kindall at 11:35 AM on November 4, 2011

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