Road trip EZ Pass
May 24, 2023 5:59 AM   Subscribe

My sister is driving NC > VA > MD > DE > NJ > NY > CT > RI > MA > NH > ME > NH > VT > NY > NJ > PA > VA > NC this summer. What EZ pass should she get?

My sister is driving up from NC to pick me up in NY and we're doing a little Northeast road trip together before she returns to NC.

NC Quickpass seems to be fine for this purpose, I think?

But she doesn't live anywhere in NC near where you need an NC Quickpass, so should she consider getting an EZ Pass from a different state? Are there any advantages to doing so? Is it even an option for an NC resident to get an EZ Pass from another state? Just trying to figure out her best option.

She does NOT want to do toll payment by mail. She wants a transponder of some kind, so please keep answers limited to that.

posted by greta simone to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
Response by poster: Small stretch of WV also :)
posted by greta simone at 6:07 AM on May 24, 2023

It doesn’t matter. Most transponders work within the EZ Pass network regardless of which state issues it. She should get the $6.99 Quickpass transponder, not the cheaper sticker as that has more limited coverage.

(I’d probably splurge for the higher cost one to get access to HOV lanes as 95 in Virginia can be a nightmare.)
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 6:08 AM on May 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

This mostly shouldn't matter, at least for the states that I'm familiar with. If she really wants to optimize (this could save maybe $50 at a very rough estimate?) most states give some discount to their own ezpass, so one strategy might be to figure out what the most expensive tolls are going to be and target those. (I just drove MD -> CT -> Canada via upstate NY and so based on that I think it's most likely NY with NJ in second place, though it really depends on what routes one takes, and many tolls are avoidable with more time.) Also, I highly anti-recommend MD (where I live most of the time) as their ezpass system has been badly mismanaged with many reports of phantom tolls lately, and this route isn't very likely to hit much in the way of MD tolls anyways. I have DE which is fine.
posted by advil at 6:14 AM on May 24, 2023

Agree that it doesn't much matter. As a Massachusetts resident I'm able to take a tax deduction for some portion of my Massachusetts EZPass payments - if NC has a similar rule that could save your sister a couple of bucks? But really just a couple of bucks.

Helpful hint from someone who drives from MA into ME fairly frequently: at the Hampton NH tolls, when there's a serious slowdown, it's generally faster to take the right-hand normal tollbooth lanes rather than the ostensibly faster open-road tolling lanes on the left. EZPass works in both.
posted by mskyle at 6:23 AM on May 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

I've never lived in NY but I have a NY ez pass. It works everywhere I've been.
posted by shadygrove at 6:34 AM on May 24, 2023

Agreed with others that this mostly doesn't matter. However, if she doesn't use the EZ pass regularly (outside of occasional trips), it's worth looking into whether the state will deactivate it for non-use after a certain period of time. I ran into this with my Virginia ez-pass and it was a huge pain (looks like they stopped this practice of routinely deactivating passes during covid, don't know if they plan to resume). I don't believe that NC does this, but I would recommend against VA for that reason.
posted by mosst at 6:40 AM on May 24, 2023

Get the New York EZPass if you can.

Only NY EZPASS users get the EZPass discount on the NY Thruway and MTA bridges, while only NY and NJ users get the discounts on Port Authority crossings (including the Goethals, GWB and the tunnels). So if you are going through NYC, the NY EZPass is the way to get the most discounts.

I have lived in NYC, Virginia and Pennsylvania but have always had the NY EZPass for this reason.

(The other one to consider is VDOT's, which come with a switch to turn off the transponder when you are in a toll HOV-3 lane and you have enough passengers. But that doesn't sound relevant here.)
posted by thecaddy at 6:58 AM on May 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

I was going to mention the NY EZpass, too. I initially got it just because of where I was when I needed it, but on researching it after my first trip, it appeared to be one of the few that have no inactivity fee and no monthly/annual charge, so I kept it. Since I use it once a year (at most), I'm not as concerned with in-state discounts as with total cost.
posted by yuwtze at 7:52 AM on May 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

RI has like one discount (the big bridge) but it's for RI residents, not merely holders of an RI EZ Pass.

Mass. offers discounts on I-90 (a.k.a. "the Mass. Pike") but it's 15 cents or something at each one. Not a huge savings.

I don't think you can game this for really big savings without investing a ton of time. The real win is in having a transponder in the first place (says the guy who drove RI-to-MN in 2012 without one, wasting money and precious time in so many Illinois toll booth lanes).
posted by wenestvedt at 7:59 AM on May 24, 2023

Also, New York has multiple ez-pass issuers. Apparently the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) one has a monthly fee, while the Thruway or MTA ones do not. I have the Thruway one, per my previous comment.
posted by yuwtze at 2:31 PM on May 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

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