Thursday 12 July 2012

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The Suspense of the SunPass

I like to think that I know what I'm doing when it comes to rental cars. It doesn't necessarily mean that I do, but I like to think so anyways. When we needed a rental car for South Florida this week, I did some research, checked every vendor two or three times, tried a whole bunch of rental car codes, then decided on a one week, one way rental of a mini-van including insurance and a pre-paid tank of gas for $300. It may not be the best deal I've ever gotten, but considering the time of year and how late I left it, I was fairly happy setting aside that much of our vacation budget for transportation purposes.

Then came the Sun Pass.

See, Florida has highway tolls. A lot of them. Almost every highway we drove had a toll on it, as well as a good chunk of the exits and on-ramps. I'm pretty sure I even saw a few houses with tolls installed on their driveways. It's Toll-a-palooza on the roads of Florida, and unless you want to buy pre-paid passes, your only real choice for getting around is to use SunPass. Fortunately almost all of the rental car companies in Florida now offer the option of using the SunPass with your rental. For a small fee ($2 a day to a maximum of $6 for Alamo, the company we used this trip), you can use the "don't bother to slow down to the speed limit" lanes and motor all over Florida to your heart's content. We've been told that 2-4 weeks after the rental is completed, we'll get a bill for the tolls charged to our credit card.

And therein lies the problem. I have no idea what to expect from this bill. If Alamo sent me a bill for $20 in tolls, I'd nod my head and say "That seems about right". If they sent me a bill for $2000, I'd nod my head and say "Yeah, I probably shouldn't have taken so many off-ramps". I honestly have no clue what to expect from this bill. It's been great not having to worry about stopping at toll booths (outside of my amazing ability to always be in the wrong lane), but I'm a little worried about what's coming next.

Of course, Florida doesn't make it easy for you either. Oh sure, there's signs all over the place telling you that you're going through a toll, but none of those signs tell you how much the toll is. You can look it up online, but the listings have names like "Beachline Expressway" or "Alligator Alley". I have no idea if I was on any of these roads. I'm pretty sure I wasn't on the "Don Shula Expressway" as I most likely would have remembered that. I wonder if the money from that toll goes to support the Miami Dolphins? If it does, and you ever see a car reversing back and forth through the toll booth, it's just me doing my bit to support my team.

Even if by some miracle I did actually know which roads I was on, it's still not always clear what the toll is going to be. The "Western Expressway" for example, says that it's toll is "variable" from 25 cents to $7.00. Well that's a pretty big difference, so what exactly are these "variables"? Does it depend on the color of your car? Is it important that the driver is smiling when the toll picture is taken? Do they count how many kids are in the car, because if it does I've never seen those kids before and I have no idea how they got in there!

Sure, they'll tell you how much that costs...
I'll admit that I'm a little anxious about this bill, but I guess we'll find out soon enough. Today is our last day with this van. We have one more drive down to Miami to return it this afternoon, and then the waiting starts. I'll be sure to let you know what the bill comes in at. If it's around $20, then I'll probably just post a little note on our Facebook page. If it comes in at around $2000, you'll want to start following us at Look for us somewhere near the end of the Don Shula Expressway.

Written by Steve Pratt