Dollar hit me with $255 in administrative fees

Garry Woessner rents a car, but turns down the offer of renting an electronic toll pass. You can see how much this misstep cost him. How do you keep toll authorities from making it “E-Z” to overcharge you, and how can we help Woessner appeal the charges?

Question: I recently rented a car from Dollar Rent A Car in Denver. They force you to either buy a toll pass at $13 per day or pay a $15 administration fee for every toll you pass through. In Colorado, the tolls are all electronic, and consumers have no options to pay at a toll booth.

I had 17 toll charges in three days, and Dollar was going to charge me $255 in admin fees alone. After several fruitless phone calls with their toll collection contractor, I did not know what to do. Garry Woessner, Edina, Minn.

Answer: I can relate to your problem. There have been many times where my rental car was not equipped with a toll pass, and I was forced to pass through an electronic toll collection system with no option to pay. For a while, I was anxious that I might be pulled over by the highway patrol. Instead, I would receive invoices in the mail that included daily “administrative charges” that far exceeded the cost of the tolls.

In your situation, you were given an option to rent the toll pass at $13 per day, which sounds expensive, depending on how much you might use it. Given that there are no other payment options in Colorado, that may have been a good investment.

You were shocked to receive a bill for your 17 toll charges over three days that included $255 in administrative fees, and how could I blame you for being surprised?

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You attempted several times to contact ExpressToll, which bills itself as the “one stop for all your Colorado tolling needs.” However, you were unsuccessful at getting the charges adjusted.

To make matters more complicated, ExpressToll, as well as many other toll collection agencies around the country, use PlatePass to collect tolls from car renters. A check of the PlatePass page at Dollar’s website states that:

If you decline the optional PlatePass All-Inclusive service at the start of the rental period, but still use electronic toll roads and/or bridges during the rental period (including “cashless” or “all electronic” toll roads and bridges, as noted above), you will be liable for and we will charge you: (a) all tolls incurred for such use (at the highest, undiscounted applicable toll rate); (b) a $15 administrative fee for each toll incurred (subject to a $90 cap for such toll-related administrative fees for the rental period); and (c) all other applicable toll charges or fees, if any.

Clearly, as stated above, you should not have been charged more than $90 in administrative fees for the entire rental, so you had a chance to recover at least $165 in overcharges. After striking out with ExpressToll, you used our corporate contacts to reach out to executives at Dollar, which is owned by Hertz.

That turned out to be a smart move, because they waived the administrative fees completely.

You thanked us for maintaining our list of corporate contacts, which include executives at travel, telecom and other consumer industries, and we’re glad we could be of help.

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Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined. Read more of Mark's articles here.

  • sirwired

    Yes, the $15/toll fee (if you refuse to pay the flat-rate charges) is high, presumably because they want to encourage you to pay the daily fee, and because after-the-fact collection can be an expensive and labor intensive pain-in-the-rear. (Similar to how they charge a lot of money to gas up the car for you…)

    But the daily fee they want is actually quite reasonable because all the tolls themselves are included in the flat daily rate. With 17 tolls in three days, seems like it would even be cheaper than if he had provided their very own transponder. So with all that in mind, why did he not elect that option?

    And there’s usually signs in the rental office AND usually a sticker in the car AND a notation on the summary of charges explaining all this, but he shouldn’t be subject to any of it because…?

    TANSSAAFL… he didn’t want to pay the (reasonable) daily fee, didn’t want to pay the admin charges for not paying the daily fee, but still wanted to drive the toll roads. (They are avoidable)

  • Joe Blasi

    The City of San Francisco is suing over BS like this also PlatePass is billing the full cash rate + admin fee but only paying out the ETC rate to the city.

    We need a toll user bill of rights that covers rent a car’s and non rent a car use as more and more toll roads go ETC only. We still don’t have 1 pass system for all of the USA.

  • cscasi

    Once again, the onus is on the renter to read his/her contract before signing it and asking any questions necessary to fully understand what it being signed. Certainly, Dollar overcharged him for the administrative fees (limited to $90 per rental period) and shame on it. But, once again the renter did not take the time to figure out how much he might use in tolls over the three day period and decide which option ti take. Obviously, $13 a day for three days to cover all tolls would have been the smart choice. But, some still tend to choose the “dumb” choice. He would have been ahead $51 (plus any actual tolls). But, it is the customer’s choice.

  • James

    We need a toll user bill of rights that covers rent a car’s and non rent a car

    This needs to be repeated.
    Most of us reading are able to provide some means of paying these tolls, either with a credit card or debit. But this is an even greater burden on the poor. How do you get the transponder if you don’t have credit? Are you denied the use of the local bridges? Will we further divide our society into haves and have nots?

  • Steve Rabin

    While I strongly agree with SF’s attempt to squeeze the rental car companies, in a way the system created this issue in the City. The Golden Gate bridge (not owned by the City, rather by a bridge authority) did away with all toll takers a few years ago. While it is not impossible to pay with other than a transponder, it isn’t easy and you have to know what to do (go to a website within 48 hours of crossing and pay, or go to a location that has a kiosk or collection service and pay in cash).

  • sirwired

    Eliminating the toll plaza (with the dangerous and traffic-slowing post-booth merge) helps greatly reduce traffic congestion, so it’s a reasonable choice, as long as there’s either clearly-posted and easy to follow instructions on how to pay or relatively usable alternate routes.

  • The Original Joe S

    Ever take the Verrazano? Toll takers there will stare at their cash registers for a few seconds after you come to a complete stop, then turn and slowly accept your money. If you need change, they take their time. As if they aren’t getting PAID for that job? Another reminder of why not to live there.
    When leaving Lung Gailand, I always try to go thru Manhattan [ free bridge ] and out the tunnel [ free depart ]. This saves about the equivalent of a third of a tank of fuel which goes into my tank rather than to the give-away programs of NYC.

  • Bill___A

    I guess in Canada they have figured out how to deal with this, so maybe the USA can give it a short If you drive over the Port Mann Bridge in Greater Vancouver and don’t want to get charged by the rental car company, you go into the toll authority’s website within seven days, enter your rental car license number,and pay for your crossings, the rental car company never sees the bill for it.

  • Phyllis Morris

    I’m sorry – $13 a day is not a reasonable charge. It’s more Avis gauging. When we rent we use our phones to make an alternate route or there is usually an option to purchase a transponder for less than $10 from the toll authority. In the east a transponder can be used in multiple states. We went to Florida recently and managed to go anywhere we wanted without paying a toll. Didn’t add much time to our drives.

  • Annie M

    Pennywise and pound foolish. When will people read EVERYTHING?

  • Lindabator

    in theory – but not knowing until you get up to it makes no sense at all

  • Lindabator

    not just an Avis charge — the toll collecting company makes the rates

  • sirwired

    Since the $13 includes the tolls themselves, it’s actually pretty reasonable.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    The commentors seem to be saying that the $13 fee includes any number of tolls, even if you go over the bay bridge 5 times both ways one day, at $6 each. Is that correct?

  • James

    Here’s an idea: Eliminate the tolls.

  • Joe Blasi

    I don’t think they offer the $13 day flat rate in areas with high bridge / tunnel tolls.

  • joycexyz

    And just wait until major roads and bridges are privatized!!!

  • Phyllis Morris

    Only if there is no choice of other routes and all roads have tolls. I’ve been to Denver several times and there were only two toll roads with lots of alternate routes. What did this guy do to rack up 17 tolls? A litte planning and a cell phone or a map can save a lot of angst.

  • stephen_nyc

    Hey, good news re VZ bridge. Starting tomorrow, July 8, 2017, the bridge goes cashless. As for the rest of the MTA bridges and tunnels, some are already cashless and the rest will be by the end of this year.

    And for those of you, who don’t speak with our NYC accent, the OP is referring to Long Island when he write Lung Gailand.
    Also, folks should be aware that while having a transponder in the car, you’ll get the toll paid, you will probably not be getting any sort of discounted toll. Most of the agencies have resorted to a tit-for-tat scheme where only folks with their own agency’s transponder get the discount. So, for example, here in NYC, there is the MTA version which covers the bridges and tunnels on the east side of Manhattan. But use it in New Jersey and you don’t get the Jersey discount. It’s probably a good idea to get various EZPASS transponders so you get a discount on some tolls (just be sure to keep the unused one in the special bag they provide).

  • stephen_nyc

    In the case of Dollar, the $13 in Denver is inclusive of the tolls.
    For example, Hertz as noted on that website, charges $4.95 per day plus the tolls. It’s possible that amount has been raised as Dollar’s rate is shown as $12.49 on the site, so maybe it hasn’t been updated.

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