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    Florida SunPass: is it mandatory? Is it convenient?

    Who I am
    Joel Fulleda
    @joelfulleda
    SOURCES CONSULTED:

    wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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    Given the numerous questions we receive regarding the Florida Sunpass I decided to publish an article to dispel some doubts about the viability of toll roads in Florida (turnpike).

    Throughout the state, from Pensacola to Miami, there is a system of highways with an electronic payment method which, by scanning the license plate, allows you to recognize the car and charge the amount due to the driver. One of the most popular systems for paying at the toll booth is the Florida SunPass, a prepaid system which, through the installation of a transponder on the windscreen, allows you to reduce the amount due at the time of passage.



    Nothing particularly difficult in theory, but in practice some open questions may remain. Eg:

    • it is necessary activate the SunPass or in any case a sort of "telepass" to pay the toll? Is it worth doing it?
    • You can use them alternative payment methods?
    • Le car rental companies provide this service?

    Index

    • Practical guide to using the SunPass
      • Is it worth buying the SunPass? Is required?
      • Passes provided by renters
      • Other payment methods
      • Where to buy the Florida SunPass?
      • Which one to buy?
      • How to activate it?
      • How do you pay?
    • Other useful information

    Practical guide to using the SunPass

    Given the incomplete or incorrect information available on some websites, I decided to answer these questions by bringing a few concrete examples based on my direct experience.

    Is it worth buying the SunPass? Is required?

    Il Florida SunPass it is not mandatory but, as the best prepaid system on the market, it is highly recommended for anyone who wants to save time and money. Indeed, thanks to this transponder, it is possible to save the 25% on the cost of the toll and, of course, skip the queues at the toll booths by passing through the dedicated lanes. These are easily recognizable thanks to the signs present at the toll booths.



    But do I really need the SunPass for my itinerary? This is a question that often comes to us. Let's take a concrete example: I am in Miami and I rented the car just to make the trip to Key West and at Everglades: do I have to buy the SunPass or can I do without it? In other words: am I forced to use the highway to reach these places? This you will be able to verify it personally with any navigator, indicating in the travel settings to avoid motorways and tolls. For example: with Google Maps just enter the departure and destination of the trip and then, among the "route options", click on "avoid motorways and tolls". At this point, look at how much more time it takes to reach your destination without going through the highway and decide accordingly.

    Returning to the example, it takes about 20 minutes more to reach Key West or the Everglades without using the highways. So in this case, in our opinion, you can also avoid buying the SunPass. If you were to go instead from Miami to Orlando, in this case I would suggest buying it because the travel times are very different between the motorway and regular roads (3.40 hours against 5 hours).

    Passes provided by renters

    Indeed, this pre-paid system it's not the only one available in Florida: in fact there are also PlatePass, eToll, Rent a Toll and TollPass transponders. These systems are often supplied by the main ones car rental agencies American: I'm already installed in the vehicle and do not require any activation. For this reason they may seem more comfortable, but be careful, because they are never the cheapest way to pay the toll!


    In fact, if it is true that with these transponders it is possible to safely pass in the SunPass lanes, it is equally true that there is no discount on fares. Plus you will have to pay one tassa which ranges from $ 2.95 to approximately $ 11 for each day you use toll highways. At the end of the trip, the rental agency will charge the credit card provided by you for the total tolls + taxes that you have paid during your on the road.


    No rental agency will offer you a Florida SunPass, nor will you be given any information about it, unless you ask for it (and they probably won't tell you the actual benefits). However it is important that you know that you can easily buy it as soon as you have collected the machine, activate it and stick it on the windshield. From that moment on, you will not pay the transponder rates provided by the hirers, but only the discounted rates of your personal SunPass.

    Other payment methods

    There are also two other payment methods, but they will only affect you in the rare case that you do not take the Florida SunPass and at the same time the agency does not provide you with its transponder (always ask at the counter, to be on the safe side!). In fact, there would also be the possibility to pay in cash or by card (but there are not many toll booths that allow it), and through the Toll-By-Plate, a payment system that allows you to go from the usual fast lane without any type of pass: a photo will be taken of your license plate and you will be charged the cost of the toll plus a fee of $ 2.50. The bill will come to you on the credit card you left with the renter.


    Where to buy the Florida SunPass?

    Il Florida SunPass It can be purchased online on the official website, or in various shops, such as AAA, Walgreens, Publix, Navarro, Amscot, CVS, Celery's. It can also be purchased in the SunPass Service Centers, in petrol station shops, in the automatic machines inside the Turnpike lay-bys (called Service Plazas) and in some authorized Florida visitor centers.

    After collecting the car, I looked for the Walgreens closer to the airport rental agency and immediately went to buy the SunPass.

    Which one to buy?

    There are two different types of passes: the SunPass Portable ($ 19.99) and the SunPass Mini ($ 4.99). The first is a "physical" transponder (like our telepass) the second is a simple sticker: both must be applied to the windshield, in the area behind the mirror. The main differences are two:


    • il SunPass Portable it can also be used on motorcycles, and can also be used on another car at a later time.
    • Il SunPass Mini instead it only applies to the car on which it is applied the first time. Not valid on motorcycles.

    In light of this and from my direct experience, I recommend taking the SunPass Mini which, in addition to being cheaper, seems to have been designed specifically for the needs of a traveler who needs a "disposable" pass for the duration of their trip only.

    How to activate it?

    It is not enough to buy it and stick it on the windshield. The Florida Sun Pass must be activated by creating a personal profile on the official website, from which it will be possible to keep an eye on the expenses, check the remaining credit of the prepaid account and top up it if necessary. To activate it, you must take note of the license plate of your car and SunPass identification number just purchased, browse this page and follow the easy registration procedure step by step. A couple of tips:

    • Under the heading "State"Put" Florida "and under"Country"Put" USA ": it does not refer to your nationality but to the license plate to which the Sun Pass applies.
    • As address you can put that of the rental agency.
    • After returning the machine, remember to return to the SunPass website e deactivate your transponder.

    How do you pay?

    Enter the details of the card on which you want tolls to be charged, load $ 10 on your prepaid account (this is the minimum amount required to activate the pass) and that's it! From then on you can go through the Sun Pass lanes as many times as you want without worrying about taxes and saving time and money. If you want to know how much you spend to take a stretch of highway with or without the Florida SunPass (excluding taxes in the latter case), use the SunPass Toll Calculator.

    Are you planning a Florida tour?

    I recommend these articles:

    • How to organize a Florida tour on your own?
    • Car rental Miami and Florida: low cost practical tips
    • Florida climate: when to go and what temperatures to expect
    • Miami Travel Guide: Useful Tips for Planning a Vacation
    • Low Cost USA flights: how to save money for your flight to the United States
    • America health insurance: how to choose the best policy

    Other useful information

    The information and advice listed above should suffice for you but, for the sake of completeness, I thought I'd directly translate some passages of the Florida's official tourism resource, in order to integrate my experience with a series of information on the official website. The translated document dates back to 2015, so the invitation is to discuss with the updated FAQ in case something changes over time. Before proceeding to read, I also point out our in-depth study on how to rent a car in Miami and Florida.

    FAQ translated from the official website

    What is the Florida Turnpike?

    It is a network of toll roads that make travel faster due to fewer exits and reduced traffic. Management is entrusted to Florida Turnpike Enterprise, part of the Florida Department of Transportation. Below you will find a map of the road network:

    Why should i pay a toll?

    The Florida Turnpike is largely paid for by the drivers who pass through it. Revenues from tolls go to finance the operation, maintenance and expansion of the Turnpike system. The first section of the Florida Turnpike opened in 1957. The main route, from Miami to Wildwood, north of Orlando, was designated the Ronald Reagan Turnpike in 1998 to celebrate the 40th president of the United States.

    How much do the tolls cost?

    Payments depend on the section of the Turnpike you pass through and the length of travel. The price is calculated based on the miles traveled and the number of axles of the vehicle. You can calculate the cost directly on this page.

    How do I pay the tolls? Do I need to have cash?

    You can pay in cash or with Sunpass, the state's pre-paid toll program, which discounts tolls by approximately 25% and saves time at toll booths. In toll booths where the toll system is fully electronic, it is also possible to pay using technology Toll-By-Plate; a camera will take a picture of your license plate and then mail you the bill, plus a $ 2,50 service fee.

    How do the toll booths work?

    The signs on the Turnpike allow you to know both the type of toll booth you are arriving at and the amount of the toll. At the toll booths that accept cash you can pay the toll and get the change. At the toll booths without personnel, it is necessary to pay the exact amount. If you have a SunPass, the amount is scanned by an electronic reader and the tolls are deducted from your prepaid account.

    The Miami section of the Turnpike does not accept cash. Drivers use the SunPass or the Toll-By-Plate system, which takes a photo of your license plate and mails the bill, plus a $ 2,50 administration fee per monthly bill.

    What is the Florida SunPass?

    The SunPass is the state's prepaid toll program. To use it, you buy a device called a transponder, which plugs into the inside of the windshield. When you go through a SunPass toll booth, the toll is deducted from your prepaid account.

    What is a SunPass transponder and how much does it cost?

    There are two types of SunPass transponders. The "Portable SunPass”Costs $ 19,99 plus tax and attaches to windshield with suction cups. It is detachable and can be used on any vehicle with a windshield, including motorcycles. The adhesive SunPass Mini instead it costs $ 4,99 plus tax, and attaches permanently to the windshield. Cannot be used on motorcycles. Both require a minimum balance of $ 10 for activation.

    Where can I buy a SunPass?

    Online, by mail or fax, or in approximately 2.000 Florida retail outlets, including supermarkets, CVS, drugstores, Walgreen and others. Transponders are also sold in Turnpike service areas, petrol stations and SunPass Service Centers. The SunPass Mini sticker is sold at vending machines open 24 hours, three Welcome Centers and in a rest area. See all locations here.

    How do I activate a SunPass?

    To activate the SunPass you need to have a minimum of $ 10 in your prepaid account. You can activate it online, at 1-888-865-5352, at a SunPass Payment Center, or at a SunPass Service Center. Once activated, the Pass can be used immediately in the “SunPass Only”, “E-Pass Only” and “Leeway Only” lanes. You can use it after 6 am after activation in the other lanes.

    Do visitors need to have a SunPass?

    You don't have to buy a SunPass, but it will save you time and money. You will be able to save about 25% on tolls, and it will not be necessary to stop at the cash toll booths.

    Where does the SunPass work?

    The SunPass can be used on all Florida toll roads and nearly all bridges. If you sign up for the Easy Pay program and link a credit or debit card to your SunPass, you can also use it to pay for parking in Tampa, Miami, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport, Orlando, and Palm Beach airports.

    What happens if I cross a SunPass lane by mistake?

    A photo of your license plate will be taken and you will receive a notice about the unpaid toll. To learn more, please click here.

    What is Toll-By-Plate? How does it work?

    Toll-By-Plate is a toll system that works by taking a photo of the vehicle's license plate as it passes through the toll station. Vehicle owner is charged tolls every 30 days, plus a $ 2,50 administration fee. It is available on Turnpike system roads where the full electronic toll system is in effect (Florida Turnpike in Miami, the Sawgrass Expressway west of Fort Lauderdale and the Veterans Expressway in Tampa).

    A prepaid Toll-By-Plate account can be opened by visiting the site or by calling 888-824-8655. Or just drive and get billed by post.

    Are there any other Turnpike toll booths that are totally converting to electronic devices and are not accepting cash?

    Yes, there are many. To stay up to date check here.

    How do i pay the tolls if i rent a car?

    Most car rental companies can include tolls in your rental agreement. Some rental cars come with a pass. If your car does not include it, the Turnpike cameras will take a photo of the car's license plate and send an invoice to the rental company. The bill will be debited from your credit card, or you will receive the toll bill directly, plus any service fees. Ask the car rental company for information on terms and conditions.

    What to do if I have a SunPass and have a rental car?

    You can use your SunPass transponder in a rental car. Just let the SunPass recognize the license number of the car, and remember to remove the transponder once the vehicle is returned.

     

     

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