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Rental Cars and CA Tolls -confused by Top Question on Tolls

London, United...
posts: 6
Rental Cars and CA Tolls -confused by Top Question on Tolls

We are new to Trip Advisor but are frequent contributors to other forums here in the UK, so we sorta know the drill.

We've planned our first holiday to California for the first week in May and are doing the following route

Arrive LAX, drive to Santa Monica for 4 days and then to Laguna Beach for 2 and San Diego for 3 days. Then 2 days in Palm Springs then to the Grand Canyon for 2, Las Vegas for 2 days. We then fly to San Fran for 3 days, rent a car when we leave and go to Monterey for 1 day and Pismo Beach for 1 day before heading back to Santa Monica for the last night before our flight.

Having been on Forums, We read through a few of the forum posts and looked at the top questions and got a wealth of information on our travel -- Thank you. We know what we want don't want to see -- Hollywood and Disneyland and SeaWorld but we do want to see cities and beaches and enjoy the coast.

But when we read the article on Toll Roads and Carpool, I must say I am very confused. I saw a recent post in the Los Angeles forum where some other posters were in the same boat as well. Here are my questions

1. We are hiring a car and I have seen that some of them offer a transponder for a fee plus some sort of a processing charge as well. For visitors who have used them, what is the processing and per day charge for say Alamo and Hertz ?

2. We mapped our holiday travel on Maps from Google Inc. and we see some options which do not involve toll roads or paying tolls. From what i can see we can get around our trip without having to go just on the Toll Roads or using Express Lanes? is that true?

One of the other posters in that Los Angeles post mentioned that one could just avoid Express Lanes and not have to pay tolls. Is it that simple ? Is that really possible ? Visitors can go to the cities we are visting and not pay tolls ?

4. The article says we should check with the" Rental Car agent " (hire car agent I presume) on fees if we are planning to use toll roads. I appreciate that, but here is my question. How do we know if we need to use them?

Is the article for someone who lives in this area and wants to get to know the toll system or for visitors like us ? There are so many dates something in 2013, 2014 (which we can avoid I guess) but Is it possible to avoid using any of those toll roads and by that avoid paying the hire car toll processing and transponder fees ?

5. We won't have a car in San Fran but I do see there are bridge tolls coming into San Fran which won't affect us

Sorry for the rambling message but my bottom line question to the experts on this travel forum is -- for the visitor can we get around your state without tolls except for the bridges in San Fran?

Cheers

Andrew

48 replies to this topic
San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 21,532
reviews: 114
1. Re: Rental Cars and CA Tolls -confused by Top Question on Tolls

Welcome to Trip Advisor Andrew

Just a quick answer to all your questions.

We have gone from SF to Santa Monica to Laguna Beach and to San Diego and to Palm Springs without paying a cent in tolls. There are options for commuters to pay toll and use express lanes or use specific roads called Toll Roads (one which takes you to Laguna Beach) but you can avoid them.

Yes the only toll we have paid is to get in to SF using the Bay Bridge. Coming in on Hwy 1 or Hwy 280 or Hwy 101 into SF does NOT need tolls

When renting a car we make sure that the toll transponder is closed so that we dont pay tolls and processing fees.

Here was the feedback from locals about that Top Question Article. I am with you -- I am confused. The article makes ONE good point - it warns people to not get into one of those roads and then pay a fine. Other than that it is too long and has too much info.

Here is that feedback

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28926-i29-k592807…

Have a great time in CA and the West. If you have any questions on the SF part of your vacation, please post in the SF forum.

Pacific Grove...
posts: 757
reviews: 25
2. Re: Rental Cars and CA Tolls -confused by Top Question on Tolls

tolls are mostly on bridges. I do not think there are any in the LA area. We drove down Hwy 101 through Hollywood from Monterey and did not encounter any. There may be a bridge in San Diego that has a toll, but not on 101.

Anaheim, California
Destination Expert
for Anaheim
posts: 23,686
reviews: 13
3. Re: Rental Cars and CA Tolls -confused by Top Question on Tolls

For the most part, yes, you can avoid the Tool Roads in Orange County and San Diego County, but you do end up going out of your way to certain points. The good thing, this year, all the Toll Roads will have cash options, sometimes an automatic collector, so you might need to carry loose coins around, otherwise a human collector. (Some visitors are already planning trips during 2014, so that is why the info about upcoming changes is included).

Express Lanes can be avoided by using the main lanes right next to them. As implied, they tend to be faster and you can avoid some of the congestion. Just make sure and read the signs carefully to avoid them. In some place it can be tricky.

So you can avoid the Toll roads/Express Lanes currently, but then, the Golden Gate Bridge is going to all electronic collection very soon, and that one road is hard to avoid if you want to drive in the area. (Detours are available, but can add a lot of miles to your trip). And then many more locations are going to all electornic on the Toll Roads, such as the Orange County road in 2014, and more than likely, other San Francisco Bay Area bridges, once folks get the Golden Gate rules down, due to the labor savings.

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 21,532
reviews: 114
4. Re: Rental Cars and CA Tolls -confused by Top Question on Tolls

I think the writer of that article must pay heed to all the comments in that original feedback and to posters such as above

That article is VERY CONFUSING and does not seem to be written for the average visitor.

There are two things visitors need to know. There are toll roads and express lanes in CA and they can be used but one needs a transponder to be on the safe side (and to not worry which one has cash v/s no cash) The average visitor can go around CA ROADS without paying tolls. Bridges are the exception in the SF Bay area if you want to get into SF

I wish the poster in #3 would answer the specific question

The OP does not need to use any toll roads and will be just fine. The OP does not have a car in SF so again no toll is to be paid on those bridges. NO Car means NO Toll

The poster in #3 writes

>>>>Some visitors are already planning trips during 2014, so that is why the info about upcoming changes is included).

We know people are budget conscious and would like to pay and spend as little as possible but to say that people are planning vacations in 2014 based on potential toll roads sounds very very far fetched to me. I would be shocked if 99.99999% of the people worked on the 2014 vacations and sat down and made detailed maps and routes based on toll roads. All of it adds more confusion. Visitors from other parts of the world are more worried about driving on the other side of the road, CA road rules, and not about planning routes to avoid tolls. People are nervous about traffic jams but again the average visitor uses the road just a few times and can adjust their travel time

A top question should be question that is frequently asked on the CA forum and that is NOT a TOP question. It was asked perhaps less than 2-3 times since that article was posted. To say that posting that TQ resulted in few questions being asked would be a joke.

Edited: 3:13 pm, February 13, 2013
San Diego
Destination Expert
for San Diego
posts: 42,222
reviews: 57
5. Re: Rental Cars and CA Tolls -confused by Top Question on Tolls

I live in Southern California and go to LA and to San Francisco.

I have never needed to pay a toll and will continue to drive without a transponder in my car!

The reason this is possible is that only certain LANES on the road need the transponder. These are 4 and 5 lane highways so you just stay out of those lanes and you are OK.

The only possible place you MIGHT need one would be IF you were entering San Francisco on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Edited: 3:15 pm, February 13, 2013
San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 21,532
reviews: 114
6. Re: Rental Cars and CA Tolls -confused by Top Question on Tolls

The poster in thread 3 wrote

>>>For the most part, yes, you can avoid the Tool Roads in Orange County and San Diego County, but you do end up going out of your way to certain points.

Riff M -- We have used 73 when we were there for a month and we going back and forth and we also used the toll roads when we went to Fontana and other places from Anaheim but we had locals with us who love that road.

But in the cities that the OP wants to visit, do you think there are any detours the OP has to make ? I can see the OP going along the coast to Laguna beach and then either taking 1 down or going down 5 to San Diego ? Where is this out of the way route that the poster in #3 is referring to ?

Los Angeles...
posts: 866
reviews: 66
7. Re: Rental Cars and CA Tolls -confused by Top Question on Tolls

I've lived in LA for 19 years and have never paid a toll - and I go out of town on weekend trips pretty regularly, especially to the San Diego area - using the 5 or 15, and 8. I know the 110 in LA has the new transponder requirement for car pool lanes in some areas (and the 10 too, I think). Just don't use the carpool lanes. These should be well marked (I do realize they might not be though) and it is confusing - so my advice would be to avoid carpool lanes in LA county. Toll roads are clearly marked though.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Borrego Springs, San Francisco, Solana Beach
posts: 28,411
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8. Re: Rental Cars and CA Tolls -confused by Top Question on Tolls

I'm not surprised the OP is confused by the information in that Top Question. I live here and find it confusing. And we had a long thread (linked above) where many California residents felt that the info was unnecessary.

I'll be driving to San Diego next week. And I won't be paying a toll.

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 21,532
reviews: 114
9. Re: Rental Cars and CA Tolls -confused by Top Question on Tolls

Also I wonder why the author of that so called Top Question moves that Question up in that list above the ones that get asked so many times a day -- the LA to SF Coastal route or the Yosemite route --

It has been moved down that list of top questions and I would appreciate it if other DEs make sure it is not moved up to further confuse others

I have also added this post and the other post as comments to that TQ so that people get a FAIR and BALANCED view of the information. I would urge other locals to also add their comments to that Traveler article.

San Diego
Destination Expert
for San Diego
posts: 42,222
reviews: 57
10. Re: Rental Cars and CA Tolls -confused by Top Question on Tolls

NO belomiser I do not think the OP will need to go out of their way at all to avoid tolls! In fact I don't think they will even see a toll road except for a sign telling them about an exit to one in Orange County.

We have never felt the need to use that road so I don't see why a visitor would need to for their short time here!!!

In going from San Diego to Palm Springs there are even FREE express lanes still available on the I-15 sooo no worries at all if they choose to go that way.

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