Is this standard operating procedure for car rental companies?

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Nov 25, 2014
Here's my story. In October I rented a car for one week from Thifty, picking up and returning at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, CT. I always reserve an economy/sub-compact car. When I picked up the car they didn't have any of the smallest cars on the lot, so they put me in a Dodge Avenger. A fairly large car, to me, but it's all they had.

One potential "problem" with the car, but that's part of the question, so I'll get to that.

After I returned the car the receipt indicated a higher amount (about $40) than my original quote at reservation. Did they charge me for the upgrade? No. They charged me for seven days use of the Sirus radio service in the ugraded car. A service I did not use -- we never once turned the radio on. When I called to question it, I was told it was because I upgraded the car. I explained the I did not ugrade the car, the rental location did because it was all they had on the lot. The person accepted my explanation and did, immediately, refund the $40 charge for the radio. But seriously, people pay extra for a radio in a car? Per day? Have you heard of that?

And now for the small "problem" with the car. We drove from Hartford up to Maine, then down to southern Connecticut, which took us directly through downtown Boston (thank you, GPS) and over a toll bridge. One of those toll bridges where you don't stop and pay a toll, it notes your license plate and sends you a bill. (Is that even legal?) When I returned the car I told them about the toll and said I was ready to pay the $3.00, but was told that had to be handled by corporate and I would most likely be fined $50 penalty. On a $3 toll that I was unable to pay on the spot...and most definitely would've? Yes. Well, today I received an invoice from Thrifty for the toll ($2.50) plus a $15 handling fee, so $17.50. My question is, is this standard practice for car rental agencies? Nothing was said when I rented the car about paying tolls....I imagine it's somewhere in the fine print on the rental agreement, right, that I agree to pay any accumulated tolls and fines plus whatever extra "handling" charge they choose to add on? And apparently I misunderstood the person who told me I would be "fined" $50...$50 and $15 do sound much alike. What irks me is that I would've readily paid the toll on the bridge in Boston as I was using it; how is it legal to charge people later for tolls, and not at time of using the roadway or bridge?

Grant Ritchie

Dependable adequacy :-)
Oct 1, 2014
Dear sjoblues,

I'm Grant Ritchie, one of Chris' assistants.

To answer your questions, yes, people do pay extra for radio in a car... people with more money than sense. I have Sirius radio (or Sirius/XM as it's now called), and the most you can pay is twenty bucks a month! That's what? 67 cents a day? So if Thrifty can con you into paying almost six bucks a day, that's a good day for them. Never pay that kind of outrageous rate, but always be on the lookout for it, because Auto rental companies have definitely caught the "fee" bug from the airlines.

Next: cashless toll roads. Yes, they're yet another money maker for the rental companies. Chris selected an article from our archives that he felt you might find useful. Here's a link:

Following his lead, I poked around and found a few more articles for your reading "pleasure":

These articles will probably have you ready to kick a hole in a stained glass window, but I hope they'll address your concerns. If they don't, please feel free to write again.



Verified Member
Oct 1, 2014
Cashless toll roads and bridges are more and more common. Some rental companies rent transponders but that is a per day charge and can mount up. When I did a trip from Ft. Lauderdale to Key West, I ask about tolls and stayed off the toll roads.

Suggest all renters consider options in advance. Often tolls cannot be avoided. I'm from Louisville and we are building interstate cashless toll bridges. Likely a rental car bonanza.


Pay the fee. It is what it is, as you weren't driving your own card and they are handling the paperwork for the toll. Many bridges in the US are now cashless. I don't like it either, but that is what they are doing. Heads up if you go to SF and drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and then back into the city. Same story. They mail the bill to the owner of the car.