This article will give snowbirds everything they need to know about Florida’s Sunpass: where to buy it, how to use it and bonus tips.
A SunPass is part of the electronic toll collections system The Sunshine State has enacted to enable drivers to pay for the roads they use. The tolls collected support the maintenance and improvement of Florida’s toll roads.
Without a SunPass transponder, a camera takes a picture of your license plate and mails you a bill. The bill consists of the toll and an administrative fee. For example: a $1.50 toll charge is assessed a $2.50 service charge, bringing the total to $4.00.
If you’re only visiting Florida for a few days, it’s easier to let the rental car agency pay the tolls and add it to your bill.
However, if you’re a regular snowbird and spend several months in Florida, you will save about 25 percent on tolls. And you won’t have to stop at cash lanes and search for the right amount if you buy a transponder and set up your own SunPass account. As of January 2019 rental car companies charge 10.00 per day for their transponder. A toll fee on Florida’s freeways can be as little as 33 cents. For snowbirds, use the address associated with your credit card, most likely your home in Canada.
Some sections of Florida’s freeways such as The Miami section of the Turnpike, no longer accept cash. With a SunPass, you can also drive the less congested HOV lanes in Miami’s rush hour, which is a real plus.
CVS Pharmacy is one of the stores that carry the SunPass transponders. The stick and peel SunPass Mini is around 5 bucks and the re-useable one with suction cups is around 20 bucks.
The SunPass Mini goes on the inside of the windshield and cannot be removed without destroying it. If you plan on returning to Florida or think you might change rental cars, buy the re-usable transponder, which can be transferred between vehicles without damage. However, you will have to go to your SunPass account online and change your license plate information if you change rental cars.
Make sure to take your transponder when returning your rental car and cancel your account. Request that any unused money be transferred back to your credit card. If you are a regular visitor, it’s easier to leave the account open and reactivate it when you return.
SunPass is compatible with all other Florida state toll collections such as E-pass. SunPass now has interoperability agreements with North Carolina Quick Pass and Georgia’s Peach Pass.
Bonus Tip One
Use the larger reusable transponder and mount it on the windshield as soon as you pick up your car. When you get online – it can wait til you get to the hotel – add the car and license plate and back time the start time to the time you picked up the car. When I leave Florida I leave my account open for next year. I also use the auto top up feature in Sunpass. Don’t forget to set Waze to allow it to use tolls and freeways.
Bonus Tip Two
As a side note, if you are using your own car insurance plan to cover the liability for the rental, check with your provider before renting longer than 30 days. Most insurance companies have a one month limit on the coverage of rental cars. A workaround is to book one car for 29 days and then take out a new contract for the next rental period.