There are a lot of things that can be said about Florida’s tolls. Florida has more toll roads than any other state in the nation, after all. So most of the things people say about them are generally negative. However, there are good reasons for the tolls and a few reasons to get the abuse under control.
Florida is one of a few states that has no state income tax. They also have one of the nation’s lowest overall taxes per capita. Tolls are how Florida pays for highways, local roads, bridges, and interstate maintenance, and, for the most part, it works.
On the positive side, Florida has some of the best roads and bridges in the nation. They are well maintained, and the construction of new roads and bridges is generally beneficial to everyone. With 65% of the nation’s roads considered to be sub-par, Florida stands well within the 35%.
When planning a trip to Florida, knowing about their toll system and what to expect is essential.
Why are Florida’s Roads in Such Good Shape
Unlike other states’ exorbitant local and state taxes, Florida leans heavily on tolls. On most toll highways, locals don’t have to travel because there are other ways to reach the same destination. However, taking the toll highway can save a lot of time.
However, people from out of town will often find themselves stuck on a toll highway. It’s especially bad in central Florida but hardly noticeable in other places, like the western portion of the panhandle or south Florida.
It often irritates people that they have to pay a toll to access a road whose construction has already been paid for. But, what they don’t realize, is those tolls go towards maintenance, new road construction, and maintenance of other roads and highways across the state.
As bridges are collapsing, potholes are forming, and accidents occur across the nation every day. Florida has little trouble with these things.
There are constantly bills bandied about in Congress to deal with infrastructure. Yet, none have even dedicated more than a few percentage points, out of billions of dollars (sometimes trillions), towards actual infrastructure.
It’s been that way for a long time. But if you live in Florida, you get what you pay for. Is there corruption in there somewhere? Probably. There always is.
However, Florida residents don’t have to be hammered with burdensome taxes to maintain the roads.
Better yet, you don’t have to pay for those tolls unless you want to go somewhere out of the norm. Residents who commute will usually purchase a Sun Pass.
The Florida Sun Pass
Florida offers both residents and non-residents a prepaid toll option known as the Sun Pass. Some of Florida’s tolls are the old school kind, where you pay out in paper cash or quarters. However, most are either switching to cashless systems or have already done so.
Florida’s Sun Pass is prepaid that takes care of your toll costs for the year at a 25% savings. Plus, most of Florida’s tolls have a transponder, so if you have a Sun Pass, you don’t even have to stop.
There are two types of Sun Pass transponders—Sun Pass Mini and Sun Pass Pro. Below are the differences between the two transponders.
|Sun Pass Mini||Sun Pass Pro|
|No Need to Stop||X||X|
|multi-use in different vehicles||X|
|Sun Pass parking privileges||X||X|
|Accepted in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina||X||X|
|Works with E-Z Pass||X|
If you plan on taking a vacation to Florida or are a Florida resident traveling throughout the state, purchasing a prepaid Sun Pass will be beneficial.
You don’t have to stop, and the transponder will automatically scan when you pass, deducting the toll from your prepaid account.
Plus, Sun Pass goes beyond just the state of Florida. If you’re traveling anywhere in Georgia or North Carolina, your prepaid Sun Pass account will cover any tolls you come across. However, if you want to take advantage of the Sun Pass in Georgia or North Carolina, you will need a Sun Pass Pro.
Planning a Road Trip Through Florida
Drivers have the option of avoiding Florida’s tolls. Unfortunately, it does mean going out of your way, well out of your way on occasion.
You have the option of purchasing a Sun Pass. Last but not least, you can simply pay the tolls as you come across them, and Florida will thank you for your contribution to the roads, highways, and bridges.
It’s much more aggravating for out-of-state tourists than Floridians because the latter are used to it and, for the most part, are happy to pay so they won’t lose a tire and an axle to potholes and poorly maintained roads.
Purchasing a physical map won’t tell you much of anything. However, downloading GPS navigation apps sometimes will, depending on the app.
WAZE is an excellent alternative to Google Maps and Apple’s GPS Navigation. It comes with a better voice, too or at least some better alternatives. In 2019, WAZE launched the new toll feature for their GPS navigation system.
Not only does it warn you that there are tolls on your route, but it will also calculate how many you will encounter on your trip and the total cost. It even provides you with the individual cost of a toll if you happen to get caught on a road with one.
You can also just avoid them if possible
- Open the WAZE app
- Select the Settings Gear
- Select Driving Preferences
- Select Navigation
- Toggle “Avoid Toll Roads” On
Google Maps has been around forever, and while toll alerts have been a thing for most of its existence, Google Maps went the WAZE route and added breakdowns of total costs and alternative routes to avoid the tolls and individual toll costs.
Google was a little slow about releasing the update a couple of years after WAZE, but it’s here now, for better or worse.
So far, Google has collected 2,000 toll prices from numerous counties. Unfortunately, that means there is a chance that Google will miss one here and there.
It will probably take a few more updates before they catch up to WAZE. You can also avoid tolls with the Google Maps app.
- Type in your destination
- Select Directions
- Select the “three-dot-menu.”
- Select Route Options
- Select “Avoid Tolls”
Apple Maps App
Apple, not to be outdone, has updated its Siri-led navigation app to do the same things that WAZE and Google Maps do. It will let you know where the tolls are and how much they will cost.
It also totals the cost of all the tolls in your selected route, so you know how deep you will have to dig into your wallet to get from point A to point B. As with the other two, you can avoid tolls if possible.
- Open Settings on your iPhone
- Select Maps
- Select Driving; Navigation
- Select Avoid
- Select Tolls
Florida has tolls, so they can keep local and state taxes low and fund the maintenance and construction of new roads, major highways, and bridges.
So far, it’s worked out pretty well, as Florida has some of the best highway infrastructures in the United States.
It will cost you some, especially if you are traveling through Central Florida. Fortunately, there are some ways around them, or you can at least take advantage of money-saving opportunities.