If you're planning to drive on the East Coast of the United States, you'll notice that many cash tolls have been abolished. So, it's highly recommended to have a small electronic transponder that attaches to the inside of your windshield and allows you to reload the balance online. It's like a prepaid wallet for tolls.
When it comes to electronic transponders, many travellers, including Snowbirds, are left wondering how to select the right device and make the best decision.
Advantages and disadvantages of electronic transponders:
- Time-saving: Avoid frequent toll booth stops, which speeds up your journeys.
- Queue elimination: You can pass directly under the gantries without waiting.
- Toll discounts: Enjoy discounts of up to 25% on most tolls.
- Simplified management: Access detailed transaction records, making toll expense management easier.
- Account balance responsibility: Ensure you maintain a sufficient balance in your account to avoid penalties or fines.
- Varying deposit fees: Note that initial deposit fees can vary from one transponder to another.
- Variable geographic coverage: Check the specific geographic coverage for the chosen option (E-ZPass, SunPass, Unipass).
E-ZPass: The classic choice
Created in 1993, the E-ZPass has become an iconic choice for Snowbirds traveling along the East Coast of the United States. This convenient system operates in 19 states, primarily along the East Coast, making it a must-have option for many travellers.
However, it's important to note a crucial detail about E-ZPass: it is essentially tied to the state in which you choose to register it. In other words, if you want to obtain a dedicated E-ZPass, you'll need to decide through which state you will register it.
The main drawback is that the benefits of an E-ZPass, including reduced rates, generally apply only in the state where it is registered. Transponders registered in another state, while usable, typically won't enjoy the same rate benefits.
They may be subject to the regular cash rate, which is important to consider when traveling between different East Coast states. Therefore, it's wise to choose the registration state based on your route and toll needs to maximize the benefits of your E-ZPass.
What is the cost of an E-ZPass transponder?
The price varies depending on the state where you purchase it—around $10 US + tax.
How to get your E-ZPass?
- In person: Visit an E-ZPass Customer Service Centre in the state of your choice, fill out the registration forms on-site, and get your E-ZPass transponder immediately.
- By mail: Many states allow online applications through their official website. Fill out the online registration form with your information, and the E-ZPass transponder will be sent by mail to the address you provided.
For Canadians, it's good to note that some toll authorities in the United States, such as the New York E-ZPass, allow the transponder to be shipped to a Canadian address, as mentioned in the example. Be sure to check the specific policies of the state or toll authority you choose, as procedures may vary from state to state.
SunPass: The top pick for Florida travellers
SunPass has long been the preferred choice for travellers, especially among Snowbirds, who love exploring the sunny beauty of Florida. This convenient toll system is specifically designed to simplify your travels in Florida, whether you are a permanent resident or a frequent visitor.
SunPass offers two distinct versions: SunPass Mini and SunPass PRO. Both transponders work in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and some parts of Texas.
SunPass PRO also works wherever E-ZPass is accepted: in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia.
What is the cost of a SunPass transponder?
- SunPass Mini ($4.99 US + tax)
- SunPass PRO ($14.95 US + tax)
How to get your SunPass?
- At one of the many retail locations: Buy a SunPass transponder at one of the thousands of retail locations in Florida, including Publix, CVS Pharmacy, and Walgreens. Click here for the full list of retail locations.
- In person: Visit one of the service centres to purchase and activate your SunPass transponder on the spot.
- Online: Buy and activate your SunPass on this website. Your transponder will be sent within 4 to 5 business days.
For Canadians, it is advisable not to opt for the SunPass Mini. Be sure to choose the SunPass PRO to cover all tolls between Canada and Florida on the East Coast. This will allow you to travel with peace of mind, ensuring that tolls in all states are covered, without unnecessary concerns about rates or geographic coverage.
Unipass: The newcomer in the world of East Coast transponders
Unipass, affectionately called "Uni," offers you a versatile toll solution that works in 19 American states. Its main advantage is its portability: you can easily transfer UniPass from one vehicle to another. Moreover, this transponder is compatible with motorcycles and rental cars, allowing you to travel hassle-free.
This transponder also allows you to pay for parking at Orlando International Airport and Port Canaveral cruise terminals. You can also enjoy exclusive discounts on tolls on roads managed by the CFX. UniPass can save you up to 30% compared to the cash toll rate in Florida.
What is the cost of a Unipass transponder?
$14.99 US + tax (+ Amazon delivery fees)
How to get your Unipass?
- On Amazon Canada and Amazon USA: Buying a transponder has never been easier, visit Amazon.
- In person: Visit one of the distribution points to purchase and activate your Unipass transponder.
Unipass is the ideal choice for frequent travellers, offering great flexibility and significant benefits that simplify your travels.
The three options, Unipass, SunPass PRO, and E-ZPass, have similarities in terms of geographic coverage. Their acquisition costs are also comparable. However, if you are looking for the best option to maximize your savings on tolls in each state you pass through, Unipass clearly stands out.
Unipass provides the flexibility needed to enjoy discounts on a wide range of tolls across all states along the East Coast.
Tips for creating an account for your transponder
- Avoid accents: When registering, be sure not to use accents, whether in your name or address, as websites are in English.
- Use the simplified Canadian postal code: To enter your Canadian postal code, simply enter the digits of your postal code and add "00" at the end. For example, if your postal code is "J4H 1Y8," enter it as "41800." This will make your registration easier, as American postal codes do not use letters.
Got a favourite transponder of your own?
After careful comparison, opting for Unipass is a wise decision that will allow you to fully enjoy your journey, eliminating toll-related hassles and maximizing your savings. If you already have an E-ZPass or SunPass PRO, there's no need to switch, as the differences between these options are minimal.
To ensure a hassle-free experience during your trip to the United States, contact a soNomad agent to find the best travel insurance for Snowbirds.