Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tip 54: E-ZPass

After a trip on the New Jersey Turnpike and other spots north on I-95 this weekend, it still boggles the mind that there are people out there who do not own an E-ZPass and who have the patience to sit in long toll lines.

Here's my little Protege, sad before he had his very own E-ZPass (and sad because he's covered in bugs and has a broken windshield thanks to a Rocky Mountain rock breaking the glass -- check out the bottom right-hand corner)


So, if you fall into that category and have a sad little car, take note...It's simple, really:

Tip 54: Active an E-ZPass account with automatic fund replenishment.

Back in the day when E-ZPass was really just a New Jersey/New York thing, I understood how us mid-Atlantic folks didn't jump on that train. But now that E-ZPass is accepted in so many northeastern states (specifically Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia, according to the VDOT E-ZPass FAQs), it's the most useful tool in your car.

Here are a couple points to keep in mind about opening an E-ZPass account:
  • You have to pay a one-time $25 transponder deposit that you are supposed to receive back when you return an old E-ZPass. You also pay $35 to open an account, but all money goes toward your opening toll balance. So, all things considered, having an E-ZPass is cost effective because there are no fees, provided you don't throw your transponder out the window and need a replacement.
  • If you elect for the automatic fund replenishment option, which I recommend, you never have to worry about your E-ZPass again. You always have enough cash in your account to get you through this trip and many more.
  • If you plan to open an account before a big trip, be sure to plan ahead so you can get your E-ZPass in time. You can order it (online, by phone, by snail mail), but it might take up to 14 days to arrive. Another option is to buy the pass at a service center, which is what Matt did a couple years ago when we made our purchase. Even if you select the in-person pick-up option, realize that the E-ZPass does not start working automatically. It can take 24 to 48 hours for service to begin. It was fun for us to see exactly where on our trip the E-ZPass started working -- one minute, no dice; a couple toll booths later, we were in the clear.

And if you're not concerned about waiting in toll lines, or if you don't mind digging around your car for loose change, maybe this last point will convince you: E-ZPass is part of the green movement! I didn't even consider this until inspecting the E-ZPass Web site, but it's good to keep in mind that it's greener to be in a moving car than in a car stuck in a long line of traffic, needlessly burning fuel.

Happy travels this spring, and don't forget your E-ZPass! To get yours, follow the directions here on the Virginia site, with links to all other participating states' sites.

Speaking of traveling, tomorrow I'll reveal my Outerbanks restaurant guide, filled with advice gathered from serious fellow beach-goers.

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