How do American toll roads collect payments

Through the USA by car

CORONA update: The Federal Foreign Office has issued a travel warning for the USA for trips with a tourist background and advises against all entries that are not absolutely necessary - especially since the USA itself prohibits the entry of people departing from Germany, even on transit flights. In addition, there may be wide restrictions on public life, airlines may be interrupted and rental car stations may be closed. Large parts of the USA are Corona HotSpots. Until SARS-Cov2 can be contained, we recommend strict adherence to the AHA rules (distance, hygiene, everyday mask) and the applicable regulations. You can find out about the current situation in the media or on the website of the Federal Foreign Office.

Continuing with the original article:


The United States of America is a car country. It is therefore not surprising that many foreign tourists also explore the third largest country in the world by car.

We have put together useful information on traffic regulations, tolls, rental cars and petrol stations in the USA here.

Entry into the USA

Entry into the United States is possible for German citizens without a visa if the following conditions are met:

  • the traveler is in possession of an electronic passport that is valid at least until the date of departure
  • a valid return or onward ticket can be presented
  • an electronic entry authorization (ESTA) has been issued
  • travelers want to travel to the United States for tourism, business or transit purposes

If possible, the electronic entry authorization ESTA should be applied for at least 72 hours before entry. If it has been issued, it entitles the holder to any number of entries into the USA for a maximum of 90 days each. It is valid for 2 years from the date of issue.

If an ESTA is not issued or other of the above conditions are not met, a visa for the USA can be applied for.

German citizens entering the USA by land from Canada or Mexico do not require an electronic entry permit.

US traffic rules

Wide lanes, hardly any crowds and comparatively cheap gasoline prices - the USA is the country of motorists.

Before you get behind the wheel in the USA, you should familiarize yourself with the local traffic regulations and note that the regulations (may) differ from state to state. For example, you can inquire about the local rules when renting a vehicle from the car rental company.

Ainternational driving licence is not required in most states, but it is recommended that you have an international driver's license with you in addition to your national driver's license. In some states, the legal requirements for this can also be interpreted to your disadvantage if in doubt.

Theallowed maximum speeds are between 65 and 85 miles per hour (mph) outside of urban areas and typically between 35 and 45 mph inside built-up areas. Speed ​​may be limited to 15 mph outside schools. Compliance with the speed limits is often checked (e.g. from the air) and the penalties for violations are high. As a result, most Americans do not exceed the respective limits.

The regulations tooDrink driving are relatively uniform: driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.8 ‰ or less is normally permitted, but most states have a strict 0 ‰ rule for drivers under 21.

There is one in almost every state in the United StatesSeatbelt compulsory and almost everywhere it is prescribed that children be specially certifiedChild seatsn ride. Up to what age or up to what size a child seat is compulsory, again depends on the country in which you are traveling. You can rent child seats together with your car in the USA; on longer tours it is definitely worth buying the seat on site. If you bring your own seats from Europe, please make sure that they meet the requirements of the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

Park You should only use designated parking spaces, otherwise high parking fees will quickly become due. Sometimes you will find colored markings on the curbs that show whether and, if so, how long you can park there. Parking is prohibited with red markings, a loading zone is marked with yellow and short-term parking spaces have white or green markings. Parking spaces marked in blue are reserved for people with disabilities. If you should ever find a parking ticket behind the windshield wiper, you will find a note on the back of how you can pay for it.

The special features of American road traffic that are rather unknown in Europe include, for example, so-calledCarpool Lanesmarked with a hash. You may only use these lanes if there are more than two people in the vehicle.

Particular caution is also required in the vicinity of school buses: stopSchool bus (this is indicated either by the hazard warning lights, an unfolded stop sign or an extended barrier), then you have toall stop other road users. This also applies to oncoming traffic.

Also unusual for Europeans is the fact that on multi-lane roads theOvertaking from the left and from the rightis permitted. A lane change only takes place if absolutely necessary, otherwise the motto "stay in your lane"(" Stay on your track ").

It's at red lightsthe right turn allowed, provided it is not indicated by a sign ("No turn on red") forbidden is. It is important that you come to a complete stop before turning.

Toll in the USA

Since there is no uniform toll system in the USA, travelers have to be prepared for different payment methods. It is customary to pay the toll either at the motorway entrance or exit. Both cash and credit card payments are possible. In addition, electronic systems for toll collection are becoming more and more important. If you pay cash, you should have enough change for the machine (no change) with you. Excessively large bills cannot be exchanged even if the wards are manned by staff.

Toll in California

California currently has 8 toll bridges (including the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco) and 5 toll roads. The toll can hardly be paid in cash here. The vehicles (including rental cars registered in California) are usually registered with the FasTrak prepaid toll system and provided with a transponder. If there is no transponder, the license plate number of the car is recorded when driving on the toll road or the bridge and the bill for the toll fees is invoiced to the driver or the car rental company afterwards.

If you want to drive on the California toll roads with a rental car, you should discuss with the respective rental company how the charges are settled.

Florida toll

In the Sunshine State of Florida, toll payments in cash are to be phased out. That is why there are less and less toll stations. Instead, one relies on electronic toll systems in Florida, such as the so-called "SunPass ", the" E-PASS " or the transponder or sticker from "LeeWay".Unless otherwise agreed with the car rental company, you register on the toll pass operator's website, leave a credit card and receive a transponder or sticker for the windshield in return. The toll charges are then recorded electronically and debited from the credit card on file.

Another option is the system"Pay-by-Plate". With this, the identification is scanned when passing the toll station. You will then pay or the amount will be debited from your credit card, provided this payment method has been agreed with the car rental company in advance. Depending on the car rental company in question, an additional service fee will be charged for the pay-by-plate process. Compared to the toll passes, the Pay-by-plate payment however, significantly higher costs.

Refueling in the USA

Refueling in the USA is of course not rocket science - but there are a few special features compared to Europe.

You may already have one in the UKpetrol station orfilling station tanked - in the US you'll find the insteadgas station. In rural areas, the nearest petrol station can be a long way away or closed at night - if you are away from the big cities you should think about filling up in good time.

Diesel cars are hardly widespread in the USA and you will look in vain for diesel at many petrol pumps. You can find the names for this at most petrol stations RegularplusandPremium (sometimes tooRegular, Super, Premium). Behind all these names is unleaded (unleaded) Gasoline - each with a different octane number (mostly 87/89/92).

Please do not be surprised about the low octane numbers between 87 and 92 when the cheapest regular gasoline in Europe usually already has 91 octane. At petrol stations in Europe the "researched octane number" (RON) is indicated and in the USA the "engine octane number" (MOZ) - the two differ. 85 American MOZ correspond to approximately 95 European RON and thus the "super unleaded" gasoline at German petrol stations. For the refueling of the American rental car, this means that you can easily get cheap for most cars Regular can grab, it is recommended for more powerful off-road vehicles plus or. Super.

Before you can choose a type of gasoline, you need to decide how you want to pay. You should pay attention to whether different prices are given for payment and cash or by card - sometimes the cash payment is the cheaper option.

If you want to pay cash at the gas station, go to the ticket booth and pay the amount for which you want to fill up. Most likely you either pay too little - then the tank will not fill up properly - or too much - then you will have to go back to the ticket booth after refueling and get the change. You can usually pay with a credit card or Maestro card at the service employee.

At most petrol stations you can also pay directly at the pump with a credit card or Maestro card: insert the card into the machine and pull it out again - the card is now checked. If everything went well, you can now select the right type of petrol and fill up with it.

You may be asked to enter a ZIP code (postcode) when paying by credit card. Since no postcodes are stored on European credit cards, payment by credit card will probably not work in this case (some customers were successful with entering the zip code 90210). Now you can either pay at the cash register or with your Maestro card: insert and remove the card,Debit Select and enter the PIN.

Now select the right gasoline and fill up with it. On some old fuel pumps, a lever (often on the side of the fuel pump) has to be pressed beforehand - with modern fuel pumps this happens automatically when you take the fuel nozzle out of the holder. If you had to push a lever yourself, be sure to return it to the starting position after refueling (otherwise, in the worst case, the next customer can refuel at your expense).

You will be served by a gas attendant at gas stations in the states of Oregon and New Jersey - self-service gas stations are prohibited by law in both states.

Before you bring a rental car back to the rental company, you should check the fuel policy you have booked. Did you agree to return the vehicle with a full tank or did you already pay for the first full tank when booking or when collecting the vehicle? In the latter case, you save yourself a visit to the petrol station shortly before your return journey, because you can return the vehicle to the rental company with an empty tank.

Rental car insurance in the USA

The cheapest rental car is of little use if you are not well protected in the event of a claim and are left with high costs. The following insurances or insurance components are common and recommended in the USA if you rent a car in the USA:

Liability Insurance

The classic liability insurance is also available in the USA, it has only a very low amount of coverage (usually a few thousand dollars), which differs from state to state. Liability insurance is usually shown on the rental agreement with the letters SLI abbreviated. We urgently recommend foreign tourists to take out additional liability insurance with an increased coverage amount.

Additional liability insurance

This additional liability increases the sum insured in the event of a claim and is usually hidden under the abbreviation on the rental agreementALI. Usually, damage to others (people and property) is covered up to $ 1,000,000.

Comprehensive & Theft Protection / Collision Damage Waiver & Theft Waiver

The comprehensive insurance applies to damage that occurs to the rental car and for which no one else is liable. You will usually find this service under the abbreviation in the rental agreementCDW orLDW. Under certain circumstances, you are liable for self-inflicted damage to the vehicle with a deductible - please refer to the rental conditions of the booked offer for this information.

Insurance against underinsured parties involved in an accident / Uninsured Motorist Protection

In the USA, it can happen that the accident is caused by a road user who is not insured or underinsured and who cannot pay for the damage caused. In this case you were left with the costs unless you took out insurance against underinsured parties involved in the accident. This is usually stated on the rental agreement UMP abbreviated.

The above insurance benefits are usually included in the rental car rates that you book from Europe. The situation is different if you book your rental car directly on site or on an American rental car portal on the Internet.

What to do in the event of an accident with the rental car in the USA?

Accidents are always unpleasant, no matter which vehicle they are in which country. We have put together tips for you on how to behave in a rental car accident in the USA:

Regardless of who caused the accident, you should be timelythe car rental inform about the accident and possible damage to the vehicle.

In the case of accidents with the rental car, the car rental companies in the USA also require this Turn on the police. Those involved in the accident are obliged to provide information about the course of the accident. Under certain circumstances it is advisable to give a statement to the police only after consulting a lawyer. In any case, have a copy of the police report handed over to you.

We recommend documenting all details of the accident and its consequences in as much detail as possible, e.g. using photos and sketches. You should also keep all bills related to the accident.

The costs incurred by tenants after an accident depend, among other things, on the insurance package booked. Whether you will be billed for the damage to the rental car itself depends, among other things, on the type of comprehensive insurance you have taken out. Usually there is one in the rental priceLiability reduction (comparable to a fully comprehensive insurance) included, but there is partly a deductible.

If you have a dispute, you should consult a lawyer who is familiar with American law. Perhaps you have legal protection insurance that also applies abroad?