Review and Road Test: Google Maps Now Estimates Toll Costs for Your Road Trip – How Well Does it Work?

By Kurt Stolz on 21 June 2022
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With fuel prices almost double what they were just one year ago, drivers are anxious to cut down the cost of travel by automobile.  While this is generally addressed by undertaking fuel-saving strategies such as driving at 55 mph ((88 km/h) on highways, keeping tires at proper inflation levels, and not driving around town to find the cheapest price, there’s another way to save significant amounts of money when driving, and that is by taking routes that have fewer or no tolls.

Recognizing that every penny counts, Google has introduced an update to its Maps app that makes it easier to pick the least costly route to a destination in terms of tolls.

This is in addition to a long-standing feature that shows the most fuel-efficient route to take.

Google announced the new feature last week and we took it for a test drive

The application is available both on iOS and Android platforms, which means that Google Maps will display the toll cost on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto infotainment systems.

The change, which is not listed in the app’s release notes, allows drivers to see an estimate of what they will pay in tolls and offers this information when showing possible routes to a destination, which would allow the driver to choose the least costly route if desired.

“Now when you’re planning trips big and small, you can check estimated toll prices before you pick a route – and spend what you save on road snacks,” Google said in a tweet announcing the feature.

The app will also show the most fuel efficient route, and the app will present the most eco-friendly route as the preferred route, although it doesn’t take into consideration the driver’s vehicle and its fuel-economy rating.  The route will be denoted by a leaf symbol in the infobox where the total estimated time and estimated cost of tolls is displayed.   Google says that this feature will get drivers to their destinations quickly while optimizing driving for lower fuel consumption.

Google says that it gets the costs from local road, bridge, and tunnel authorities such as the New Jersey Turnpike and MTA Bridges and Tunnels (previously the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority), which operates seven bridges and two tunnels in New York City including the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and the Throgs Neck Bridge.

We tested the feature on multiple drives in the Northeast where we knew the toll cost both when using E-ZPass, an electronic toll collection system prevalent on the East Coast.

The clean user interface correctly displayed the toll cost in the infobox right under the estimated time for the journey.

From Manhasset, New York, the app correctly priced a drive to West Philadelphia at $32 for the fastest drive of two hours and 34 minutes and $25.45 for a drive estimated to be three minutes longer. It offered a toll-free option that would take almost an hour longer using secondary roads (versus the New Jersey Turnpike, for example) as well.

The toll-free route was also listed as the most eco-friendly one but I don’t believe that this route would in fact use less fuel overall given that the car would be in motion for a significantly longer period of time, three and one-half hours versus two and one-half.

From the same location to Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, it presented a 17-hour 41-minute option that would cost $32.87 as well as an 18-hour and 36 minute option that cut the cost to $11.59.

It’s arguable that the lightly longer route, with less than one hour’s difference in driving time, could in fact use less fuel as well.

Finally, for a drive from Bear Mountain State Park along the west bank of the Hudson River in New York State to Flushing Meadows Park in New York City’s borough of Queens, the site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, the app offered two shorter drives, just over an hour each, with a cost of $6.55 as well as a one-hour 50-minute route that would not incur any toll costs.

In this case, the quickest route was also the most fuel efficient.

The toll cost will take into consideration a variety of factors including the day of the week, time of day, and the use of a toll pass such as an E-Z Pass, all things I was able to easily set within the app.

Other settings I discovered including the choice of whether to avoid routes that traverse toll roads, whether to avoid ferries, and whether to avoid highways entirely.

While I don’t use Google Maps for navigation when driving given several preferences I have for Apple Maps, including a more soothing voice that gives directions, I am now somewhat tempted to reconsider this decision.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)


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