Is it worth buying the French automatic toll tag? 20,000 UK drivers think it is.

We look at the ‘Liber-T’ automatic toll payment tag to ask, is it worth it?

Along the A89 between Bordeaux and Lyon

Along the A89 between Bordeaux and Lyon

‘French motorways – fast, smooth, uncrowded. Just a shame you have to queue for twenty minutes at the toll booths…’ tweeted Daily Telegraph travel editor Nick Trend (@TravellingTrend) on his way to Val Thorens at the weekend.

We said he should have bought the ‘Liber-T’ tag which allows you to use the faster automatic payment lanes.

He replied, ‘Is it worth it just for using a couple of times a year?’

That’s the $64m question, or rather the €19.14 question, the maximum cost of maintaining the tag for a year.

Admittedly there’s a €39.14 upfront fee but €20 of that is a returnable deposit. €10 is a one-off application fee.

The tag costs €5 for each month it is used, capped at €10 per year (plus French VAT).

A89-Secteur Rhône et Loire-Photographies Aériennes-Décembre2012- France

There isn’t any discount on the – painfully expensive – tolls themselves but apart from using the fast lanes (some of which are barrier-less and can be taken at 30kmh) there are other benefits. No fiddling with change, wallet or debit cards, or leaning over to pay through the passenger window.

Disabled blue badge holders with a tag pay the same toll rates as motorbikes (that’s €19.20 toll Paris to Lyon by bike versus €32.30 by car).

The tag won’t let you pay automatically at the Frejus or Monte Blanc Tunnels but it does work on the spectacular Millau Viaduct, and at the hundreds of Vinci car parks around France too. In the near future it might be possible to use Liber-T on the Dartford Tunnel.

Despite the scheme being run by Sanef Tolling, a UK subsidiary of one of the Autoroute operating companies (there are over twenty in total) the Liber-T tag works on the whole network.

A89-Secteur Rhône et Loire-Photographies Aériennes-Décembre2012- France

If the tags are so great, why haven’t we got one? Because we’re not that organised and there’s always better things to do with a spare £40.

(It’s interesting to know Sanef says it turns applications round in 1-2 working days).

We’d forgive someone for thinking because it already costs €80 in road tolls to cross France they were entitled to a jam-free journey.

Also, its not unknown for the Liber-T lanes to be busy – and the manual payment lanes quiet – because most of the locals have tags.

But for families particularly, on holidays during peak times – summer or winter – on long drives to the South, the cumulative effect of delays at Peage can add significant time to the journey.

In one sense, Nick Trend was lucky to get stuck for only twenty minutes each time.

We’re not surprised that since Sanef UK opened in June 2011 (all accounts are administered from the UK) it has found 20,000 customers and, it tells us today, is growing ‘exponentially’.

It ultimately comes down to how much your holiday time is worth. In that context, €20 a year (less if you only use it within one calendar month) doesn’t seem too high a price to pay.

For more information see www.SanefTolling.co.uk

update 23 July 2014: some auto-toll booths may overcharge cars with roof boxes or bikes. But it easy to tell if it’s happened to you and full refunds are given says Sanef. See more here.

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26 thoughts on “Is it worth buying the French automatic toll tag? 20,000 UK drivers think it is.

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    • Interesting, thanks for that, though you need to speak French – or heartily trust Google translate – to make the transaction. While it is cheaper – €33.99? – it leaves you open to currency fluctuations and charges, though not such a problem for other EU countries. Worth checking out.

  4. Pingback: Uncertain if new Dartford toll tag can also be used on French motorways (and vice versa) | DriveEuropeNews

  5. Spending 3 months in Beziers France area and trying to find out how and where to purchase the French tag for toll booth on French motorways.

  6. Unfortunately it is not only the upfront fee. Every month you use it one is charged a certain amount. £5 or £6 I think. I travel a lot through France and came to the conclusion it is nice to have for a holiday (but again rather expensive) and not for regular use. Having now had the chance to directly compare it can be up to 21% cheaper paying cash and still substantial cheaper paying by card. Apart from that I can’t recall having ever waited 20 minutes to go through a toll station.

    • Under normal circumstances entirely agree. We notably do not have a toll tag. Specifically on Black Saturdays though when peage queues are a significant part of the delays would definitely want one – last weekend the tag lanes on the A10 south from Paris at Saint-Arnoult were clear and the manual pay lanes were jammed solid. Otherwise yes, tags make an already expensive enterprise – driving on tolled French motorways – even more expensive though should point out the monthly fees for using the tag are capped at €10 per year. Also, the convenience could be worthwhile for solo drivers. Thanks

  7. I got a tag from Sanef Tolling UK. Nasty company.

    The tag failed to work in the first 3 toll booths; then suddenly it started working. On my return to the UK, I received an invoice. Fortunately I checked the line items carefully. One item looked high. It turns out this included a 50 euro penalty that they charged me because they didn’t know where I’d entered the network since my tag hadn’t worked on entry. No explanation. They just sneaked it on to my bill.

    They agreed it was an error. So I asked them to revise the invoice before taking money from my account by direct debit and they refused. Seriously! They insisted on taking 50 euros from my account although they agreed I didn’t owed it to them. They said they’d repay it a month later (which would mean I incur foreign exchange transaction fees so I can overpay them; then again when I get my money back). So I had to cancel the direct debit to avoid them overcharging me.

    They refused to accept the correct amount so threatening letters ensued…etc etc. I caved in the end and now they’ve banned me as a customer.
    Amazing way to treat people.

    • Good question – the UK tag from SANEF hasn’t included Spain but the French version started to quite recently. Will check up on this – don’t know about TollCollect tags, will check that too, thanks Andy

  8. I got one from ATMB. They seem to have regular offers. At the moment the tag is free, you pay no fees for 12 months, and then it’s only €1.60 for each calendar month you use it. You can pay on a UK credit card too. They charge €3 to post it to you.

  9. Trying to enter details to purchase tag, but won’t let me get past without entering a promo code, which I don’t have nor can find one. Any ideas or am I being a bumpy? Thanks

  10. You can get the tags more cheaply directly from aprrr’s French website- you just need valid credit card details, arrives through the post very quickly and I had no problem giving a UK address. There are pros and cons with these tags. On some motorways all the tolling booths seem to be equipped to recognise the tags but I have had occasional problem at older toll areas which seem to require a manual scan which didn’t work for me- quickly had a long irate queue forming and nil help from the monolingual remote assistant- minus a ticket it can be a problem when things go wrong. On the other hand saves your bank card getting blocked which with Nat west seems to automatic after paying around 3 tolls

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