The prices of toll roads (péages) in France have risen by up to 5% in recent months.
It has sparked criticism of the terms of a 2015 deal between the government and the private firms that run some of France’s motorways.
Here we look at ways you can save money on France’s péages.
1. Leave the motorway and then rejoin it
Leaving the motorway and then immediately rejoining it is a method used to save a few euros on toll road charges.
For example, if your journey takes you from exit 1 to 8, you can leave the motorway at exit 2, go around the roundabout, and rejoin the same motorway again.
If you do this for exits 2 to 7, you could save up to 20% on péages, but only add a few minutes to your journey overall. Doing this on a trip from Paris to Lille could reduce charges from €17.30 to €14.20, for example, according to a calculation by Merci Pour L’Info.
However, this method may consume more fuel and take slightly longer.
2. Use an app or website to plan a route
Many driving and map apps include an option to plan your route without péages.
This could mean doing the entire journey on alternative roads or using the motorway for the minimum time possible and exiting before you need to pay. You could also target using only the cheapest segments of toll roads.
Apps including Google Maps and Waze offer this option, as do GPS systems such as Coyote.
However, an alternative route could take longer and cost you more in fuel.
3. Know your péages
They say knowledge is power, and knowing which tolls are the cheapest, and which are the most expensive (or those that have the highest-rising fees) could help you save.
Lowest cost or free
Motorways in France that are still free include the A35 and A84. One of the cheapest is the A68, which only charges for the 10 kilometres between Toulouse and exit 3. The rest is free.
This is similar to the A20 motorway between Vierzon and Montauban. Two-thirds of this is free and state-owned. The A75 is toll-free for large stretches, except over the famous Millau viaduct.
Some of the least expensive elsewhere are the A68 between Toulouse and Albi, the A20 between Vierzon and Montauban, the A75 between Clermont-Ferrand and Béziers, and the A2 between Péronne and the Belgian border.
Some motorway networks have put their prices up higher than others. These include Vinci, Sanef, and APRR, who are allowed to increase their prices by up to 70% of current inflation.
Given that inflation has been high for many months, this has led to higher prices on tolls on roads run by these companies. Be sure to take note of which networks your motorway route includes, as this could be a clue to higher prices.
However, Vinci has introduced some cost-saving measures, including a block on péage prices on 70% of journeys under 30km.
It is also worth checking out this study from FranceInfo (in French), which looked at which toll roads had increased the most in price between 2022 and 2023.
4. Take out a membership
If you travel on the same motorway road often, it could make sense to take out a membership to the network. Many companies offer discounts or bulk-buy offers for members, allowing you to pay for your péage fees in one lump sum in advance for a lower rate, saving money overall.
Even in the cases where paying upfront does not save money, you may prefer to take that option so you can be sure how much your toll bill will cost and plan that expense in advance.
Typically, subscribing or taking out a membership to a road network means you will receive a small box that attaches to your windscreen. This lets you pass through the barriers without having to pay manually by card or with cash.
At the end of the month, you will receive an invoice itemising your journeys for that month.
You can also buy an Ulys péage badge from sites such as Amazon, which offer a similar service without a set membership term.
Of course, this system only works if you would usually do enough journeys to make it worthwhile.
5. Other options: car share or drive more economically
Carsharing or driving more economically may not technically save you money on toll booths, but they can significantly cut the costs of your journey overall.
Whether you split fuel costs or péage fees with your fellow car-sharers or maximise the kilometre-per-litre fuel consumption of your car through careful driving, it can all add up to big savings.
One of the most popular apps for carsharing in France is BlaBlaCar, which lets you hitch a ride with a driver who is already planning on going to a pre-agreed destination. Normally, you share fuel and other associated costs.
Similarly, the taxi app Uber has a ride-sharing option, called UberPool, which lets you hop into other users’ journeys along the route, with all passengers sharing the overall cost at the end.
If you decide you want to drive more economically, top tips include:
- Reducing the weight of the vehicle, such as by carrying fewer passengers and less luggage
- Reduce or turn off the air conditioning
- Drive confidently and smoothly, with less slowing down or fast speeding up
- Start slowly and calmly
- Brake using the engine and not the brake pedal
- Reduce your speed by 10km/h on the motorway