Toll Hikes Are Here But Should You Really Avoid Tolled Roads?

Toll rates are up and it's obvious by the state of traffic on non-tolled roads what the rakyat has started doing. Yup, they are avoiding the tolls and jamming the free roads. But does it really save you money?

No use mincing words with this recent piece of news: the toll rates are up sky high. Let's not get into why we're still paying toll for what some say is fatally bad road management, or why the rates are still going up despite promises to the contrary.

That's not what we're about. We're all about making the most of your money in a situation. So now that the toll prices are hiked up, what should we do?

We can use carpooling apps to help shave off some of our travel costs, we can switch to public transportation for our daily commute, or we can even get ourselves a fully-electric vehicle to eliminate petrol costs altogether.

Alternatively, one way to not incur the extra toll charges is to drive to work as usual, but avoid passing through any tollbooths in the first place.

We all have that one uncle/friend/coworker who's always keen on telling you all the secret back ways and narrow kampung roads you can slip in and out of to avoid the tollbooths.

Even if we don't, traffic navigation apps have the option of showing you routes that avoid tolls, so figuring out the road to dodge the toll charges is not difficult at all.

But is it Worth All the Trouble?

The argument against avoiding tollbooths is that the money you save on toll payments do not make up for the petrol costs or the extra time it takes to drive the alternative route.

There are points to be made on both sides of this argument since the true answer to whether or not it saves money is “it depends”.

Since “it depends” is such an unhelpful answer to a life-and-death (as far as your wallet is concerned) question, we thought we could at least make it easier for everyone to come to a conclusive answer using some simple, secondary school mathematics.

First off, let's find out your car's approximate fuel efficiency. For that, we need to divide the cost of your full tank of petrol, by the driving distance it takes to deplete to zero.

As an example:

  • Cost of full tank of petrol (in RM) = RM65
  • Driving distance of full tank (in km) = 400km
  • Fuel efficiency (Fe)= 65 / 400 = 0.16 RM/km

Now that we have our fuel efficiency (Fe), what we need next is to find out the travel distance we save from using our alternate route. One way to do this is to plug in the two routes, the one with tolls and the one without tolls, to Google Maps and compare the travel distance.


[T] Route with tolls (in km) = 35km [nT] Route without tolls (in km) = 47km

Multiply the Fe we have earlier to the two distances to see the petrol costs for each: [Fe] 0.16RM/km X [T] 35km = RM5.60 [Fe] 0.16RM/km X [nT] 47km = RM7.52

Now we have the Ringgit cost for the two routes! So do we know which one is cheaper already? Not yet. Before you get excited, remember that the route with tolls has a toll charge. So add that to the figures like so:

RM5.60 + RM2.70 (Toll Charge) = RM8.30 RM7.52 + RM0.00 (No Toll) = RM7.52

As you can see from our calculations above, the road with no tolls actually saved us 78 sen! Which adds up to RM15.60 a month, which is RM187.20 a year. Whoa.

Yay, So I am Saving Money! Wait...

Before you go running off to take the non-tolled road on your commute route; remember that sitting in a traffic jam not only wastes time (which is money if you are working!); it also burns additional fuel and with it your precious money.

Did your non-tolled route cost you in time and fuel burned in a traffic jam?

According to a Quora discussion thread, you burn 1.5 - 2. 5 litres of petrol per hour just being stationary. Another report stated this figure is around 3.5 litres per hour. The discrepancy is usually cause by your car's make, model and condition. Newer, more energy efficient or manual transmission cars use less; whilst older, bulkier or automatic transmission cars use more.

This calculation is simplistic and certainly more complex equations can be used to get an exact number but if you're not a fan of long calculations, think about the situation logically.

If you are saving RM0.78 as in the example above but spending an additional 40mins to get to work; are you saving money?

If your car burns 2.5 litres per hour in traffic, the calculation will look something like this:

2.5 x RM2.05 (price of fuel in October) x 0.67 (40mins/60mins) = RM3.43!


Again, the calculations are not an exact mathematical science but suffice to say; a tiny savings of RM0.78 should not cancel out a huge loss of time spent in traffic.

I Might as Well Give Up!

At the end of the day, we have to go to work to earn the money we need to not only pay the tolls but everything else in life. If we can't save by avoiding tolls - how can we?

Perhaps now is a good time to use some other, tried and true money saving commute tricks:

1) Use ride-sharing apps;
2) Carpool with your colleagues, taking turns to prevent single car wear and tear as well as sharing the fuel costs;
3) Keep your car light (no, not discouraging carpooling!) without leaving huge items and unnecessary loads in the car;
4) Keep tire pressures at the optimum psi;
5) Use a good petrol credit card. A good petrol credit card with rebates can help you save more money in the long run than wasting time in a traffic jam.

With some simple counting, you can find out how much that crazy, back-alley kampung secret passage is worth in ringgit.

Here's the formula again, with which you can plug in your own figures:

Fuel Efficiency [Price of full tank / distance of full tank] x Distance Travelled + Toll Charge (if any)

Remember to apply the formula to the two routes you want to compare to see the difference in cost between one and the other. You can also check the additional time spent stuck in traffic to see if that is guzzling more fuel than you are saving.

We hope this formula has been helpful and you can use it to plan your trips or commutes better in the future.

Do you have your own way of saving costs or avoiding toll charges? Have you used your own formula for something similar? Let us know in the comments below!


Agree or disagree with this post? Questions? You also have your word!

  • Gus

    I am going to try this and let you know what I find out!

    • Andrew

      the toll increase is just ridiculous. Some are upto 100% increase like the one in Eastin Hotel Sprint highway. I will avoid toll road even without this calculation

      • Ho

        With Tol also jam...