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How to ship a car by train

A route exists between Washington, D.C. and Orlando

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by Tom Rains ConsumerAffairs Research Team
truck transport by train

Although it’s uncommon, it is possible to ship a car by train. However, routes are limited, and you might find cheaper options. We recommend shipping by truck or boat in most situations, but shipping by train is the right choice for some.

Shipping a car by train

Although shipping a car by truck is more common, it’s possible to ship a car by train. Some two-car families choose to drive one car for the move and ship the other by train. Other people choose to ship their cars by train because it has a lighter impact on the environment.

Although shipping cars by train is common for commercial use, it’s rare to find rail companies that ship vehicles for consumers. One exception is Amtrak, which operates the Amtrak Auto Train route between the Orlando, Florida, and Washington, D.C., areas. This route is popular for snowbirds who travel south during the colder months of the year and return in the spring.

To ship a car on the Amtrak Auto Train route, you need to:

  1. Reserve a ticket online.
  2. Take your car to the train station. Unlike auto transports done by truck, you're allowed to pack belongings in your car if you're transporting it by rail.
  3. Ride the train. It leaves in the afternoon and arrives the next morning, whether you’re leaving from Sanford, Florida, about a half-hour drive from Orlando, or Lorton, Virginia, 20 miles southwest of Washington, D.C.
  4. Once you arrive at your destination, wait for your car to be unloaded and drive it away.

Cost to ship a car by train

Amtrak’s Auto Train route between northern Virginia and central Florida is the most popular option for shipping a car by train. The average cost to ship a car between Washington, D.C., and Orlando by truck is $525 to $900. This means Amtrak prices are competitive with traditional transport methods. Shipping by train can be cheaper — prices vary based on the time of year, how far in advance you book and the type of room you reserve for yourself. To save more money, reserve just a seat instead of a room for the overnight journey.

OriginDestinationMonthCost
Washington, D.C.OrlandoJanuary$872
Washington, D.C.OrlandoApril$743
Washington, D.C.OrlandoJune$504
Washington, D.C.OrlandoNovember$634
OrlandoWashington, D.C.January$869
OrlandoWashington, D.C.April$883
OrlandoWashington, D.C.June$581
OrlandoWashington, D.C.November$501

Pros and cons of shipping a car by train

Pros

  • Convenience
  • Can ride with car
  • Environmentally friendly

Cons

  • Limited routes
  • No door-to-door delivery
  • Costs can vary

Alternatives to shipping a car by train

If the Washington-Orlando route doesn’t work for you, try looking for an auto transport company that ships by truck domestically or by boat internationally. These two options are far more common than shipping by train.

Train shipping questions

Can you ship a car on Amtrak?
Yes, you can ship a car on Amtrak, but its only route is between the Washington, D.C., and Orlando, Florida, areas.
How long does it take to ship a car by train?
It takes about 17 hours to ship a car by train on Amtrak on its only route, which travels between Sanford, Florida, near Orlando, and Lorton, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. The Auto Train operates daily, leaving at 4 p.m. and arriving at 9 a.m. the next day.
Can you ship a car by train across the country?
No, there are currently no regular train routes that allow you to ship your car across the United States. To ship a car across the country, you need to use auto transport by truck.

Bottom line

If the Washington, D.C., and Orlando hubs work for you as pickup and drop-off locations, shipping a vehicle by train might be the right choice. It’s fast, affordable and you can travel with your car. Otherwise, it’s best to work with an auto transport company to ship your vehicle the traditional way. If you’re looking for an option as cheap as transporting by rail, try open transport. If you’re looking for additional protection, opt for an enclosed carrier.

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Profile picture of Tom Rains
by Tom Rains ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Tom Rains graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2014 with a master’s degree in Professional Writing. Tom’s passion for delivering quality content fuels him to provide consumers with accurate, well-researched information on major life purchases.