How to ship a car by train
Amtrak can transport your vehicle — depending on where you are
When you need to get your car from one place to another and don’t want to drive it, there are a number of options for shipping: You can ship it by truck, boat, plane or train.
Shipping by train is a good option if you live along the Eastern Seaboard. You can usually pack your car with other possessions, which comes in handy if you’re moving or going on a long trip. You may also save time and money and reduce your carbon footprint — plus spare your tires some extra miles — if you ship your car by train.
- Shipping a car by train is relatively affordable.
- Amtrak’s Auto Train is the only car shipping service available by passenger train in the U.S.
- The Auto Train runs nonstop from Lorton, Virginia, to Sanford, Florida.
- To ship your car by train, you have to drive your car to and from a train depot.
Can I ship my car by train?
While shipping by train isn’t the most common method of auto transport, many drivers nonetheless put their vehicles in railroad cars every year. Amtrak’s Auto Train service has a limited route that runs from Lorton, Virginia (about 20 miles southwest of Washington, D.C.), to Sanford, Florida (about 27 miles northeast of Orlando, Florida).
How much does it cost to ship a car by train?
How much you’ll pay to ship a car by train can vary widely depending on the exact days and time of year you want to travel.
"Amtrak has options to ship a car that range from $155 for a standard vehicle, up to $325 for an extended vehicle," according to Ian Lang, senior car advice editor at Bumper. "Keep in mind that pricing may fluctuate based on the location the vehicle is being shipped from, to and the time of year."
You’ll need to pay for your personal train ticket, which starts at $95 for one-way coach. You can also get a sleeper car starting at $369. Shipping your vehicle is an additional fee. The cost depends on your vehicle’s size; to obtain the lowest price possible your car must conform to the size specifications of what Amtrak calls a “factory-model standard vehicle.” You can also pay an extra $95 (each way) to be one of the first 30 cars off the train.
Below is what you can expect to pay if you were to travel on a Monday in spring from Lorton, Virginia, to Sanford, Florida.
Amtrak auto transport costs (Virginia to Florida)
- Standard vehicle: $225
- Extended vehicle: $225
- Motorcycle: $155
However, if you’re traveling in the opposite direction on the same Monday in spring, you’ll pay more. This way, a coach ticket will set you back $143, and a room starts at $708. The rates for cars are also higher going in this direction.
Amtrak auto transport costs (Florida to Virginia)
- Standard vehicle: $285
- Extended vehicle: $325
- Motorcycle: $155
Note that there are strict dimensions permitted for the height, width, length and tire size of each vehicle, and exterior extras that add significant height to your vehicle — like luggage racks — aren’t allowed. You can, however, bring what Amtrak calls “special vehicles” (trailers, limousines, watercraft, trikes and choppers).
How shipping a car by train works
The first step of shipping a car by train is figuring out how close you are to Lorton, Virginia, or Sanford, Florida. Ask yourself if it makes sense in terms of time and money to get your car to one of these pickup or drop-off points. The rail route can save you from driving a total of about 810 miles on Interstate 95.
You have to arrive at the train station no later than 2:30 p.m. to check in with your car. Each train leaves the station at 5:00 p.m. and arrives at the other station at 9:59 a.m. the next day. The trip takes about 17 hours.
You can take the following steps on Amtrak’s Auto Train website to research pricing for your specific travel dates:
- Enter the day(s) you want to travel. You’ll then be presented with prices for a coach or room ticket. Note that the class you pick doesn’t affect how much you’ll pay to ship your car.
- Select the type of vehicle you're shipping. The common options are a standard vehicle, an extended vehicle or a motorcycle (other types of special vehicles are allowed as well).
- Decide whether you want to pay an extra $95 each way to get your car off the train quickly.
Pros and cons of auto transport by train
Shipping your car by train is a quick and convenient way to move your vehicle across a large part of the Eastern Seaboard. Train travel means you can forget about driving, stopping at gas stations and finding hotels. It may cost a few hundred dollars more than driving, but it might be worth it.
Shipping a car by train: pros and cons
- It can be cheaper than some other shipping methods.
- It’s a quick way to move your car.
- Cars are protected in an enclosed train.
- The route and stations are very limited.
- You have to travel on the train with your car.
- It usually takes longer than driving.
You can drive from one Amtrak Auto Train station to the other in about 12 hours (not taking traffic or weather delays into consideration). Shipping your car by train takes about 17 hours, but it could be a more comfortable and productive journey.
Alternatives to shipping a car by train
Shipping your car by train isn’t always an option. For instance, you might live on the other side of the country. In that case, there are plenty of other shipping methods available.
Shipping by truck
Shipping by truck is the most popular type of auto transport. The main advantage of shipping your car by truck is the cost; you’ll generally spend less on shipping your car this way. The less you pay, though, the longer shipping will take. And if you choose to ship your car via open transport (where your car is on a truck without an enclosure), your vehicle may suffer damage from weather or road debris.
You can also ship your car in an enclosed carrier, but you’ll pay more for the protection. Whether you use open or enclosed transport, it generally takes at least a week to get your car across the country by truck.
Truck transport is the most common (and typically the most affordable) method of shipping a car in the U.S.
Shipping by plane
It’s not very common to ship a car by plane, but it can be done. The main drawback to shipping your car via cargo plane is the price — it’s much more expensive than other methods. But those extra dollars entitle you to the quickest and safest way to ship a car. This is why most people who ship a car by air freight are transporting extremely expensive or rare cars.
Shipping by boat
You can also put your car on a cargo ship — just note that this method is usually reserved for people shipping a car overseas.
The main downside to shipping a car on a boat is the time it takes; transporting a car by cargo ship is considered the slowest way to move a car. And how much you’ll pay to move your car will generally come down to how far it needs to travel across the open water.
» MORE: 6 best auto transport companies
How long does it take to ship a car by train?
The travel time between Amtrak’s Auto Train stations is about 17 hours, and you need to get to the train station at least two and a half hours early to load your car.
Can I ship a car that’s not in working condition by train?
No, you can’t ship a car that’s not in working condition on Amtrak’s Auto Train. The vehicle must be in working order to get on and off the train car.
Do I have to ride the train with my car?
Yes, if you put your car on Amtrak’s Auto Train, you (or a trusted representative) must be onboard for the duration of the journey.
Where can Amtrak ship my car?
Amtrak can ship your car to Lorton, Virginia, which is near Washington, D.C., and Sanford, Florida, which is near Orlando, Florida.
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