How to Ship a Car by Train (2023)

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, andexterior 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).

» MORE: How much does it cost to ship a car?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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

FAQ

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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FAQs

How are cars transported by train? ›

Vehicles are loaded onto and off of auto racks by portable ramps, which allow vehicles to be driven onto or off the rail car. Keeping safety in mind, cars are loaded at a very slow speed to ensure they remain damage free.

How are new cars shipped by rail? ›

Once your car has arrived at a railroad's auto ramp, it will be loaded onto an automotive rail car or “auto rack.” These are either bi-level or tri-level cars. Bi-level rail cars generally hold 8-10 units and are used for larger vehicles, like trucks, minivans and SUVs.

Are you supposed to tip car transporters? ›

It is not obligatory to tip transport drivers. Tipping is optional in the transport industry. However, if you get a 5-star car delivery service, a tip would be a good way of saying thanks.

Do cars get shipped on trains? ›

Technically, yes. It's possible to ship a car by train, but the circumstances under which you can do it are very limited, so this option will not work for the majority of people. As of now, you can only do it using Amtrak's Auto Train Line, and only on a single line that runs from Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Florida.

How are cars unloaded from a train? ›

Vehicles are driven on and off auto racks using portable ramps. First, auto ramp operators open the doors at one end of the autorack. Then, the ramp pulls up to that end of the autorack and is secured to the level to be unloaded.

How do I track my car shipped by rail? ›

Monitor Specific Cars

Touch Trace: Get the tracking information you need over the phone, at any time, from any place with Touch Trace Telephone Tracking: Trace rail cars with Touch Trace: dial 1-877-ShipCSX (1-877-744-7279), options 2-1-3.

How are rail cars tracked? ›

Rail systems throughout the world use GPS to track the movement of locomotives, rail cars, maintenance vehicles, and wayside equipment in real time. When combined with other sensors, computers, and communications systems, GPS improves rail safety, security, and operational effectiveness.

Is shipping by rail faster than truck? ›

In most situations, a rail shipping option will be faster over long distances. Over shorter distances or on journeys with a lot of obstructions, though, a truck can be much quicker. It's always worth remembering that you'll almost certainly have to use a truck at some point when you're using a train.

What is it called when you ship a car? ›

Also known as auto transport or car transport, car shipping is the act of moving a car from one location to another using a specialized trailer. Any company that provides car shipping should be licensed, bonded, and insured for safe hauling and delivery.

How are cars transported to the US? ›

Cars Getting Shipped by Sea

It's the primary mode of transportation of international trades, whenever the cars have to be transported overseas. While some planes also offer car transport, it stays limited to singular vehicles, while vessels can haul a huge load. Specialized car carriers are so-called RoRo ships.

How many cars can fit on a ship? ›

Today, a car carrier is referred to as a pure car carrier (PCC) or a pure car and truck carrier (PCTC). Looking like a floating garage, the largest of these can carry up to 8,500 automobiles. The difference between the two is the size and strength of the ramps and the layout of the decks.

How much do you tip a car shipper? ›

How much do you tip a car transport driver? The amount you tip a transport driver is up to you. We've seen reports of tips ranging from $5 to $300.

What do you tip a car driver? ›

A minimum tip of 15% of the rate is an excellent place to start. You should increase this to 20% and 25% for exceptional services, such as your driver helping you carry bags or suitcases, providing you with water during your ride, or waiting for you for a few minutes while you had to run a quick errand, for example.

Do you tip the tow truck guy? ›

The short answer is yes. Tips for roadside assistance aren't directly encouraged, but a tow truck driver or someone providing a service will always appreciate a tip. Especially if they drove all the way over to help or completed a particularly difficult job, or went out of their way.

Are train cars attached to the wheels? ›

The wheels on each side of a train car are connected with a metal rod called an axle. This axle keeps the two train wheels moving together, both turning at the same speed when the train is moving. This construction is great for straight tracks.

How does Ford ship their cars? ›

Ford ships vehicles from its assembly plants to dealerships using a mix of railcars and trucks.

How many cars does a train carry? ›

Depending on the railroad and location, they can be between 65 cars in length and 200 cars (or more). The locomotives pulling the train will usually stay connected from origin to destination, which is why you will find a locomotive from one railroad on another railroad.

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