How to Ship a Car by Train

Kurt Manwaring
Researcher & Writer
Read More
February 04, 2022
6 min read

At a glance

Amtrak is your only option if you want to ship your car by train. It’s fast and relatively affordable. However, there’s a massive drawback: Amtrak travels between only two cities (Sanford, Florida and Lorton, Virginia). To ship your car anywhere else, you’ll need to request quotes from traditional car transport companies.

For those few customers traveling between Sanford, Florida and Lorton, Virginia, we’ll explain the costs for both your vehicle and passenger ticket.

Compare car shipping companies

Amtrak is your main option if you want to ship your car by train. We recommend comparing top car shipping companies if you plan to transport your vehicle anywhere beyond the two cities served by Amtrak.

Company
What we like
Learn more
Just about everything
Low prices
Guaranteed rates
Fast service between Lorton, VA, and Sanford, FL
amerifreight
4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6

Top quality with low prices

In 2021, AmeriFreight had the lowest shipping costs and the highest customer ratings (4.8 stars). If you need to ship your car, it’ll be in good hands with AmeriFreight.

Sponsored Content

Can I ship a car by train?

You can ship a car by train in limited circumstances. The only option to ship a car by train is with Amtrak on a single route that runs from the Washington, DC area to Sanford, Florida (or the reverse).

Although rail cars ship automobiles, almost all American railroad franchises cater exclusively to commercial entities (e.g., car dealerships). The lone exception is Amtrak car shipping, which offers daily service on a single route between two cities on the East Coast. (Sorry, West Coast customers.)

How car shipping by train works

Car shipping by train works pretty much the way it sounds. You transport your vehicle from one location to another, but instead of paying a car shipping company to deliver it via truck, you put your car on a train and ride along with it.

And yes, the passenger ticket is mandatory. You can’t ship the car if you don’t take the train as well.

Many auto transport companies tell you they offer rail transport, but the reality is they don’t. There’s only one that provides the service, and it’s a railroad company: Amtrak.

Cost of train shipment 

The average total cost to ship a car on Amtrak’s auto train from Lorton, Virginia to Sanford, Florida is $497. Prices vary based on your passenger ticket class and optional priority offloading. Standard-size vehicles ship for $208, and the least expensive passenger ticket is $89.

If your car, truck, van or SUV hasn’t been altered from the original factory length, it counts as a standard-size vehicle for Amtrak car shipping pricing purposes.

Info Box
Open transport vs. enclosed transport

When you ship a car, you can choose between an open carrier exposed to the elements and a fully enclosed car carrier. All train shipments use enclosed carriers.

Amtrak auto train prices
Vehicle cost
Ticket cost
Average total cost

$208

$89–$488

$497

Data as of 4/8/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Costs are for auto transport of a 2015 Honda Accord from Lorton, VA, to Sanford, FL. 

How does that compare to a traditional auto carrier for the same distance of 855 miles?

We contacted uShip—an online marketplace with more than two million vehicle transports to its name. uShip provided an average cost of approximately $830 to ship a car along the same route as the Amtrak auto train.

That’s about $530 more than the cheapest rail option, and $60 more than the most expensive rail option (which includes a comfy bed and priority offloading).

The uShip quote is an average, meaning you may be able to find transporters who will do the job for less. But even then, you won’t find an auto transporter who can match the lower end of Amtrak car shipping pricing.

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Auto shipping costs: Train vs. truck
Amtrak (least expensive)
Amtrak (most expensive)
Average uShip

$297

$761

$825

Data as of 4/8/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Costs are for auto transport of a 2015 Honda Accord from Lorton, VA, to Sanford, FL. 

Timing of car shipping by train

The Amtrak auto train is much quicker than shipping your car by truck. The nonstop rail route from Lorton, Virginia, to Sanford, Florida has a travel time of 17 hours and 29 minutes—about a week and a half faster than a regular car shipping company timeline.

Estimated auto transport delivery timeline
Train
Truck
< 1 day11 days

Remember, Amtrak car shipping is limited to two locations in the entire country. If you live near one of the two Amtrak rail car hubs, you can’t beat the speed—or the price.

But if you live anywhere else, shipping your car by train isn’t even an option.

Purchasing a passenger ticket

To ship your car on the Amtrak car shipping train, you must purchase a passenger ticket and ride on the same train.

Ticket prices vary depending on how much comfort you want to pay for.

Amtrak auto train cost per passenger
Ticket type
Cost

Coach class

$89

Business class

$115

First class

$280

Superliner roomette

$296

Family bedroom

$424

Superliner bedroom

$488

Data as of 4/8/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Coach class is the least comfortable, but still compares favorably to driving all day (and some of the night). Plus, if you drive, you have to pay for gas to travel nearly 1,000 miles. So the train is actually more comfortable and less expensive than the alternative.

Premium seats are available if you want to spring for them. But if you can handle an 18-hour flight in coach class, chances are you’ll do fine with the lower-priced Amtrak seats.

Living near Amtrak

To use the Amtrak auto train service, you need to live near one of its two hubs in Lorton, VA, or Sanford, FL. Other railroad companies like CSX, Union Pacific, and Sante Fe offer service only to commercial companies like car dealerships, so regular customers can’t ship with them by train.

Conversely, car shipping by freight truck is available in most US cities (check with your auto transport company to see if it can service your specific route).

Amtrak auto train compared to car shipping companies
Details
Amtrak
Auto transporter

# of states

2

48–50

# of cities

2

15,000+

# of companies

1

2,000+

Heads Up
Don't forget to setup your utilities

From natural gas to electricity, don’t forget your utilities when you move. You want your home to be move-in ready when you arrive.


Recap

Amtrak is your best (and only) option if you want to ship your car by train. The rail transport company can ship your vehicle about 900 miles in less than one day for around $500. However, Amtrak provides service in only two small cities: Sanford, Florida and Lorton, Virginia. Unfortunately, that means Amtrak can’t help most car shipping customers.

You’ll need to contact one of the best car shipping companies if you plan to transport your vehicle anywhere beyond the two cities served by Amtrak. We recommend Montway Auto Transport because of its reasonable prices, years of experience, and positive customer reviews.


Car shipping by train FAQ

Can I ship my car by rail?

No, you can’t ship your car by rail in most instances. Amtrak offers rail shipping between two train terminals in Sanford, Florida and Lorton, Virginia. But you’ll need a regular vehicle shipping company like Easy Auto Ship to transport your car anywhere else.

Why do so many companies say they offer rail transportation?

Some car shipping companies claim to ship cars by train but in fact do not actually provide rail transportation. There is one caveat, however. Every once in a while railroad companies that provide services only to commercial customers can’t fill all their rail cars, so they open them up to regular auto transporters.

Technically, a traditional auto transport company could pick up one of these jobs and use it for your car.

But in reality, it just doesn’t happen. We couldn’t find a single company that provides rail transportation.

We learned enough to make a recommendation, though. If the car shipping company you are investigating says it offers train shipping on its website, we recommend you look elsewhere.

What should I look for in a car transportation service?

You should look for several things in a car transportation service, such as reasonable prices, binding quotes, and extra insurance coverage. We don’t typically recommend looking for an auto rail company because there’s only one option (Amtrak), and it's available in only 2 out of 15,000-plus cities.

What auto transport services does Amtrak offer?

Amtrak offers auto transport services between train terminals in Sanford, Florida and Lorton, Virginia. The average cost for your vehicle and passenger ticket is approximately $500.

How many major cities does Amtrak Auto Train serve?

Amtrak Auto Train doesn’t serve any major cities (or metropolitan areas with more than 250,000 people). Conversely, auto transportation companies like uShip and Sherpa serve every major city in the country.

Can I ship multiple cars to an Amtrak train station?

Yes, you can ship multiple cars to an Amtrak train station. The auto shipper accepts factory standard cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs.

What is the shipping cost for an enclosed carrier?

The average shipping cost for an enclosed carrier is approximately $1,290, according to Move.org’s analysis of nearly 700 vehicle transport quotes. The enclosed shipping method is about 40% more expensive than open transport.


Kurt Manwaring
Written by
Kurt Manwaring
Kurt Manwaring brings nearly a decade’s worth of research experience as a business consultant to the Move.org team. He specializes in taking complicated issues (like moving) and presenting them in a way that everyone can understand. His writing has been featured in hundreds of publications, including USA Today, Martha Stewart Living, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Heavy, Slate, and Yahoo! Lifestyle. He brings a BS in sociology and an MPA (masters of public administration) to the Move team. He would love to hear about your moving experiences and questions at kurt@move.org.