How to Ship a Car by Train

Kurt Manwaring
Researcher & Writer
Read More
Published on September 21, 2020
5 min read

At a glance

If you need to ship your car, the most accessible option is to transport it by truck. A select few customers may be able ship their car by train—but for most people, this isn’t an option.

The only rail company we found that serves individual customers is Amtrak—a large company that operates one specific auto transport route on the East Coast. If you live near Washington, DC, or Sanford, FL (you can’t board in between cities), shipping your car by train is both faster and cheaper than regular auto shipping.

For everyone else, regular freight trucks are the way to go. (Except for multimillionaires, and then there’s an option to ship by plane. Really.)

Auto shipping by train vs. by truck
By train
By truck

Cost

$

$$

Speed

8 days

Availability

2 cities

15,000+ cities

Door-to-door delivery

No

Yes


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Can I ship a car by train?

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.

How does car shipping by train work?

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, FL (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.)

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.

How much does a train shipment cost?

The average total cost to ship a car on Amtrak’s auto train from Lorton, VA, to Sanford, FL, 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.

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 $825 to ship a car along the same route as the Amtrak auto train.

That’s $528 more than the cheapest rail option, and $64 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.

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. 

How fast is car shipping by train?

The Amtrak auto train is much quicker than shipping your car by truck. The nonstop rail route from Lorton, VA, to Sanford, FL, has a travel time of 17 hours and 29 minutes—about a week faster than traditional car shipping companies.

Estimated auto transport delivery timeline
Train
Truck

Estimated total delivery time

8 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.

Can I ship my car by train if I don’t buy a passenger ticket?

No. 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.

Can I ship my car by train if I don’t live near Amtrak?

No. 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 cost per passenger
Amtrak
Auto transporter

# of states

2

50

# of cities

2

15,000+

# of companies

1

2,000+

Why do so many companies say they can ship your car by train?

It’s Google’s world; we just live in it. Because so many people search for info about how to ship a car by rail or train, companies write informational pieces to attract your interest. Unfortunately, some of them take things a step too far and claim to provide rail service.

There is one caveat. Remember the railroad companies that provide services only to commercial customers? Well, every once in a while, they 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.

If a company won’t be straight with you about the services it offers, how can you trust them with your car?

Heads Up
Don't forget to setup your utilities

From natural gas to electricity, don’t forget your utilities when you move. We walk you through the process in How Do I Set Up House Utilities When I Move?


Should I ship my car by train?

Shipping a car by train may be the best choice for customers who:

  1. Live near Lorton, VA, or Sanford, FL
  2. Can ride on the train with their cars
  3. Want the job done faster and cheaper than traditional truck transport.

It’s not very often we make a recommendation for such a specific group of people, but shipping a car by train is a worthy exception. So if you’re heading south for the winter and want to hitch a ride alongside your car, you can go 2-for-1 on Amtrak.

However, unless you live near Lorton, VA, or Sanford, FL, you don’t even have the option to ship a car by train. In that case, we recommend you learn more about how to ship a car by truck.


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.