How to Ship a Car by Train

Kurt Manwaring
May 20, 2024
Icon Time To Read4 min read

At a glance

If you’re wondering how to ship a car by train, Amtrak is your only option. Amtrak car shipping is fast and relatively affordable. However, there’s a massive drawback: Amtrak’s train auto transport 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 Amtrak car shipping 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 only option if you want to ship cars by train across country. 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
Fast service between Lorton, VA, and Sanford, FL
amerifreight
4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1

Top quality with low prices

In 2024, AmeriFreight had the lowest shipping costs and the highest customer ratings (4.7 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 cars by train across country in limited circumstances. The only option for train car transport is with Amtrak on a single route that runs from the Washington, DC, area to the Orlando, Florida, area (or the reverse).

Although rail cars do routinely ship automobiles through car dealerships and manufacturers, this service is not common for passengers with private vehicles. 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 train auto transport works

Train car transport 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 shipping car by train

The average total cost to ship a car on Amtrak’s auto train from Lorton, Virginia, to Sanford, Florida, is $599. Prices vary based on your passenger ticket class and optional priority offloading. Standard-size vehicles ship for $510, and the least expensive passenger ticket is $89.

Extended vehicles (18 feet maximum length) cost $580 each, and two-wheel motorcycles cost $310 each.

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

$510

$89–$1,199

$499

Data as of post date. 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 $1,140 to ship a car along the same route as the Amtrak auto train.

That’s about $540 more than the cheapest rail option but around $569 cheaper than the most expensive Amtrak car shipping option (a family suite that 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 promise you a comfy ride as a passenger like Amtrak car shipping can.

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

$599

$1709

$1140

Data as of 3/13/24. 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 transport 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 transport car by train, Amtrak requires that you purchase a passenger ticket and ride on the same train. Inversely, you cannot ride the auto train as just a passenger without a vehicle being transported.

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

Private Roomette

$406

Private Bedroom

$784

Private Family Room

$1,199

Data as of post date. 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 Amtrak car shipping, 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 (train shipping)
Auto transporter

# of states served

2

48–50

# of cities served/strong>

2

15,000+

# of companies offering auto transportation

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 cars by train across country. The rail transport company can ship your vehicle about 900 miles in less than one day for around $600. However, Amtrak provides service in only two 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

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 two out of 15,000-plus cities.

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

Amtrak offers car transport by train between terminals in Sanford, Florida and Lorton, Virginia. The average cost for your vehicle and passenger ticket is approximately $600.

Some car shipping companies claim to ship cars by train but 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 besides Amtrak.

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.

The average shipping cost for an enclosed carrier is approximately $1,490, according to Move.org’s analysis of nearly 700 vehicle transport quotes. The enclosed shipping method is about 40% more expensive than open transport.

Amtrak Auto Train doesn’t serve any major cities, but its two terminals are located near Washington D.C., and Orlando, FL. Auto transportation companies like uShip and Sherpa serve every major city in the country.

Yes, you can ship multiple cars to an Amtrak train station using the Auto Train. Amtrak car shipping accepts factory-standard cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles, and SUVs.

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.


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.