Shipping a car across the country can seem like a daunting task Ship a Car Across Country by Train. However, transporting your vehicle by train is actually a convenient and cost-effective option compared to driving or flying.

In this article, we will provide a comprehensive overview of shipping a car via train, including the different rail shipping services available, costs, timeline, and tips for preparing your car for transport. By understanding the process, you can feel more confident arranging for your car to travel safely by rail.

Rail Shipping Services

Auto Train by Amtrak

The Auto Train is a passenger train service operated by Amtrak that allows travelers to transport their personal vehicles along with themselves. It makes one daily round trip between Lorton, Virginia (near Washington D.C.) and Sanford, Florida (near Orlando).

This train route is unique as it is currently the only scheduled passenger rail service in the U.S. where passengers conveniently bring their vehicles along with them as cargo.

Pros Cons
Direct route between two major cities of U.S

Travel with your vehicle on the same train

No need to drop off your car separately

Available to individuals

Limited to Washington D.C. to Orlando route only

Slightly higher rates than other rail options

Car Carrier Trains (only for dealers, wholesalers, manufacturers and auctions)

For shipping a car between most other city pairs across the U.S. as dealers, wholesalers, manufacturers and auctions, carriers like Union Pacific, BNSF, and CSX operate dedicated auto-racks, or car carrier trains.

These trains are flatbed rail cars specially designed to hold multiple vehicles securely during transport. You will need to drop your car off at a major rail yard or automobile terminal where it will loaded onto a car carrier train bound for your destination city.

Pros Cons
Transportation between most major city pairs

Don’t need to travel yourself on the train

Can have your car delivered directly

Requires separate drop off and pickup of your vehicle

Slightly more complex coordination than Auto Train

Only available to bulk car shippers, not for individuals

Ship a Car Across Country by Train – Costs

Pricing for rail vehicle transport can vary based on your location, destination, car size/class, and time of year. However, here are some general guidelines for average costs:

  • Auto Train: $510 per vehicle depending on size and season
  • Car Carrier Trains: Quoted to bulk car shippers based on the number of cars

Additional fees may apply depending on your specific route, but rail shipping is generally very competitive compared to professional auto transport companies which can charge $5,00-1,000 on average for long distance cross-country trips. You can save even more by taking advantage of promotions and booking early.

Ship a Car Across Country by Train – Timeline

The total time it will take to ship your car by train depends on the distance and number of transfers between trains needed along the route. However, as a general estimate:

  • Short trips under 500 miles: 1-2 days
  • Mid-range 500-1,500 miles: 2-3 days

Be sure to factor in at least a full day at either end for vehicle drop off and pickup from the rail facility. Proper communication and advance booking is also recommended to ensure your car is scheduled on the first available train. Avoid waiting until the last minute if possible.

Vehicle Preparation Tips

To protect your car during rail transport, follow these guidelines when preparing it for shipping:

  1. Remove all valuables, personal items and the license plate if required in your state
  2. Make sure your gas tank is less than 1/4 full to allow for fuel sloshing during travel
  3. Apply protective covers to any fragile parts like the front end, mirrors or roof
  4. Inflate your tires to the recommended maximum pressure
  5. Leave a copy of the shipping details and contact info locked inside in case of issues

It’s also a good idea to take photos of your car’s condition from all angles before transport just in case any existing damage is later claimed. With the right preparation using these tips, your car is much less likely to experience problems on its rail journey across the country.

Ship a Car Across Country by Train – Parting Words:

As this article has shown, shipping your car by train provides a convenient, affordable, and relatively fast method for long distance transportation when compared to driving or air transport. Both the Auto Train and car carrier rail services offer coverage between most major city pairs.