How to Ship a Car by Rail

by William Adkins; Updated September 26, 2017

If you need to ship a car the only option available until recently was to use a trucking firm in most places in the United States. Today that’s no longer true. It’s now possible to ship a car by rail from almost anywhere in the country. The ship-by-rail option is becoming more popular largely because it’s usually cheaper. In addition companies that can ship a car by rail are promoting it as a way of cutting down on pollution since trains are far more energy-efficient than trucks.

Step 1

Decide how you want your car shipped. There are two ways companies ship a car by rail. One is on a regular auto rail car. These are the open frame rail cars you see being pulled by trains, with the cars visible as the train rolls past. However, you can have your car shipped in an enclosed car for an additional charge. The car is protected from weather and flying debris. This is a good option if you are shipping an expensive vehicle.

Step 2

Ship your car from the Northeast to the West coast or Midwest (or in the opposite direction) using Autolog’s Auto Train service. This company offers car shipping by rail from $750 (2008 prices) and shipped over 10,000 vehicles in 2007. They offer enclosed shipping for an additional fee of around $100. You can go to their website (link below) to make arrangements online to ship a car by rail.

Step 3

Have your car shipped from anywhere in the United States via Auto Transport by Rail. This company provides door-to-door pick-up and delivery. Their system uses a mix of auto transport by truck and long distance shipping by rail. They provide either regular or enclosed shipping. You can call 1-866-513-RAIL for more information and to schedule shipping a car, or use their online forms to arrange shipping (see link below).

Step 4

Consider using Amtrak’s Auto Train Service. This is a convenient way to take your car with you on vacation. Currently Amtrak offers this service only on the route from Washington, DC area to Sanford, Florida (outside Orlando). You must be traveling on the same train with your car and Amtrak requirements stipulate you must arrive at least one hour before the train’s scheduled departure (2 hours if you have an oversized car, large SUV, or other nonstandard vehicle such as a motorcycle).

About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.

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