Transporting cars by rail

Reading time: 8 min
Why is rail transport of cars becoming archaic?

Today you can find a lot of variants to transport your car across the United States or even abroad. Here we will talk only about the transportation between different states even if it is covering the distance between West and East coasts.

If you have ever faced the necessity of delivering your vehicle from point A to point B, most probably you considered or at least were recommended to use a more traditional auto transport company which would arrange the delivery via truck. But there is one more popular in previous years – transporting cars by rail.

Here we will consider all the specific features of this method as well as the reasons why in the modern world there is a tendency of losing interest in the rail car transporter.


This is one of the most significant features of any transportation company, and in case of transporting a car by rail it can be considered as a significant disadvantage. As we know, the railroad map of the United States is pretty much impressive, with various routes across all the states. And in recent years they indeed were used to deliver cars from point A to point B, and everybody could easily apply for this service.

Nowadays the situation has significantly changed, and most of the railway car transport companies prefer to work with governmental orders for multiple delivery of various vehicles than with individuals to send only one (maximum a couple) car to another state.

Another way to fill the space on the railway carriages for the rail company is to deal with traditional auto transport companies. You may not know but in some parts of the way (especially if we are talking about long-distance trips) the truck can be changed to the train to make the delivery process more effective and cheaper for the auto transport company.

Therefore, if we consider such popular and common rail companies as Amtrak, CSX, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Union Pacific and some others, it’s very likely that it can be quite difficult to find a space for a particular route at a particular time.

On the other hand, it’s always recommended to check any possibility. Sometimes there is a space, and to make at least any profit (than not to make it at all) rail transport cars company will prefer to provide you with that space for a very attractive price.


Despite the fact that nowadays we still can see a lot of railway stations in big cities (which makes it much easier to get there), there is still one important feature of the car transport by railroad – you need to arrange the car’s delivery to the original station and to pick it up from the destination. It can require a lot of extra effort, especially in comparison with more convenient auto transportation by truck.

Beside the fact that the car should be delivered and driven to and from the mentioned sports, you also need to make sure it will be performed in time. Not any rail company can afford to change the schedule because of one single car, even if the service of the delivery is already prepaid. Therefore, any traffic on the way as well as some unexpected bad weather conditions can significantly affect the whole experience of you as a car’s owner.

The loading process is also an important part to consider. Even if there is a railroad next to your house and not very far away you can find a station, you need to discuss with the car rail transport company the possibility to load your vehicle there. In most cases, there is a limited range of the stations where the train can make a stop long enough to load or unload your car. For example, considering the East Coast route of the Amtrak company located between Florida and Washington, despite quite a long trip, the loading and unloading of your vehicle for transporting car by rail can be arranged only in two main stations – in Washington and Sanford. And if you live somewhere between them, rail transport for cars is definitely not your option.

Variety of the delivery

When transporting car by rail, you can normally choose one of the following options:

  • Open car transport by railway. Like with an auto shipping, in case of sending your car by train you can also choose an open-framed wagon where your vehicle will be placed aside with others. This option is very attractive because of its price – just a couple of hundreds of dollars, and you can send your car across the whole country.  On the other hand, obviously the car will not be protected from any influence from the outside. Imagine the train is moving from the very North to the South – such essential changes of the climate and the weather can definitely cause a negative effect on the car’s condition. Especially if we are talking about the new or more expensive variants;
  • Enclosed method to transport cars by rail has a higher price but you can be sure your car will arrive exactly the same as it was sent. While auto transportation companies are using trailers to arrange the enclosed delivery, rail companies use special containers. In different companies you can find different details. For example, some of them can offer only shared containers when your vehicle will be placed aside with some others. For more personalized service sometimes you will have an option to choose a separate container, which you can also use to place inside your personal belongings in case you are moving to a new house. Therefore, if you see in the offer “enclosed transport car by rail”, it’s always better to check which exactly type of the containers the carrier will use to avoid any misunderstanding and unsatisfied experience.

transport cars by train instead of truck

Schedule vs Speed

Everybody who has ever seen a running train can prove that its speed is much higher than any, even the fastest truck. So, it can lead to the idea that transporting your car by train will help you to make it in the fastest possible way. In some cases, it does, but there are a great number of additional facts that can significantly change the situation.

Schedule is one of the most important. Trucks are more flexible in this regard and you can even apply for the express delivery which will be performed in 1-2 days. With trains the situation overall is totally different. You can not have your car picked up from the railway station unless it’s a time for the train to be there. The schedule of the train, even if they are not dealing with traditional passengers and only with cargo, is very strictly regulated, and in some cases, you may need to wait for a couple of weeks unless your car will be loaded.

But even if the pick-up process took just a couple of days you still cannot expect the train will move directly from point A to point B of your interest. If you carefully check the railroad map, you will see a lot of various loops to allow the train to make stops in as many destinations as it possible on the way. This issue should be carefully checked and confirmed with the rail company prior to making the final decision. You have probably heard that the Amtrak train can covers an 8-days route of the auto shipping company in just 17,5 hours, but it’s not always like this.

Passenger ticket

This is one of the most annoying parts of the train’s transportation of your vehicle. In some cases, you can try to avoid this restriction, but, for example, in case of the Amtrak rail carrier, you will be required to travel together with the car.

 The price of such tickets is not that high, and even if you will add the most expensive and comfortable train seat to the cost of your car’s delivery, it will still be cheaper than transporting the car by truck. But you may not be interested in getting to the final destination at all. For example, if you are sending the car as a present to your relative, or if you prefer to travel by more convenient plane. There are a lot of cases when car’s owners don’t have a need to travel together with the car. And it’s definitely a great disadvantage of this method of the car’s transportation.

One more important detail in this regard is that you cannot fill the car itself with some personal belongings according to the law. Therefore, unless we are talking about the separate container, you cannot relocate when choosing the train option.

Therefore, we can see that the main advantage of the train transportation for your car is its cheapness. But in the overwhelming majority of cases the comfort and the estimated waiting time can play a much more important role. We cannot say the trains are becoming totally useless in this regard. But not everybody can afford to deal with all the inconveniences it’s connected with. But as an option, it’s always useful to consider.

Share this article on

Similar news:

Car shipping Autos transporting Main news Contacts
Log in
Get access to the database of drivers