- Understanding Auto Train Transport
- Benefits and Drawbacks of Freight Trains Transport
- Cost Factors for Car Train Transport
- Preparing Your Car for Train Transport
- Choosing a Reliable Auto Transport Company
Transporting a car via an auto train from the East Coast to the West Coast is a convenient and often cost-effective solution for long-distance moves, vacations, or vehicle relocations. Auto trains, such as those operated by Amtrak, allow passengers to travel with their vehicles without the hassle of driving or the high costs associated with other shipping methods.
Amtrak’s Auto Train transports passengers and their cars, motorcycles, SUVs, small boats, or jet-skis between Lorton, VA (near Washington, DC), and Sanford, FL (near Orlando). Unfortunately, as of now, there isn't such a service that operates all the way from the East Coast to the West Coast. For such a journey, you may need to consider other options like freight trains or auto transport companies that provide enclosed auto carriers.
Understanding Auto Train Transport
Car train transport, also known as auto train service, is a unique mode of transportation that allows travelers to bring their vehicles along for the journey. Unlike traditional passenger trains, auto trains are equipped with specially designed auto carriers that can safely and securely transport a variety of vehicles.
The process begins at the departure station, where each vehicle is carefully loaded onto an enclosed auto carrier. These carriers are typically part of a larger freight train, which also includes passenger cars. Once all vehicles are loaded, the train departs for its destination.
The longest passenger train in the United States, the Amtrak Auto Train, can accommodate about 300 vehicles and has over 40 passenger cars. Passengers can choose from a range of accommodations, including private rooms and family bedrooms. An added benefit of this service is the inclusion of a dining car, where passengers can enjoy meals and refreshments during their journey.
Overnight trains offer travelers a unique experience. As the train traverses the countryside, passengers can relax and enjoy the scenic beauty, knowing that their vehicle is safely stowed in an enclosed carrier.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Freight Trains Transport
One of the primary benefits of using an auto train for transport is the convenience it offers. Passengers can travel with their vehicles without the stress and fatigue associated with long-distance driving. This service is particularly beneficial for those relocating or planning an extended vacation.
Auto train transports also tend to be more cost-effective than other transportation methods. They eliminate the need for costly fuel, overnight hotel stays, and potential vehicle wear and tear associated with driving.
Furthermore, auto trains offer a uniquely enjoyable travel experience. From the comfort of private rooms or family bedrooms to meals served in the dining car, passengers are treated to a comfortable and leisurely journey.
However, there are some drawbacks to consider. The service area of auto trains is limited. For instance, Amtrak's service runs only between Virginia and Florida. Therefore, for those looking to transport a vehicle from the East Coast to the West Coast, such a service may not be feasible. Additionally, while auto trains can accommodate a variety of vehicles, there may be restrictions on size and weight. Finally, despite being overnight trains, the journey may take longer than driving or shipping via truck, as freight trains often have to yield to passenger trains on shared tracks.
Cost Factors for Car Train Transport
The cost of shipping a car via an auto train can vary based on several factors. The type of vehicle is one primary determinant; larger, heavier vehicles may cost more to transport than smaller ones. The distance of the journey also plays a significant role. For instance, transporting a car from the East Coast to Southern California would likely be more expensive than a shorter trip.
The cost can also depend on the specific services and amenities chosen by the passenger. For example, Amtrak trains offer a variety of sleeping accommodations, from coach seats to private rooms. Opting for a private room would increase the total cost compared to a coach seat. Additionally, meals are included in the ticket price for those who select sleeping accommodations, but not for coach passengers.
Preparing Your Car for Train Transport
Before your vehicle rides the rails with an auto train corporation, there are several steps you should take to prepare it for transport. Firstly, clean your car inside and out. This will make any pre-existing damage more visible, allowing you to document it accurately before the vehicle is loaded onto the train.
Remove all personal belongings from the vehicle. Auto train corporations are not responsible for any personal items left inside the car during transport. Also, ensure that your car's gas tank is no more than a quarter full, as a safety measure.
Perform a thorough check of the vehicle's condition. Note any dents, scratches, or other damage and take photos as evidence. This documentation can be invaluable if you need to file a claim for damage incurred during transport.
Choosing a Reliable Auto Transport Company
When it comes to choosing an auto transport company, reliability is paramount. One of the most reputable names in the industry is the Auto Train Corporation, now owned by Amtrak. They have a proven track record of safely and efficiently transporting vehicles and passengers.
Before deciding on a company, thoroughly research their history and customer reviews. Look for consistent positive feedback regarding timely delivery, condition of vehicles upon arrival, and customer service.
Inquire about the company's insurance coverage. A reputable auto transport company will have comprehensive insurance that covers any damage incurred during transit. Ask for a copy of their insurance policy and understand what it covers.
While Amtrak's Auto Train Corporation is a great option for transporting vehicles along the East Coast, for transcontinental journeys, you might need to consider other options. The Empire Builder, another Amtrak train, travels from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest, but it doesn't offer auto shipping. For such routes, you may need to engage an auto transport company that offers coast-to-coast services.
Remember, the cheapest option isn't always the best one. Consider all factors, including reliability, services offered, and customer satisfaction, before making your decision.