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Can You Ship a Car to Canada by Rail?

Published by Tamar Hela.

Can You Ship a Car to Canada by Rail?

Are you searching for a reliable, safe and affordable way of Transporting your car to Canada? Perhaps you are making the move north for a fresh beginning, or maybe you've recently purchased a vehicle in the US and want to get it home. Whatever your motivations are for shipping your vehicle, you should look into rail freight.

Rail transport is a cost-effective, safe, and convenient way of shipping a car from the US to Canada, especially when traveling longer distances. Rail shipping works by your vehicle being loaded onto a specialized rail car, designed for moving vehicles. The car will then be moved via enclosed transit and unloaded at its destinations.

While many shippers overlook moving vehicles by rail, this mode of transport offers distinct advantages over alternatives.

Continue reading for a breakdown of shipping a vehicle via rail from the US to Canada, covering important aspects like regulations, rules, advantages and drawbacks, so you can decide for yourself, whether this method is the right option for your car.


Regulatory Considerations

As always, when moving vehicles or any goods with a high value across international borders, there are certain laws and regulations that you need to comply with. These rules include those set by Transport Canada and the Canadian Transportation Agency. Research these rules yourself to ensure you are in compliance, as failing to meet requirements can lead to financial and criminal penalties.

You need to ensure that your vehicle has the necessary documents for international shipping such as a VINand the necessary customs documents. You should also ensure that your vehicle meets the requirements for driving on Canadian roads, as well as ensuring it complies with emissions standards.

Your vehicle will also need to meet specific size and weight regulations set by the rail company carrying it. This means your vehicle must be able to fit inside a specialized shipping container, and it must not exceed certain weights.

However, since it's being moved by rail, heavy vehicles usually still comply with the rules set by rail companies. Contact your shipping provider to get the specific measurements and restrictions on weight and size.

It's also important to note that rail shipping may not be an option for extremely large or oversize vehicles like motor homes or vehicles hauling trailers. If your vehicle exceeds the specified size or weight limits, an alternative shipping method will likely be required.

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Advantages of Rail Shipping

There are several key advantages that make rail transport an attractive choice for sending a car to Canada. One major benefit is the potential for significant cost savings compared to other vehicle transport methods. Rail carriers are able to transport multiple vehicles together in a single rail car or container. This results in economies of scale that often translate to lower shipping rates, especially for long-distance moves across Canada or from the U.S. into Canada.

Another advantage of rail shipping is the reliable scheduling. Rail transport follows a fixed network of tracks and schedules. This makes it less susceptible to delays from factors like weather, traffic congestion, and other variables that can impact trucking timelines. As a result, rail typically offers more consistent and predictable delivery timelines when transporting a vehicle.

Vehicle protection is another important advantage. Most railcars used for auto shipping are fully enclosed. This provides protection for the vehicle from external elements and road debris during transit. Fully enclosed railcars can give shippers greater peace of mind about the condition of their car upon arrival compared to open truck transport. The enclosed environment shelters the vehicle from potential weather or road hazards throughout the journey.

What Are the Drawbacks to Rail Shipping?

As with any mode of transport, rail shipping offers some clear advantages, but it's also important to understand the potential drawbacks and issues to choosing rail for transporting cars:

  • Availability: One major disadvantage to choosing rail freight is the limited availability in certain states and regions. Rail shipping can only run where there are usable railways.
    As a result, some remote regions of the US and Canada do not have access to rail shipping, and certain locations may not have access throughout the year due to weather conditions, especially in the north of Canada.
  • Logistics: Depending on the start and end point of your vehicle's journey, it may need to be unloaded from one train and loaded onto another to get to its destination. Each time the vehicle is loaded and unloaded, there is a risk of damages occurring, as well as an additional cost for the extra labor.
  • Security: When your car is being shipped in a rail car, there is little risk of accidental damage, however, the vehicle will likely be left unsupervised for extended periods, meaning the chance of vandalism and theft increases. As a result, door-to-door truck shipping is more secure in this regard.

Prepare Your Vehicle for Safe Rail Transport

If you're shipping your car to Canada by train, there are some important preparations to make sure it arrives safely:

Remove All Valuables

Be sure to remove any personal items, electronics, accessories or loose objects from inside the vehicle. Only factory-installed equipment should remain. Removing valuables prevents theft and ensures loose items don't become projectiles during loading and transit.

Ensure Proper Functioning

Your car will need to be in working order to be loaded and unloaded from the rail car under its own power. Check that the engine runs well, the battery is fully charged, brakes work, and it can be safely steered and driven short distances. This readies the vehicle for smooth handling during transport.

Follow Career Guidance

Rail shipping companies may have specific vehicle preparation guidelines, such as settings for doors, windows or trunks. Carefully review any instructions from your selected transport provider and strictly adhere to their requirements. Proper adherence ensures compliance with their procedures.

By giving your car a thorough check and emptying/securing the interior as recommended, you can feel confident it will travel safely by train and arrive at its Canadian destination without issue. Contact your rail carrier for any other vehicle prep questions.


Final Thoughts

Rail shipping provides a viable transportation option for those looking to transport a vehicle from the United States to Canada. Specialized railcars allow rail companies to efficiently move vehicles long distances at a reasonable cost. Enclosed rail transport protects the vehicle from weather and debris during transit.

Of course, there are some regulatory procedures and potential limitations to consider with rail shipping. Vehicles may need to be transferred between rail lines at intermediate terminals. Additionally, rail networks do not service all origin and destination locations.

However, for many transporters, the cost savings and security of fully enclosed railcars outweigh these disadvantages. Rail transport is less impacted by weather delays that can stall trucking schedules too.

Whether rail shipping is suitable depends on various circumstances specific to each transport job. Factors like pick-up and drop-off points, vehicle type, budget, and timeframe constraints must be evaluated. With thorough research and selection of an experienced rail provider, shippers can take advantage of the benefits rail offers for trans-border vehicle transport.

Don't rule out rail shipping before understanding how it may fulfill shipping needs between the U.S. and Canada. For the right scenario, enclosed rail transport provides a cost-effective way to safely and efficiently transport a vehicle internationally.

Rely on the Rail Experts

Shipping your car between the US and Canada? Turn to the rail experts - A1 Auto Transport.

As the top provider of rail freight, we offer discounted rates, 24/7 tracking, guaranteed protection in enclosed railcars, on-time delivery schedules and more.

Rely on our international rail shipping expertise. Contact A1 today for a free quote. We'll ensure your vehicle arrives safely and on budget.

Save time and money on your cross-border move.

Get a free quote.

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Tamar Hela is one of our featured writers at A-1 Auto Transport, researching everything from AI auto shipments out of China to what paperwork is required to move long distance. We can safely say she's become well versed in all things shipping and logistics while making the information easy to digest and understandable. 

Tamar has been a copywriter for over 16 years and was trained in the 7-Figure Copywriting Accelerator course through American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI). She's also an incredibly seasoned copyeditor, having previously been the Chief Editor and Publishing Director for Cosby Media Productions, based in Atlanta, Georgia. 

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus Drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd,
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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