How To Travel To California By Auto Train: A Complete Guide

If you need to get your car to California but don’t want the hassle of driving cross-country, transporting your vehicle by rail could be the perfect solution. In short, you can ship your car to California using auto train services like Amtrak’s Auto Train line. This guide will provide all the key details you need to plan your auto train trip to California.

This comprehensive article covers everything you need to know about transporting your car by rail to California. We’ll outline the auto train routes and schedules, costs, booking process, and what to expect during your trip. You’ll also learn key tips for preparing your vehicle, maximizing space, boarding procedures, and navigating the endpoints. With the right planning using this advice, shipping your car to California by auto train can be an easy, comfortable option.

Auto Train Routes to California

Amtrak Auto Train

The Amtrak Auto Train is a popular option for travelers looking to journey to California by train. This unique service allows passengers to bring their vehicles along for the ride, making it a convenient and hassle-free way to explore the Golden State.

The Auto Train operates between Lorton, Virginia and Sanford, Florida, with a non-stop route that covers approximately 855 miles. From there, travelers can continue their journey to California by taking another Amtrak train or driving their car.

The Amtrak Auto Train offers a variety of amenities to enhance the travel experience. Passengers can enjoy comfortable seating, onboard dining options, and even private sleeping accommodations. The train also provides complimentary Wi-Fi, allowing travelers to stay connected during their journey.

With its convenient schedule and comfortable amenities, the Amtrak Auto Train is a fantastic option for those looking to travel to California by rail.

Other cross-country rail options

In addition to the Amtrak Auto Train, there are other cross-country rail options that can take you to California. One popular choice is the Coast Starlight route, which runs from Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California.

This scenic train journey takes passengers through breathtaking landscapes, including the stunning Cascade Range and the beautiful Pacific coastline. Along the way, travelers can enjoy comfortable seating, delicious onboard dining, and stunning views from the observation car.

Another option is the Southwest Chief route, which travels from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California. This route takes passengers through the heart of America, showcasing the diverse landscapes of the Midwest and the Southwest.

With comfortable accommodations, onboard dining, and engaging activities, the Southwest Chief offers a unique and memorable way to reach California.

When planning your trip to California by auto train, it’s important to consider factors such as travel duration, route options, and ticket prices. It’s also a good idea to check the official Amtrak website ( for the latest schedules and information.

By doing your research and choosing the right auto train route, you can embark on an exciting adventure to the Golden State and create unforgettable memories along the way.

How to Plan Your Auto Train Trip to California

Traveling by auto train to California can be an exciting and convenient way to explore the Golden State. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip, it is essential to plan ahead and make the necessary arrangements. Here are some key steps to help you plan your auto train trip to California.

Booking your ticket

The first step in planning your auto train trip to California is to book your ticket. You can do this online or by calling the auto train service. It is recommended to book your ticket well in advance, as availability can be limited during peak travel seasons.

Make sure to provide all the necessary information, including your departure and arrival dates, as well as the number of passengers traveling.

When booking your ticket, consider the different fare options available. Some fares may include meals and other amenities, while others may offer more flexibility in terms of cancellation or rescheduling. Take the time to compare the options and choose the one that best suits your needs and budget.

Choosing vehicle space

One of the advantages of traveling by auto train is the convenience of bringing your vehicle along. When booking your ticket, you will also need to select the type of vehicle space you require. The auto train offers various options, including enclosed vehicle carriers, open-air vehicle carriers, and motorcycle carriers.

Consider the size and type of vehicle you will be traveling with, as well as any special requirements it may have. If you are unsure, you can contact the auto train service for guidance. Keep in mind that there may be additional fees for oversized vehicles or certain types of vehicles.

Making reservations

Once you have booked your ticket and chosen your vehicle space, it is important to make any necessary reservations for accommodations and activities in California. Research the places you plan to visit and make reservations for hotels, campsites, or any other accommodations you will need.

Additionally, if there are specific activities or attractions you wish to experience during your trip, such as visiting national parks or popular tourist destinations, it is advisable to make reservations in advance. This will help ensure availability and save you from potential disappointment.

To make the most of your trip, consider creating an itinerary that includes the places you want to visit, the activities you want to do, and the approximate time you plan to spend in each location. This will help you stay organized and make the most efficient use of your time.

Remember, planning ahead and making the necessary arrangements will greatly enhance your auto train trip to California. So, start planning now and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure in the Golden State!

Auto Train Costs and Expenses

Auto train tickets

When planning a trip to California using the auto train, it is important to consider the costs associated with purchasing tickets. The price of auto train tickets can vary depending on factors such as the time of year, the distance of the trip, and the type of vehicle being transported.

On average, ticket prices range from $300 to $700 per person, including the cost of transporting one vehicle.

It is recommended to book your tickets in advance to secure the best rates. Some websites like Amtrak offer discounted fares for early bookings. Additionally, keep an eye out for special promotions or deals that may lower the cost of your auto train tickets.

Meals and amenities

While traveling on the auto train, passengers can enjoy a variety of amenities and meals, which are included in the ticket price. The train offers comfortable seating, spacious sleeping accommodations, and access to Wi-Fi throughout the journey.

Travelers can also take advantage of the onboard dining car, where a selection of meals and snacks are available for purchase.

For those looking to save on expenses, packing your own snacks and drinks can be a great idea. This way, you can enjoy your favorite treats while admiring the scenic views along the way. Don’t forget to bring your own entertainment, such as books, movies, or games, to make the trip even more enjoyable.

It is worth noting that the auto train provides complimentary car-washing services during the journey, ensuring that your vehicle arrives at its destination looking clean and fresh. This added convenience can save you time and money on car-washing expenses.

Preparing and Loading Your Vehicle

When it comes to traveling to California by auto train, it’s important to properly prepare and load your vehicle to ensure a smooth and hassle-free journey. Here are some essential tips to follow:

Items to remove

Before loading your vehicle onto the auto train, take the time to remove any personal belongings that are not essential for your trip. This includes items such as loose papers, trash, and any valuables that you don’t want to leave unattended.

By decluttering your vehicle, you’ll not only have a more organized space but also reduce the risk of items getting lost or damaged during transit.

It’s also important to consider any items that may be prohibited or restricted on the auto train. For example, hazardous materials, firearms, and certain types of plants or animals may not be allowed. Make sure to check the specific guidelines and policies of the auto train service you’re using to avoid any issues or delays.

Luggage policies

Each auto train service has its own luggage policies, so it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with them before your trip. These policies typically outline the size and weight restrictions for both your vehicle and any additional luggage you plan to bring.

Some auto train services may allow you to bring a limited amount of luggage inside your vehicle, while others may require you to use specific luggage containers or carriers. It’s important to pack your belongings securely to prevent any damage during transit.

Additionally, consider any items that you may need during the journey, such as snacks, water, and entertainment. It’s always a good idea to have these essentials easily accessible and within reach.

For more detailed information on preparing and loading your vehicle for the auto train journey, you can visit the official website of the auto train service you plan to use. They will have specific guidelines and instructions to help you properly prepare and load your vehicle for a comfortable and enjoyable trip.

The Auto Train Trip Experience

Traveling to California by auto train is not only a convenient option but also a memorable experience. Here’s what you can expect during your auto train trip:

Boarding the train

When boarding the auto train, you’ll drive your car onto the train’s designated loading area. The process is smooth and efficient, allowing you to easily transition from the road to the train. Once your vehicle is securely parked, you’ll make your way to the passenger cars where you’ll find comfortable seating, amenities, and friendly staff ready to assist you throughout the journey.


The auto train offers various accommodations to suit different preferences and budgets. You can choose between a coach seat or a private sleeper cabin. The coach seats provide ample legroom and are perfect for those who prefer a more economical option.

On the other hand, the private sleeper cabins offer additional privacy and comfort, with amenities such as beds, private bathrooms, and even access to a lounge car. Whichever option you choose, you can rest assured that your comfort is a priority during the trip.

Did you know? The auto train is known for its delicious onboard dining options. Passengers can enjoy freshly prepared meals, snacks, and beverages, making the journey even more enjoyable.


As the auto train nears its destination in California, you’ll be notified to return to your vehicle. Once the train arrives at the designated station, you’ll drive your car off the train and be ready to explore the beautiful state of California.

Whether you’re heading to the vibrant streets of Los Angeles or the stunning landscapes of Yosemite National Park, your auto train trip will have set the stage for an unforgettable adventure.

Pro tip: It’s always a good idea to plan your activities and accommodations in California ahead of time. This way, you can make the most of your trip and ensure a smooth transition from the train to your desired destinations.

Traveling to California by auto train is not only a practical option but also a unique experience that allows you to relax, enjoy the scenic views, and arrive at your destination without the stress of driving.

So, sit back, relax, and let the auto train take you on a memorable journey to the Golden State!


Taking an auto train can be a convenient, affordable way to get your car to California without doing the long drive yourself. By booking your tickets in advance, loading your car properly, and planning your departure, you can make the rail journey with your vehicle go smoothly.

Auto trains like Amtrak provide scheduled service across the country with comfortable accommodations. Knowing what to expect and following the key tips outlined here will make your auto train trip to California an easy transportation option.

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