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    Pros and Cons of Amtrak Auto Train Relocation Service

    It's a familiar scene all throughout the year-and particularly during winter. Call it the "I-95 Parking Lot" or the "Eastern Seaboard Traffic Jam," but U.S. Interstate 95 is famed for its backups, accidents, and relentless semi-truck traffic. And all in the mere pursuit of a little sun and recreation in Florida.

    Does it always have to be like this? No. Since 1971, the Amtrak Auto Train has relieved drivers and their passengers from the often-miserable North-to-South drive from Virginia on down to Florida. Thousands of drivers have happily entrusted their vehicles in charge of railroad employees to drive onto weather-resistant railcars called "autoracks." These autoracks can accommodate anything from a motorcycle, SeaDoo, or small trailer…on up to luxury sedans, vans, and even SUVs.

    As the vehicles are carefully stored away, the passengers board the train for their coach seats or bedrooms, sit-down dining, nighttime movies, and snack bars.

    On the face of it, it sounds like an unbeatable deal. But is the Amtrak Auto Train all that it's cracked up to be?

    Pros of Amtrak Auto Train

    The biggest selling point of the Auto Train is that it lets you "eat your cake and have it, too." Other travelers going South must compromise. They may fly, which allows them to gain valuable time. But back on the ground, they are forced to rent a vehicle. Also, the number of items they can carry on the airplane are understandably limited-not a viable option for long-term snow birds. Yet the miseries of driving that distance are quite apparent: wasted time, wear and tear on one's vehicle, bad fast-food restaurants and motels, and of course the hazards of long-distance road travel.

    Auto Train carries both the passenger and the vehicle between Virginia and Florida and back. It's the best of both worlds.

    Also, passengers like the comfortable accommodations on Auto Train. Coach seating and bedrooms are both available. Bedrooms range from the tight two-person Roomette on up to the large Family Bedroom.

    Meals are included with the cabin accommodations, and there are plenty of activities to keep kids busy (movies, games, new friends, windows for sightseeing, and more). For parents, an attached lounge car helps smooth out some of the stress of the journey.

    Finally, there is the added bonus of Auto Train's "fan club." Over 250,000 passengers a year ride Auto Train, many of them having a "same time, same place next year" commitment to each other. It's impossible to feel alone on Amtrak's Auto Train: even if you're not sociable, you will inevitably be seated next to strangers at meal times. Nearly all people who meet as strangers on Auto Train end up becoming acquaintances.

    Cons of Amtrak Auto Train

    One of the main complaints leveled at Amtrak Auto Train is that…this is Amtrak. Amtrak's level of service is not even close to the service found on trains elsewhere in the world: Asia, Canada, Russia, and certainly not the European Union.

    Amtrak's accommodations are practical and functional-but not at all luxurious. The décor is utilitarian, the food non-imaginative, the cabins hardly the lap of luxury. This does not even take into account Amtrak's famously late schedule. With Amtrak, the best rule of thumb is: Don't plan on having an appointment to catch at your destination.

    Also, Auto Train does not cover the entire Eastern Seaboard of the United States. To say that Auto Train takes passengers from north to south is a bit of a stretch, since its point of embarkation (Lorton, Virginia, 30 minutes south of Washington, DC) is traditionally classified as being part of "The South."

    The schedules are not flexible, either. Amtrak has only one Auto Train Route: Lorton to Sanford, Florida (about 30 minutes north of Orlando), and back. Trains run each day on this 855 mile, 18 hour trip.

    Finally, Amtrak is always plagued with passenger complaints about bumpy track, cars too cold or too hot, and unfriendly staff.


    Amtrak Auto Train is more of a "fun thing" than an actual auto relocation service. It is not the fastest or cheapest way to transport a vehicle. Instead, seek out a qualified truck-based auto relocation service as your best option for moving your vehicle along that North-South Eastern Seaboard route.

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