A long-distance or cross-country move can be incredibly stressful. However, it doesn’t have to be. Moving by train can save you time, money, and the frustration of driving your belongings across the country. However, it can be overwhelming considering all the details for moving by train, since fewer people choose to move by train than a traditional moving truck.

In this article, we’re answering the most common questions about moving by train. We also provide some tips for moving by train with as little frustration as possible. 

Common Questions About Moving By Train

If you’re considering transporting your belongings by railroad, you likely have a lot of questions. Let’s jump into some of the most common questions about moving by train and what you need to know. 

How Does Moving by Train Work?

So, what does moving by train entail exactly? Here are the typical steps for moving by train: 

  • Call the train service and shop around for a train that offers a reasonable price for freight shipping your belongings to the area that you are moving to. Keep in mind that most trains will not stop in small towns, so you may need to have your belongings taken to a mid to large-sized city nearby if no trains go through that area. 
  • Separate items that cannot be shipped via train (See below for additional information)
  • Buy moving boxes and supplies. Make sure you note any weight and size limits for the boxes. 
  • Pack your boxes carefully. The standard weight limit for a box is usually 50 pounds. We recommend packing heavier things that won’t be crushed at the bottom and lighter items on top. 
  • Take your boxes to the closest train station. Bring an extra box or two and packing tape in case they tell you that one box is too heavy. Do not unload your packages until you talk to the representative at the ticket counter. You will likely need to fill out a shipping form, then go to a specific area to unload your luggage. 
  • The train station will measure and weigh your luggage. Remember that you will be the one unloading your boxes, so bring help if you need it. The representative may offer you moving insurance, which you’ll want to consider when looking at your budget and the kinds of items you’re packing. 
  • Ask the employee questions about the estimated time of arrival. Give yourself an extra day or two in case the packages run late. 
  • Meet the packages at the terminal and pick them up. Most shippers require you to pick up your belongings within 48 hours. Otherwise, you’ll be charged fees. You will also be responsible for unloading the packages, so bring help if necessary. 

How Long Does It Take To Move by Train?

Moving by train cross-country is faster than moving by truck or using other transport options. 

In most cases, you can expect to have your belongings transported from the West Coast to the East Cost in around 7-10 days. However, this doesn’t account for any time spent packing, decluttering, selling items you no longer need, labeling, transporting the items to the train station, and picking them up and taking them to your new home in your new city. 

With all these factors in mind, you will be looking at several weeks from start to finish, from packing your belongings to having them moved to your final destination cross-country. 

What Does It Cost To Move Belongings by Train?

Like moving trucks, the cost of moving your belongings by train will largely depend on the size and weight of your belongings. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find a company that offers a flat fee rate. However, you definitely shouldn’t put off researching the costs of moving by train because it will still be expensive. 

Fortunately, rail transport services are still more economical and use less fuel than moving by a rented vehicle or professional movers. However, you will need to consider the extra money required for renting a U-Haul or borrowing a friend’s truck to get your belongings to the train station in the first place. 

Another benefit of moving by train is that trains have significantly fewer collisions than cars, so the chances of your belongings being in an accident are much slimmer. 

If you don’t want to drive your car across the country, you can even ship your car via an auto train for the move. The average cost of car shipping by train will be around $500 to $600 for standard-size vehicles, meaning vehicles like trucks, cars, vans, and SUVs that have not been altered to be larger or longer than the original factory build. Keep in mind that this moving quote does not include the cost of your ticket to ride with the car, which can cost you anywhere from $100 to $500 depending on the class you travel in. 

How Much Luggage Can I Bring on a Train?

How much luggage you can bring on a train depends on your ticket type and the freight service. All rail companies will have set weight limits for your luggage, which is typically set at 500 pounds. 

If you’re single and moving from a small apartment or studio apartment, you may be able to get away with moving most of your belongings as your luggage. However, individuals with more belongings or families will need to break their shipments into multiple sets. 

What Items Can’t be Moved by Train?

Certain items cannot be moved by train due to their size, weight, or how delicate they are. Items that can’t be moved via train will vary based on the company, but here are some of the most common exclusions: 

Often, you can ship a car or bike by train, which is a significant benefit and savings compared to sending it via other means such as car transport or auto transport companies. 

Can You Move Internationally by Train?

Yes, you can move internationally by train. Of course, there are limitations to this. You’ll only be able to move by train if you don’t need to cross water. 

If you’re moving from the United States to Mexico or Canada, rail transport is a viable option that allows you to travel over the border and ship your personal items. 

If you live anywhere in Europe, it’s also likely that you’ll be able to quickly move your belongings via train since Europe is so close together and interconnected. 

Can You Move Cross-Country on a Train?

Yes, you absolutely can move cross-country on a train. Cross-country moves are defined as any move to the other side of the country. For example, moving from the West Coast to the East Coast or from the North to the South, such as New York to Florida. 

Trains will be a much more affordable option for these long-distance moves and will often be faster than a professional moving truck service. They are also a much less expensive option than moving by aircraft. 

Tips for Moving by Train

Before moving by train, use the following tips to plan out your move so that it’s as seamless as possible: 

  • Gather all necessary materials for transporting your belongings to the train. You will be responsible for dropping off and loading your belongings. So, consider what vehicle you can take and get a dolly to help you move boxes to and from your car. 
  • Take pictures of all your items and boxes, taking care to photograph any labels and tags. Verify that all your boxes and belongings are there when you pick them up. 
  • Label your belongings and boxes clearly, so it’s easier to check that everything is there. Consider numbering your boxes so you can easily count that all your boxes arrived. 
  • Use smaller boxes to pack your items. Smaller boxes can help you stay under the weight limit and removes the temptation to cram extra things in. 
  • Arrange a way to move items that can’t be moved by train. You may want to ship heavy items like artwork or books by train, so rent a vehicle to transfer these items cross-country instead. 
  • Consider if you’ll need to break up your shipment over several days. Depending on how many boxes you have, you may hit the daily rail shipping weight limit. Inquire about this ahead of time and prepare yourself if you need to separate your belongings into multiple shipments. 
  • Check if your train station takes large pallet shipments. Smaller trains will often turn down items of a certain size, but major train stations may accept large pallet shipments. 

Moving Insurance

Lastly, you’ll want to consider moving insurance. Some train shipping services offer moving insurance plans. However, you may want to consider third-party moving insurance policies if you have many valuable belongings or simply want peace of mind that you’ll be covered should anything happen. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re moving to a major city across the country, moving by train may be a great way to save money and have your items safely shipped. We love that moving by train is a speedy solution to move your belongings and is much more cost-effective than other alternatives. 

However, you must consider how you’ll move or ship your fragile items, electronics, and pets. You may need to drive out separately to move these items yourself or rent a moving vehicle to make the drive. You’ll also need to coordinate picking up the items from the train service within 48 hours, so you are not charged a storage fee. On the day of your move, you’ll want to have a precise plan for moving your items to the train station. Don’t forget to bring a few extra boxes in case any of your boxes are too heavy, and items need to be removed. 

Few of us think about moving by train, but it’s a great budget-friendly option for many. Don’t feel intimidated by shipping your belongings by train. It can be an excellent option for cross-country and long-distance moves to cities.

Editorial Contributors
Lora Novak

Lora Novak

Senior Editor

Lora Novak meticulously proofreads and edits all commercial content for Today’s Homeowner to guarantee that it contains the most up-to-date information. Lora brings over 12 years of writing, editing, and digital marketing expertise. She’s worked on thousands of articles related to heating, air conditioning, ventilation, roofing, plumbing, lawn/garden, pest control, insurance, and other general homeownership topics.

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Andrew Dunn

Senior Editor

Andrew Dunn is a veteran journalist with more than 15 years of experience reporting and editing for local and national publications, including The Charlotte Observer and Business North Carolina magazine. His work has been recognized numerous times by the N.C. Press Association and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. He is also a former general contractor with experience with cabinetry, finish carpentry and general home improvement and repair. Andrew earned a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as a certificate in business journalism. He lives in Charlotte, N.C.

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