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What is the Auto Train®?

By Ken Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Auto Train®, short for automobile train, is a service that is run by the American train service known as Amtrak®. The service goes from Sanford, Florida, which is near Orlando, to a suburb of Washington, D.C. This is the only route for the Auto Train®. It is considered one of Amtrak's® most popular routes.

The purpose of the Auto Train® is to help facilitate travel along the East Coast of the United States. The route runs approximately 900 miles (1,448 km). Every family or individual who is on board is required to also have a vehicle with them. The Auto Train® leaves the stations every afternoon and arrives at its destination every morning. The entire route takes approximately 16 hours to complete one way.

The route is very popular as one that goes between a major metropolitan area, or at least serves as a gateway to the densely-populated northeastern United States, and a prime vacation destination. The southern terminus of the Auto Train® is within a 45 minutes drive of some of the world's most popular theme parks in Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Studios Florida, as well as some popular beaches, such as Daytona and New Smyrna.

Many families choose to take the Auto Train® to Florida, and return on it, to help take some of the pressure off driving the entire way. Further, it is convenient, sometimes more convenient than flying, simply because when the family arrives at the destination, their personal vehicle is also there. This saves money that would otherwise be spent in renting vehicles and also offers another level of personal freedom once at the destination.

The fact that daily service is offered provides yet another convenience that many families choose to take advantage of. This rivals the convenience of flying from some airports, though often it is possible to choose from multiple flights daily from major airports. Further, Auto Train® transportation gives the family a chance to experience train travel, which is something of a rarity in the United States as most either travel by car or airplane.

The Amtrak Auto Train® is very popular, but has yet to realize any expansion even after being operated for nearly two decades. Other routes, such as one between Chicago and Florida as an example, have been considered, but overall financial weakness in the train service has never allowed that expansion to be realized. If ever offered, the route would be substantially longer than the current one in operation, by as much as an additional 50 percent.

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Discussion Comments
By uzumba2 — On Jun 06, 2011

@sunnysideup - At one time Amtrack was offering a 15% discount for travelers 62 years or older. You should check it out and see it that discount is still available!

By sunnysideup — On Jun 04, 2011

My parents still like coming to Florida every year from Virginia with their car, but the driving is a bit too long for them.

Is it possible to get auto train discounts for the elderly?

By anon119366 — On Oct 17, 2010

I do not believe it is mandatory that you transport an auto in order to purchase a ticket on this line. I just checked it on Amtrak.com and the vehicle was an added charge. FYI.

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