You know about FedEx, UPS, and the United States Postal Service, but Amtrak shipping is a very real thing as well. In addition to operating a major passenger railway, Amtrak Express shipping offers shipping for small packages between more than 100 cities. What kinds of items can you ship with Amtrak? How do you package items for Amtrak shipping? Read on to find out everything you need to know about the Amtrak shipping service.

Small Package Shipments with Amtrak

The only shipping service currently offered by Amtrak is the Small Package Shipment service. Although the Amtrak shipping website lists information for Heavy and Commercial Shipments, the Amtrak representative I spoke with informed me that the Heavy/Commercial Shipment option has not been available for over four years. Additionally, the Small Package Shipments service is not available at every Amtrak station. Customers wishing to utilize Amtrak for shipment of small packages should contact the origin and destination stations to ensure shipment is available or contact Amtrak shipping at 1-800-377-6914 (8 AM – 8 PM, Monday – Friday).

Items for Small Package Shipment must be packaged appropriately in “suitable containers” for transport. Amtrak defines “suitable containers” as a cardboard box or standard luggage. Amtrak will not accept items packed in trash bags, plastic shipping containers, large packing boxes, containers that cannot securely hold contents, containers that let sharp/pointed items protrude, or containers that do not prevent exposure to weather. Additionally, items must meet the following size/weight parameters listed below:

  • Weight limit for each item: 50 lbs. (23 kg)
  • Size limit for each item: 3 ft x 3 ft x 3 ft (90 cm by 90 cm by 90 cm)
  • Weight limit for each shipment: 500 lbs. (227 kg)/per day

Customers wishing to use the Small Package Shipment service can bring the items to the origin station to be weighed and measured by Amtrak agents. No appointment is needed and shipments are accepted between 9:45 AM and 4:30 PM.

Amtrak does not use an electronic tracking method. Instead, the shipment will be labeled with the sender’s information as well as the receiver’s information. Once the shipment has reached its final destination, the receiver will be notified via phone to pick up the shipment.

Amtrak will not assume liability for any damage or loss during shipment. It is recommended that the customer purchase additional insurance on their items if desired. Amtrak offers insurance at $1 for $100 worth of coverage, up to $2,000.

Amtrak Bike Shipping

Amtrak will ship regular bicycles or unicycles. According to Amtrak’s shipping guidelines, bicycles that are not considered “regular” are those with three wheels, tandem bicycles, or bicycles of unusual structural such as chopper-style bicycles. Additionally, any bicycle that can not be partially disassembled to fit in a bicycle box should be considered not “regular”.

The customer must package their bicycle securely in an Amtrak bike box. Customers can purchase an Amtrak bike box for $15 at the train station, but Amtrak suggests calling ahead to the station to ensure boxes are available. Amtrak bike boxes are not available at every location. You can check if bicycle boxes are for sale by viewing the “Baggage” tab of your selected station’s characteristics.

Shipped bicycles are generally exempt from the Amtrak Express shipping size requirements.

Customers must partially disassemble the bicycle to fit into the bike box. The handlebars must be loosened and turned sideways and the pedals must be removed. Amtrak does not supply tools for disassembling, so it is important for the customer to bring their own tools. Amtrak suggests that customers intending to purchase a bicycle box and disassemble at the station do a practice disassembly/reassembly before the shipping date to avoid any surprises and ensure they have the necessary tools on-hand.

Amtrak will ship high-end bicycles, including racing bicycles. However, as Amtrak will not assume liability for any damage or loss during shipment, it is recommended that the customer purchase additional insurance on high-end bicycles.

Shipping Human Remains with Amtrak

If you find it necessary to relocate human remains, Amtrak offers station-to-station shipment. Amtrak will only ship human remains from an Amtrak station of origin to an Amtrak station of destination and will not provide service to pick up to or from funeral homes. Funeral directors must provide staff to load and unload the remains onto and off the train. The customer must confirm the level of assistance required with the Amtrak station agent at the origin and destination points prior to shipment.

Amtrak Shipping Rates

The rates for shipping depend on the origin station and the destination station, there is no flat fee for shipping. For example, shipping from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Richmond, Virginia is $75 for the first 100 pounds, and $0.70 for each additional pound. For a quote tailored to your specific shipping needs, call Amtrak Shipping at 1-800-377-6914 (8 AM – 8 PM EST, Monday – Friday).

Shipped items are held at the destination station at no cost up to 48 hours. After 48 hours, the customer is charged $4 per package per day.

Prohibited Items

Amtrak will not ship the following items:

  • Tools
  • Furniture
  • Liquids/ creams/ gels
  • Fragile items
  • Breakable items
  • Perishables (food/flowers)
  • Electronics
  • Appliances
  • No battery operated items or items with power cords
  • Motorized vehicles

Amtrak Shipping Rates vs. Traditional Shippers

FedEx Ground and UPS Ground

To ship 100 lbs. with FedEx and UPS commercial carriers the most economical method is ground shipping. As a comparison, to ship 100 lbs. from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Richmond, Virginia, FedEx Ground shipping is $80.51 and UPS Ground is $133.88. Unlike Amtrak which reduces the price after the first 100 lbs., the charges with FedEx and UPS Ground Shipping will be the same for the first 100 lbs and the second 100 lbs.

FedEx Freight Economy

Another alternative to FedEx and UPS Ground shipping are the FedEx Freight Economy and UPS Ground Freight options. FedEx Freight Economy is designed to be a reliable, economical delivery service for less-than-truckload freight shipping. To ship 150 lbs worth of clothing to our sample destination would cost $381.52 and take 4 days. Among the list of prohibited items, FedEx will not ship alcoholic beverages, hazardous materials, or live animals.

UPS Ground Freight

UPS Ground Freight Pricing is described as “an economical choice for multiple-package shipments weighing over 150 pounds”. Sending a 150 lb package to our sample destination would cost $376.72 and take about 5 days. UPS will not ship hazardous items such as explosives, radioactive material, or combustible items.

United States Postal Service

The United States Postal Service (USPS) offers USPS Retail Ground, which it describes as “Reliable and economic ground shipping for less-than-urgent deliveries and oversized packages.” This shipping service is only available for shipments up to 70 lbs and up to 130 inches in combined length and girth.

The largest package available for a shipping quote was 70 lbs and 26 in x 26 in x 26 in. Using USPS Retail Ground, the cost of shipping this 70 lb package between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Richmond, Virginia would be $141.67.

USPS offers Flat Rate boxes in small, medium, and large sizes which will ship for a set price regardless of the weight of the package:

  • Small Flat Rate Box – $6.80
  • Medium Flat Rate Box – $13.45
  • Large Flat Rate Box – $18.75

USPS will not ship the following items:

  • Air bags
  • Ammunition
  • Explosives
  • Gasoline

USPS also requires special procedures for shipping certain items such as live animals, nail polish, perishable items, and fragile items.

Moving Cross-Country with Amtrak

Do you have a relocation looming in the future? Depending on the amount of worldly goods you need to move, Amtrak’s Small Package Shipment can be an economical alternative to traditional moving services. Due to the prohibited shipping items and size restrictions, Amtrak will not ship computers, electronics, appliances, or furniture. But, Amtrak can ship clothing, linens, pot and pans, books, and any other items that are not prohibited and fit into the size and weight restrictions.

The Small Package Shipment is not door-to-door, so the customer has to provide their own transport for the shipment to and from the station on each end. Nevertheless, Amtrak ships the bulk of the distance, which makes up much of the cost of traditional moving. Amtrak will also hold shipments at the station for 48 hours free of charge.

Keep in mind Amtrak’s total daily shipping weight limit of 250 lbs. per customer. If you have more than 250 lbs. to ship then your shipments will need to be split over more than one day. This limit is independent of Amtrak’s passenger baggage limit. If you are a passenger on the Amtrak train, you can bring two bags totaling 50 lbs. free of charge. Two additional bags can be brought by each passenger for a fee of $20 each bag.

Again, Amtrak assumes no liability for items they ship. It is up to the consumer to insure all items properly. In some cases, possessions being transported to a new home may be covered under homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Check with your insurance agent or purchase insurance through Amtrak to ensure your items are covered.

If you happen to be relocating to/from the District of Columbia area to/from the Orlando area, you can load your car onto Amtrak’s Auto Train and ride as a passenger all the way to your new home!

Ride with Your Vehicle on the Auto Train

While Amtrak does not offer vehicle shipping, it does offer the Auto Train. The Auto Train allows you to travel as a passenger on Amtrak and bring your vehicle with you in a specialized train car. Amtrak will accept automobiles, vans, SUVs, trucks and motorcycles on the Auto Train, as long as they are compliant with vehicle dimension requirements and do not possess non-standard characteristics, such as ground clearance of less than 4 inches, dual wheels, or gull wing doors. The Auto Train also has a limited capacity to transport small enclosed trailers and trailers for transporting boats, jet-skis, or trikes.

The Amtrak Auto Train operates only as a nonstop line between the District of Columbia and Orlando, Florida. It does not allow for onload/offload at any stations along the way and a paying passenger must accompany the car. This means you can not load your vehicle onto the Auto Train and fly to your destination.

Amtrak Shipping Rates Conclusion

Is shipping via Amtrak a smart move for you? Are the Amtrak shipping rates right for you? And as always…