Open Trailer, or Enclosed Trailer or Train Car – What’s The Difference?

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Open Trailer, or Enclosed Trailer or Train Car – What’s The Difference?


When it comes to car shipping, there’s a number of options available. Here at Aaall States Auto Transport, we’re often asked to describe the difference between open and enclosed-trailer auto transport, and car shipping by rail.

Here’s a quick summary of your options when it comes to choosing an auto transport company:

Open Trailer Vehicle Transport

Also known as ‘open’ car shipping, this is the most economical way to have your vehicle moved over long distances.

With open trailer vehicle transport, your car, truck or van is normally picked up right from your home, and delivered to your destination of choice – there’s no need to deal with drop-off points or shipping depots. Your vehicle is loaded on a bonded, insured carrier that holds between six to ten automobiles, making this the ideal choice for anyone who wants to balance cost-effective car shipping service with door-to-door convenience.

Enclosed Trailer Auto Transport

Car collectors and owners of high-end premium automobiles often choose to have their vehicles shipped in enclosed trailers.

While moving a vehicle inside a secured, enclosed trailer costs more than both open trailer and rail car shipping, this method provides complete protection from the elements and the added security that comes with shipping your vehicle inside a locked, hard-sided transport truck trailer.

Car Shipping by Rail

If you’ve ever seen rail cars packed full of cars, truck and vans chugging on down the tracks, you might be wondering if car shipping by rail is a viable solution for your long-distance vehicle transportation needs?

Although it is possible to have your car shipped on a cargo train, the vast majority of vehicles that are shipped by rail are actually brand-new automobiles coming straight from the factory; only a small percentage of the vehicles you see on rail cars are privately-owned.

Car owners often avoid rail-based car shipping since it’s only available on a few select routes, and if you use a rail-based auto transport broker, you’ll be responsible for delivering your vehicle to the nearest train station that has the facilities needed to load your car onto the train – same goes for picking up your vehicle. You’ll also need to confirm whether the carrier uses an enclosed car, or an open-frame car, as transporting your vehicle on an open-frame car leaves it vulnerable to vandalism and damage from debris.

Amtrak’s Auto Train

If you happen to be traveling between Washington, DC and central Florida, your options for car shipping also include using Amtrak’s Auto Train. During this 900-mile route, your vehicle will be carried in an enclosed rail car, and unlike with most other auto transport methods, you can actually pack your automobile with your personal belongings.

It’s important to note that Amtrak only offers car shipping on this one particular route, and the driver must travel on the train with their vehicle, making this vehicle transport option available only to those who have the time to ride the rails with their automobile.

Remember that when it comes to car shipping, it’s important to choose a company that specializes in vehicle transport – not one that simply offers auto transport services on the side.

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