Moving Cross Country Cheaply with Amtrak Express Shipping

Updated on April 25, 2016

Moving Long Distance Cheaply

Moving across the country on a shoestring budget?

If you need to get your stuff to the other side of the United States, or across the state, you've probably realized how big of an expense moving will be. In many cases it can cost more to ship you stuff than it would be to buy everything new. The general advice is to sell or otherwise get rid of as much as you can before you move. However, there's a lot of stuff you can't get rid of and you need to figure out how to move it cheaply. Hiring a moving company or using LTL freight will cost you a couple grand. Renting a moving truck and driving it yourself is also expensive. There's also shipping with UPS or the postal service, and those are insanely pricey to move your stuff as well.

I recently moved from the LA area to Chicago. I spent $169 to move my stuff cross country. No, that's not a typo. The secret to moving long-distance cheaply: Amtrak Express Shipping.

How to Move Across the Country Cheaply

  1. Get rid of as much stuff as you can, especially anything big like furniture.
  2. Ship everything you can with Amtrak Express Shipping.
  3. Anything you can't ship on Amtrak is tricky (see Amtrak's restrictions below). If you're flying, you're best option is putting it in your checked bag. If you're driving, stick it in your car. If neither of those options work, your next best option is mailing it parcel post or media mail. This is not cheap. However it is better than other shipping options.

Amtrak Express Shipping

Amtrak Express is an inexpensive freight shipping service.

Amtrak offers this service only between major cities, however. You'll need to drop off your shipment at your nearest major train station and then pick it up once it reaches the destination city. This is not a door-to-door service, but the extra effort to get to the train station will save you a ton of money.

Amtrak Express Shipping Costs

You may ship up to 500 pounds per day. If you have more than 500 pounds you may break it up into multiple shipments over multiple days.

The first 100 pounds is a flat rate of $67.

Additional weight is $0.57 per pound.

Once your shipment arrives at the station, you will have 48 hours to claim it. If you fail to do so in that time, you will be charged additional storage fees.


Amtrak Express Restrictions

Anything that's this good of a deal has a catch. Amtrak Express' catch is its restrictions--and there are a lot of them.

The maximum box size is 3'x3'x3'. The maximum box weight is 50 pounds. This means no furniture or oversized items.

Amtrak does not allow anything breakable, valuable, or electronic to be shipped with them. This is problematic. No appliances (microwave, crockpots, TVs, blenders, etc.). No computers or printers. Pretty much anything with a plug cannot be shipped. Since nothing breakable is allowed with Amtrak Express, you can't send dishware.

Finding More Information about Moving with Amtrak Express

There's not a lot of published information about Amtrak Express Shipping. There is some information at their website and you can get more information by calling 1-800-377-6914.

Before you start packing, call Amtrak. They will be able to tell you what stations provide the service, give you up-to-date pricing information, and verify that what you would like to ship is allowed. They will also know where exactly you need to drop off your stuff. Usually it's a loading dock that may be tucked on the back side of the building.


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    • profile image

      Dot 11 days ago

      I moved across country from LA to NYC in 2016. I didn't know about the no electronics and dishware I ended up shipping my printer and a bunch of dishware and cooking pans via Amtrak. Everything was fine! I also shipped an big decorative chest, so apparently it wasn't necessary to ship in a cardboard box.

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      Ashley D 3 weeks ago

      Does anyone know if they will help you unload your boxes to drop off? I am afraid I will not be able to lift and move my 6 boxes which are each about 50lbs :x

    • profile image

      Elizabeth 4 months ago

      I'm moving to LA in February and need to ship kitchen items (blender, knife set, dishes) and house things like a mirror and curtain rods. Can they tell if you're sending dishes? It sounds like they don't break things you send, so I'd be ok shipping my dishes through Amtrak.

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      Tristen 9 months ago

      I moved from DC to Chicago and shipped this way. I had to go to the big station in the middle of DC because the small stations aren't equipped to do big loads, even if they offer shipping. (It was like 350 lbs, my clothing, books and kitchen stuff). They had me put it from my trunk straight onto the pallet, weighed it and immediately wrapped the whole pallet in plastic to keep it all in one big box cube. When they rolled the pallet out in Chicago for me to pick up, everything was still wrapped just like I left it. So I know they aren't going to dig through your boxes, but they may bring dogs through or maybe scan it through a machine. Purely speculation though! Great service, they didn't charge me for storage when I was late picking up because my shipment beat me to Chicago. My jaw dropped at the price being so cheap, but looking at the old prices does make me sad that they upped it!

    • profile image

      Kiley Surma 14 months ago

      Has anyone attempted to protect and pack electronics and/or liquids and/or small furniture (i.e. end table wrapped in linens) in the middle of a box on Amtrak? I'm assuming that they don't open up boxes...

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      Alex 19 months ago

      Does anyone know if Amtrak will ship a large rug (8ft long rolled up)?

    • profile image

      Sandi 19 months ago

      Extremely helpful. Our daughter moved overseas and had to leave her possessions in Seattle. Definitely the cheapest way to get her stuff back to the east coast.

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      Katie 20 months ago

      I can confirm the rate Gaurav just posted is still effective as of 8/18/16. I just called to get rates from Newark, NJ to Seattle, WA. Also, if anyone is interested to know about storage - they charge $4 per item per day after the first 48 hours. This is a good option in case your stuff makes it out before you do.

    • profile image

      Gaurav 20 months ago

      The rate as of a week ago was $82 for the first 100 lbs, $.80 for each additional pound.

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      Emily 21 months ago

      Thanks for this tip! I'm moving from Boston to San Francisco -- does anyone know the current rate?

    • profile image

      Mary 21 months ago

      Jane, you can totally ship extension cords and the keyboard. Honestly, they just ask you at the counter what's in your box. I did indeed have my imac packed up, but the lady was really giving me the side eye about it, and cautioned that if there are electronics, you sign a waiver freeing amtrack from any liability if it gets damaged. That I ended up bringing with me on the train. I don't think the items you mentioned will be an issue at all.

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      Jane 23 months ago

      I saw that you can't ship electronics on Amtrak. I have just some extension cords and a keyboard that I was hoping to take with me. How closely do they check to make sure that you're not shipping things you're not supposed to?

    • profile image

      Jamie 2 years ago

      Thanks for the tips! My first cross country trip (New Orleans to Boston area) I did on Greyhound which was surprisingly awesome. I have traveled Amtrak before and it was a wonderful experience. I love the train! That is why I am going Amtrak for my next cross country move (Boston area to Seattle) soon. I shipped a slow cooker my mom bought me via snail mail and I got it back in pieces! I won't be doing that again

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Train is also the most environmentally friendly way to move goods across land.

      Interesting hub.

    • profile image

      jcilles 3 years ago

      I just sent 26 boxes from D.C. to L.A. and they weighed a bit over 600 lbs altogether but they put them together bc I had my dad with me and my aunt and uncle are picking them up. I dropped them off on a Thursday morning and my aunt said she got the arrival call by Monday morning. I had done some research on the prices but I was still amazed when I saw the total. Like I said, they were a bit over 600 lbs...and they cost roughly only $450, including $1,000-worth insurance! I'm very thankful my family drives big trucks!

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      Sue 3 years ago

      Amtrak shipping is by far the best way to ship that is available. Have used them 3 times to ship across the United States. Every time, excellent move.

    • profile image

      Dave W. 4 years ago

      Thanks for the useful post. I called them to ask about shipping from Cleveland, OH to Portland, OR, and the current rate as of 10/16/13 is $72 for the first 100 lbs and 73 cents for each pound thereafter. Bicycles are $72 each.

    • Modern Lady profile image

      Modern Lady 4 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Sonia, thanks for the update! Good luck with the move!

    • profile image

      Sonia 4 years ago

      Finding this info was perfect timing! I'll be moving cross country again in a few months and definitely wanted to be smarter about it this time around. I called Amtrak this morning and their pricing has gone up a bit. It's now $67 for the first 100 lbs, then $0.57 for each lb thereafter.

    • Modern Lady profile image

      Modern Lady 4 years ago from Chicago, IL

      MysticYat, thanks for the compliment! I didn't know that you could ship boxes for free if you're a passenger. That is a great deal! I'm surprised that there wasn't a luggage limit. Next time I move I will have to check that out.

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      MysticYat 5 years ago

      YAY, someone who gives practical, real-world information. I would like to note that unless you have a lot of brand new, high-end furniture, the most cost effective way to move cross-country is to sell everything except your clothes and your important life momentos and buy new in your new location. I moved from FL to CA via Amtrak 12 years ago - and since I did the traveling on Amtrak I was able to check all 12 of my huge boxes free of charge as baggage. Am getting ready to move cross-country again and will once again sell everything big, ship the rest via Amtrak and load myself, my kid and my cats in the car for a comfortable drive to our new home. :-)

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      Westbound Karma 5 years ago

      Thanks for the info. I will definitely check them out next time I move. I used UPS last time. I only shipped about 7 boxes but cost me a small fortune.

    • Modern Lady profile image

      Modern Lady 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      This is by far the most affordable option. Perhaps not the easiest, but shipping as much as you can by Amtrak will save you a lot of money.

    • profile image

      Ade 5 years ago

      This is great, thanks. Looking to move cross-country and this seems like the most affordable and easiest option.

    • Modern Lady profile image

      Modern Lady 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Sommer, glad you found this useful! Amtrak was a total lifesaver when I moved, but I don't think many people know about it. Next time you need to move, definitely look into this. Even if you still need to hire a van for your larger items, it will still save you a ton of money to ship all the small stuff.

    • SommerDalton profile image

      Sommer Dalton 5 years ago

      Voted up and useful! Moved 7 times in 5 years and wish I would have known about this!

    • Modern Lady profile image

      Modern Lady 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Thanks for your support, moonlake! Amtrak was a lifesaver for me when I moved. I hope this is a useful tip for others looking for an inexpensive way to get a lot of stuff shipped.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      What a useful hub. I didn't know Amtrak did shipping. Enjoyed your hub and it was very interesting. Voted up and shared.