Almost immediately upon booking an Amtrak ticket, you're emailed an offer to bid to upgrade your seat from coach to business class. While it's fun to think you could get a better ticket by just bidding a few more dollars, you might want to first investigate the difference between the two classes on the specific train you're taking. For some trains, the difference is worth it; for others, decidedly not. This couple, Rob and Allie from Grounded Life Travel, put together a video that breaks it down across a handful of Amtrak trains. And you'll be surprised to hear that they say, "The first thing you need to know is that coach class is the same on most Amtrak trains." And that, in at least one instance, coach is preferable!
For instance, on the Downeaster in New England, they reveal that coach class seats are actually more updated than business, so it's better to stay in coach.
On the Northeast Regional, they say the two classes are "the exact same," and that business class is basically "coach class with free drinks." However, the vibe in the two can be very different, with riders engaging in meetings on the train and working on their computers in business class, while in coach there were a lot of families and college students.
So what does business class offer over coach? Free nonalcoholic drinks, which may not total more than a few dollars in value. There's supposed to be more legroom, but Allie and Rob say it's the same seating on some trains. And there are upgrades on points, which can be worthwhile if you ride frequently.
A few standouts where it is worthwhile to upgrade to business class? One is the Coast Starlight, because it has a separate observation car reserved for business class riders. Another is the Pacific Surfliner, which has big tables in business class that let you balance computers and drinks and have room for stretching. And along with the free drinks, this train has free snacks. In general, meals or snacks are only available to first-class riders (like on the Acela—but interestingly, the Acela only has first class and business class, without any coach seating). If you are an overnight passenger with a roommette or bedroom, you also get all meals for free.
Rob and Allie encourage you to look at the roughly dozen other trains with business class options to see if it's worth upgrading, considering how long you're on the train and your riding purpose. The difference in classes can be $20 more or $200 more. "If it's more than $30 or $40, it's not worth it," concludes Rob... but if the upbid lets you splurge a little and feel more luxurious, it might be attractive regardless.