Military car shipping made it easy

Military Car Shipping For a Stress-Free PCS Move

When it comes to a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move, the military provides valuable support, but the logistics can still seem overwhelming. One of the most significant considerations for military families is shipping their vehicles. With the right planning and knowledge, however, this process can be seamless and stress-free.

Choosing the Right Service:

Not all shipping services are created equal. Choose a reputable company with experience in military car shipping. They’ll understand the specific needs and timing requirements of a PCS move. Remember to compare quotes, read reviews, and verify their insurance coverage.

Preparation and Inspection:

Preparing your car for shipping is crucial. Remove personal items, conduct maintenance checks, and document your vehicle’s condition through photographs and written records. This information is vital in the event of any disputes about damages incurred during shipping.

Understanding Costs and Insurance:

It’s essential to comprehend the costs involved in shipping. Distance, vehicle size and weight, and transport type can all affect the price. Discuss these factors with your shipping company to avoid surprises.

Additionally, understand the insurance coverage. All shipping companies must have liability insurance, but you might want to consider additional coverage for high-value vehicles or international shipments.

International Shipping:

Overseas, or OCONUS, moves have their own set of considerations. Make sure your shipping service has experience with international shipping and understands the regulations, paperwork, and customs requirements.

Tracking and Delivery:

Some companies offer real-time tracking, allowing you to monitor your vehicle’s journey. Upon delivery, inspect your vehicle carefully and compare its condition to your pre-shipping records.

Dealing with Potential Challenges:

In the event of unexpected issues or damages, consult your insurance policy and contact your shipping company promptly. Having thorough pre-shipping records can make this process smoother.

With the right approach, shipping your car during a PCS move can be a hassle-free experience. Remember, preparation is key, and understanding the process can greatly reduce the stress of your move, leaving you free to focus on settling into your new home and community. Safe travels, and thank you for your service!

Introduction to Military Car Shipping

Moving is often considered one of life’s most stressful experiences, and for military families who are frequently required to move due to Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders, this stress can be amplified. One aspect that often poses unique challenges is car shipping. However, with a proper understanding of the process, military car shipping can be made considerably smoother.

What is Military Car Shipping?

Military car shipping is a specialized service provided by auto transport companies to help service members move their vehicles domestically or internationally during a PCS move. These companies understand the unique circumstances and needs of military moves, including the often tight and unpredictable schedules and the necessity for reliable and secure transport.

Why is it Different?

Military car shipping is different from civilian car shipping due to several reasons. It must be responsive to the unique demands of military life, including unexpected orders and the need for international shipping (OCONUS moves). Some auto transport companies offer discounts for military personnel and may provide additional services, like storage, if a service member’s plans suddenly change.

Who is Involved?

Professional auto transport companies, regulated by the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, handle military car shipping. They must comply with stringent safety, insurance, and reliability standards. In addition to the transport companies, the military also has support staff in place to assist service members with their PCS moves, providing advice and resources.

Understanding the basics of military car shipping can reduce stress and help ensure a smooth, efficient move. As you navigate your PCS move, remember, there are resources available to assist you every step of the way.

Why Military Car Shipping is Essential for a PCS Move

When military families receive a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) order, there are numerous logistics to consider and tasks to accomplish. Among these, moving their personal vehicle or vehicles is a significant one. Shipping a vehicle, rather than driving it to the new location, has several advantages, making it an essential aspect of a successful PCS move.

1. Convenience and Stress Reduction:

Moving is stressful enough without the added worry of driving your vehicle hundreds or even thousands of miles. A reputable car shipping service can alleviate this stress. You simply need to prepare the vehicle for shipping and pick it up at the destination, giving you more time to focus on other important aspects of your move.

2. Safety:

Long-distance driving can be risky due to unpredictable weather conditions, road hazards, and driver fatigue. Shipping your vehicle can mitigate these risks. Professional auto transport companies adhere to strict safety regulations to ensure your vehicle’s safe transit.

3. Preserving Vehicle Condition and Value:

Driving a vehicle over a long distance can lead to wear and tear, increased mileage, and potential depreciation of the vehicle. Shipping your car keeps the mileage low, preserving its value and condition.

4. International Moves:

For overseas or OCONUS moves, shipping is often the only viable option to bring your vehicle along. Experienced car shipping services understand the complexities of international transport, including customs and import regulations, paperwork, and specific packing requirements.

5. Simultaneous Transportation of Multiple Vehicles:

Families with more than one vehicle face a logistical challenge when moving. Car shipping companies can handle multiple vehicles simultaneously, making the process more efficient.

6. Cost-Effective:

While there is a cost associated with vehicle shipping, consider the alternative. Driving long distances involves costs like fuel, food, lodging, and vehicle maintenance, which can add up quickly. Also, if you need to take unpaid leave from work to travel, the lost earnings are a factor.

Given these advantages, it’s clear that military car shipping is not just a luxury but an essential service for a smooth, stress-free PCS move.

Choosing the Right Shipping Service for Your Vehicle

Choosing the right shipping service for your vehicle during a PCS move is crucial for a stress-free experience. Here are several factors to consider when making your choice.

1. Reputation and Experience:

Look for a company with a solid reputation and substantial experience in military car shipping. Check online reviews and ratings, and ask for recommendations from fellow service members who’ve had positive experiences.

2. Services Offered:

Some companies specialize in certain types of transport (open vs. enclosed, domestic vs. international), while others offer a broader range of services. Consider what specific needs you have for your move and ensure the company can accommodate them.

3. Insurance Coverage:

Check what type of insurance coverage the company provides for damage or theft during transit. The minimum liability insurance may not be enough to cover the full value of your vehicle, so you might want to consider additional coverage.

4. Pricing:

Request quotes from multiple companies to get a sense of standard pricing. Be wary of quotes that seem too good to be true—they often are. Quality service comes at a cost, but it doesn’t mean you have to overpay.

5. Responsiveness and Customer Service:

The company’s responsiveness and customer service are indicators of how your shipping experience will go. Do they quickly and thoroughly respond to your inquiries? Do they clearly explain the process and address all your concerns? A company that prioritizes customer service is likely to provide a better shipping experience.

6. Military Discount:

Many auto transport companies offer military discounts as a token of appreciation for your service. While this shouldn’t be the only factor in choosing a company, it could be a deciding factor between two otherwise equal options.

7. Documentation and Contract Clarity:

Make sure all services, prices, insurance details, and terms are clearly stated in your contract. If there’s anything you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. A reputable company will be transparent and upfront about all aspects of their service.

Remember, the goal isn’t just to move your vehicle from point A to point B; it’s to do so safely, efficiently, and with the least amount of stress possible. Carefully considering your options will help you select the right shipping service for your vehicle and your peace of mind.

Preparing Your Vehicle for a Stress-Free Shipping Experience

Preparing your vehicle for shipping is a critical step in ensuring a smooth and stress-free transport experience. Here are some important steps to take:

1. Clean Your Vehicle:

Give your vehicle a thorough cleaning inside and out. This makes it easier to identify and document any existing damage before shipping.

2. Document Existing Damage:

Perform a detailed inspection of your vehicle and document any existing damage, including minor scratches and dents. Take clear photos from multiple angles and keep this documentation safe. This will be vital for comparison in case any new damage occurs during transportation.

3. Remove Personal Items:

Personal items and custom accessories not permanently installed in the vehicle should be removed. These items are not usually covered by the shipper’s insurance, and can also add weight to the vehicle or become projectiles during transit, potentially causing damage.

4. Check Fluids, Tire Pressure, and Battery:

Your vehicle should be in good running condition with all fluids at proper levels, unless it’s being shipped as non-operational. Tires should be properly inflated, and the battery should be fully charged.

5. Disable Alarms:

If your vehicle has an alarm, make sure to disable it. If the alarm cannot be disabled, provide detailed instructions for turning it off to the transport driver.

6. Reduce Fuel Level:

Your gas tank should be about a quarter full for shipping. This reduces the weight of the vehicle and therefore shipping costs, and it also lessens potential safety risks.

7. Spare Keys:

You’ll need to provide a set of keys to the shipping company. Make sure you have a spare set for yourself, as replacing lost keys can be costly and time-consuming.

8. Special Instructions:

If your vehicle has unique operating instructions, write them down and communicate them to the shipping company. This can prevent unnecessary confusion or potential damage.

Remember, preparation is key to a smooth shipping experience. Investing the time to properly ready your vehicle can save you from potential headaches down the line.

Understanding Costs, Quotes, and Insurance

Understanding the costs associated with vehicle shipping, how quotes are determined, and what insurance coverage entails are key factors in planning a successful PCS move.

Costs and Quotes:

Several factors determine the cost of shipping a vehicle:

  1. Distance and Location: The further the distance, the higher the cost. Also, delivery to or from remote areas may increase costs.
  2. Vehicle Size and Weight: Larger and heavier vehicles require more resources to transport, which increases costs.
  3. Transport Type: Open transport (where vehicles are shipped on an open trailer) is typically cheaper than enclosed transport (where vehicles are protected in a closed container).
  4. Operational Status: It costs more to ship a non-operational vehicle than one that can be driven on and off the transport.
  5. Delivery Time: Expedited delivery will likely cost more than standard delivery times.

Remember to request quotes from multiple shipping companies to compare prices and services. Ensure these quotes include all costs to avoid hidden fees.


All auto transport companies are required to carry liability insurance, but the coverage amounts can vary. This insurance should cover any damage incurred to your vehicle during transport, but there may be exclusions, so it’s essential to understand the specifics.

  1. Verify Coverage: Ask the shipping company for a copy of their insurance certificate and verify its authenticity with the insurance company.
  2. Understand the Policy: Be clear about what the policy covers and what your potential out-of-pocket costs may be in case of damage.
  3. Additional Coverage: If the shipper’s insurance doesn’t fully cover the value of your vehicle, consider purchasing additional coverage, either through the shipper or a separate insurance provider.

Understanding costs, quotes, and insurance not only ensures you receive fair pricing, but also that your vehicle is adequately protected, providing peace of mind during your PCS move.

Timeline and Scheduling for Military Car Shipping

Understanding the timeline and scheduling for military car shipping is crucial to ensuring a smooth and timely PCS move. Here are the key points to consider:

1. Booking in Advance:

Like any service, the earlier you book your car shipping, the more likely you are to secure the date that best suits your schedule. A standard rule of thumb is to book at least two to three weeks in advance. However, if you’re moving during peak PCS season (May to August), consider booking even earlier, as schedules fill up quickly.

2. Flexible Pick-Up and Delivery Dates:

While it’s good to have preferred pick-up and delivery dates, being flexible can be beneficial. You may receive better pricing, and it can also take pressure off the process. Remember, unforeseen circumstances like weather, traffic, or previous deliveries can impact scheduling.

3. Transit Time:

The transit time – how long it takes for your vehicle to be transported from your old location to the new one – varies depending on the distance. A cross-country move in the U.S. can take one to two weeks, while international moves can take several weeks due to additional complexities such as customs clearance.

4. Communication is Key:

Good communication with your shipping company is essential for a smooth process. Ensure they provide regular updates on pick-up and delivery dates, and don’t hesitate to ask questions or voice concerns. Remember, you’re entrusting them with a valuable asset.

5. Post-Delivery:

Once your vehicle is delivered, inspect it immediately for any possible damage before signing the delivery report. If you spot any new damage, document it thoroughly and report it to the shipping company as soon as possible.

By understanding the timeline and keeping lines of communication open with your shipping company, you’ll be better prepared to navigate the logistics of shipping your vehicle during a PCS move.

Domestic vs. International Vehicle Shipping

Whether you’re relocating within the country or moving overseas, each type of move—domestic or international—comes with its unique set of considerations for vehicle shipping. Here’s a look at the differences and key aspects to remember:

Domestic Vehicle Shipping:

  1. Transport Type: Depending on the distance and your preferences, vehicles can be transported using open or enclosed trailers. Open transport is generally cheaper, while enclosed transport offers more protection.
  2. Cost: Costs vary based on the distance, size and weight of the vehicle, and the type of transport selected.
  3. Transit Time: While the exact timeline can depend on factors like distance and transport type, domestic shipping usually takes between a few days to a couple of weeks.
  4. Regulations: Vehicles don’t typically need to meet any special regulations beyond being registered and insured for domestic shipping.

International Vehicle Shipping:

  1. Transport Type: Vehicles can be shipped overseas using container shipping, roll-on/roll-off shipping, or air freight. The choice will depend on factors like cost, vehicle size, and your specific needs.
  2. Cost: In addition to factors like distance and vehicle size, costs for international shipping also include customs duties and taxes, which can be significant.
  3. Transit Time: Shipping a vehicle overseas generally takes longer due to the distance involved and additional factors like customs clearance.
  4. Regulations: Vehicles shipped internationally must meet specific import regulations of the destination country, which can include emission standards, safety regulations, and more. It’s crucial to research these beforehand to avoid costly modifications or denied entry.
  5. Documentation: Additional documentation is typically required for international shipping, including customs forms and potentially import permits.

Whether you’re making a domestic or international PCS move, understanding the key differences in vehicle shipping for each can help you plan more effectively and ensure a smoother transition.

Receiving Your Vehicle at Your New Location

Receiving your vehicle at your new location is a crucial step in your PCS move. While the process is straightforward, several key considerations can help ensure everything goes smoothly:

1. Inspection Upon Delivery:

Inspect your vehicle thoroughly at the time of delivery. Check for any new scratches, dents, or other damages that were not present when the vehicle was shipped. Compare the condition of the vehicle with the documented inspection report prepared before shipping.

2. Clean Delivery Inspection:

If your vehicle arrives in the same condition as when it left, sign the delivery inspection report. This document confirms you’ve received your vehicle and it is in the expected condition.

3. New Damages:

If you find any new damages, note them on the delivery report before signing it. Take photos as evidence and contact the shipping company immediately to report these issues.

4. Test Drive:

Before the driver leaves, take a short test drive to ensure your vehicle operates as expected. Check the brakes, lights, turn signals, air conditioning, and other key functions.

5. Document Everything:

If there are any discrepancies or issues, document everything. This will be important if you need to file a claim with the shipping company’s insurance provider.

6. After Delivery:

Even after a successful delivery, keep all shipping documents until you’re sure everything is in order. This includes the Bill of Lading, the initial and final inspection reports, and any other related paperwork.

Remember, a successful PCS move doesn’t end until you’ve received your vehicle at your new location and confirmed it’s in the expected condition. Following these steps can help you navigate this final stage of your move with confidence and ease.

Dealing with Potential Challenges in Car Shipping

Even with the most meticulous planning, potential challenges can arise during car shipping. Being prepared for these possibilities is essential for a successful PCS move. Here are some common challenges and how to address them:

1. Delays:

Despite accurate scheduling, delays can happen due to weather, traffic, or unforeseen issues. Make sure you have a contingency plan, like alternate transportation, if your vehicle delivery gets delayed.

2. Damage to Vehicle:

Although rare with reputable car shipping services, damage to the vehicle can occur. Conduct a thorough inspection upon delivery and compare the vehicle’s condition with the pre-shipping report. If there’s damage, notify the shipping company immediately and file a claim.

3. Delivery to the Wrong Location:

This is an uncommon occurrence, but mistakes can happen. Make sure to confirm your delivery address with the shipping company, and if an error occurs, contact the company immediately.

4. Unexpected Costs:

Some companies may have hidden fees not included in the initial quote. To avoid this, ensure you get a comprehensive quote detailing all costs and confirm there are no additional charges.

5. Vehicle Not Prepared Correctly:

If your vehicle hasn’t been prepared correctly (e.g., gas tank not properly emptied, loose parts not secured), it could lead to issues during shipping. Follow your shipping company’s guidelines on how to properly prepare your vehicle for transport.

6. Insurance Complications:

Insurance claims for damages can sometimes become complicated. To ease this process, keep thorough documentation, understand your insurance policy, and promptly report any issues.

While these challenges can seem daunting, they are rare, especially when you choose a reputable car shipping service. Being prepared to deal with potential issues can help ensure a smoother and more successful PCS move.

Tips for a Successful Military Car Shipping Experience

Successfully shipping your vehicle during a military Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move can simplify your transition and make settling into your new home that much easier. Here are some helpful tips to ensure a successful military car shipping experience:

1. Research Shipping Companies:

Don’t settle on the first company you come across. Instead, research various shipping companies, read reviews, and ask for personal recommendations. Look for a company with a good track record in handling military car shipping.

2. Understand Your Entitlements:

Military personnel are often entitled to certain benefits when it comes to PCS moves, including vehicle shipping. Check with your Transportation Office to understand what you’re eligible for.

3. Prepare Your Vehicle:

Proper vehicle preparation is crucial. Remove personal items, perform necessary maintenance, and follow your shipping company’s guidelines on fuel levels and other considerations.

4. Documentation:

Keep all documentation related to your vehicle and its shipment. This includes your shipping contract, inspection reports, and any communication with the shipping company. This will be invaluable in case of damages or disputes.

5. Comprehensive Insurance:

Ensure your vehicle is adequately covered by insurance during the shipment. While reputable shippers will have their own coverage, it’s a good idea to understand the details of their policy and consider additional coverage if needed.

6. Inspection Upon Delivery:

Upon delivery, thoroughly inspect your vehicle and compare its condition to the pre-shipment inspection report. If there are any discrepancies, report them immediately.

7. Plan for Delays:

Shipping can sometimes take longer than expected, particularly for overseas moves. Have a backup plan for transportation at your new location in case of delays.

8. Keep Communication Lines Open:

Ensure you can communicate with the shipping company throughout the transit process. They should be able to provide updates and answer any questions you have.

With careful planning and attention to detail, you can ensure a smooth and successful car shipping experience during your PCS move.

Resources and Support for Military Personnel

For military personnel undergoing a PCS move, there are numerous resources and support systems available to assist with everything from planning the move to settling into your new location. Here are some of them:

1. Military OneSource:

A Department of Defense-funded program providing comprehensive information on every aspect of military life at no cost to active duty, National Guard, and reserve members, and their families. Services include relocation planning, financial counseling, and health and wellness coaching, among others.

2. Transportation Office (TO):

Your local TO, also known as Personal Property Shipping Office (PPSO), can provide essential guidance and assistance for all aspects of your PCS move, from understanding your entitlements to planning your move and selecting a shipping company for your vehicle.

3. Plan My Move:

This online tool, provided by the Department of Defense, allows you to create custom checklists for your move, provides helpful information and resources, and includes a budget planning tool to help manage your moving expenses.

4. MilitaryINSTALLATIONS and Military Housing Area (MHA):

These online resources provide detailed information about military installations worldwide, helping you explore your new location before you move. They offer data on housing, medical facilities, child and youth services, and more.

5. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA):

If you have school-aged children, the DoDEA can provide information and support for transitioning to a new school, whether it’s a DoD school or a local community school in the U.S. or overseas.

6. Fleet and Family Support Centers (FFSC):

Navy and Marine Corps members can use the services of FFSCs, which offer programs and resources to support military life, including deployment readiness and relocation assistance.

7. Airman & Family Readiness Centers (A&FRCs):

These centers support Air Force members with a variety of programs, including relocation assistance, personal financial readiness, and transition assistance programs.

8. Army Community Service (ACS) Centers:

ACS centers provide Army members and their families with various support services, including relocation readiness, financial readiness, and employment readiness programs.

Remember, moving is a process, and every PCS is different. Take advantage of these resources to help ease your transition and make your PCS move as smooth as possible.

Conclusion: Making Your PCS Move Smooth with Proper Vehicle Shipping

Undertaking a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move is a significant event in the life of a military service member and their family. Such a move often involves relocating across the country or even overseas, presenting an array of logistical challenges. One of the most critical aspects of this process is vehicle shipping. Properly managing this can greatly contribute to making your PCS move smooth and stress-free.

Firstly, understanding your entitlements and the shipping process is crucial. The military provides specific allowances and resources to facilitate PCS moves, and knowing how to leverage these can save both time and money. From choosing a reliable shipping company, understanding costs, and insuring your vehicle, to preparing your vehicle for shipment and managing pickup and delivery, every step requires careful planning.

Moreover, awareness about potential challenges and how to address them can prepare you for unexpected situations. Delays, potential damages, or other issues can arise, and knowing how to handle them can help keep your move on track.

Lastly, resources and support for military personnel are abundant. Military OneSource, Transportation Offices, and various readiness centers offer a wealth of information and services to support your PCS move, and these should be utilized to their fullest extent.

A PCS move is more than just a change of station; it’s the start of a new chapter in your military career and personal life. With proper preparation, especially regarding vehicle shipping, you can ensure that this transition is as smooth and stress-free as possible, allowing you to focus on settling into your new location and embracing the opportunities it brings.

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