Shipping cars, trucks, or SUVs is not something the average American is familiar with. Even in the United States Armed Forces, not all service members take advantage of vehicle shipping services even when they are provided by their commands. In the Navy, for example, many sailors prefer to keep their privately-owned vehicles (POVs) at home when they know their ships will have long underway schedules before their next set of permanent change of station (PCS) orders are drawn up. Whether you opt for a full-military or personally procured move, shipping your car is the way to go if you follow the expert recommendations below:
Listen to NCOs and Veterans
When we sit down to evaluate which military benefits are more ruefully overlooked than others, military vehicle shipping should be at the top of the list. It is not uncommon for young enlisted members to forego military vehicle shipping for their first or second PCS orders in the continental U.S. (CONUS); many end up pocketing the cash allotment and driving their POVs to their next duty station. If you have been deployed, chances are that you know about others in your unit who preferred to drive their cars home instead of letting their command ship them under the Defense Personal Property Program, but these are mostly fresh service members in their first deployment. When you talk to veterans, NCOs, or officers who have been on active duty for a while, they will invariably tell you that military vehicle shipping was not something they regretted.
What old-timers will tell you is the following: Shipping your car means you don’t have to worry about driving it yourself, which can be a hassle, especially if you’re moving long distances. Let’s say a Space Force Guardian gets PCS orders from Cape Canaveral in Florida to Peterson Base in Colorado; we are talking about driving 1,695 miles through the bottlenecks of I-75, Nashville, Wichita, and Denver. The expected stress of dealing with traffic, road conditions, and parking is often amplified over long distances, not to mention the wear and tear of extended road trips. Anyone who has been on active duty for a year or so will have heard horror stories from peers whose cars broke down as they were driving to their new duty stations on PCS orders. With this in mind, the most important recommendation of military car shipping is to not ignore it as a benefit; even in situations when it is not handled by the Defense Personal Property at your base, the benefits of shipping your car will outweigh the drawbacks.
Evaluate Your Car Shipping Options
The list of car shipping providers and carriers provided by your PPO or DPS manager can generally be trusted, but you should make it a point to get opinions from others in your unit about their experiences with vehicle transport firms. If you find a provider who is not on the DPS list for your base, you can still gather opinions online; keep in mind that many civilians use these services, and many military spouses often leave reviews to this effect. Not all vehicle shipping companies cater exclusively to the military, but virtually all offer a discount to members on active duty as well as to retirees.
When evaluating the costs of military car shipping, carriers will make a determination based on factors such as:
* Make and model of the POV
* Time frame
* POV condition
* Special handling
You generally only want to deal with transportation firms that do not require upfront payments. Something else to remember is that there are no set fees in this industry because carriers have to provide their own insurance. Let’s say a Coast Guard Lieutenant needs to ship a first-generation Porsche Boxster in collector’s condition from Air Station Corpus Christi to Air Station Cape Cod; this is an example of a POV that will be more expensive to ship because of the higher insurance premium.
Packing the POV
If you want to fill your POV with personal belongings so that you are squeezing every drop of value and convenience from shipping, be sure to pack your belongings securely. This means using packing materials that will protect your belongings from damage. You can use bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or even blankets. Being smart about this means not stuffing the car with overly valuable items, such as ancient gold coins, that would not be covered under the service insurance.
In the end, you should not turn down the opportunity to ship your POV during a PCS move. Even if the DPS office does not approve or reimburse, there are still many upsides to shipping the car instead of driving it yourself.
Author: Chaz Elban