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How to Ship Your Car Overseas with the Military

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Woohoo! OCONUS duty station here you come! But, also, what do you do with your stateside care? The answer to that is kind of complicated, unfortunately. Which is we pulled together this everything guide to how to ship your car overseas with the military.

How to Ship Your Car Overseas

When you’re PCSing within the continental US (lower 48 states, CONUS) you can usually bring your car along with you, no matter what.  Either you and/or your spouse will drive your car(s) or you’ll go a little out of pocket to hire a car shipping company. Pretty easy!

But when you move overseas (anywhere not CONUS, including Alaska and Hawai’i), bringing your car along for the ride gets complicated. In fact, in some places it really doesn’t make sense to bring your US car, truck, SUV or van with you.

Whether this is your first move or your fifteenth, your go-to resource will be move.mil. You can locate all the regulations regarding any and all aspects of your PCS.

Headed OCONUS with the military? If you're PCSing with your car, this explainer simplifies the steps you need to move your vehicle.

Where Can I Move My Car Overseas?

Short answer: everywhere! You have authorization, per the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR), to have one personally owned vehicle (POV) shipped at government expense to your OCONUS duty station.

But before you get super pumped about driving your F150 around Okinawa, there are some things you should know.

First, each receiving OCONUS location host nation has the right to set standards for POVs of military personnel. For example, Japan. The Commander of Naval Region, Japan does state that military personnel can request to ship a POV. However, there are some issues. The Japanese government has put a strict embargo on US vehicles made after March 31, 1976. So to bring your 2004 Chevy with you, you’ll need to provide a whole bunch of additional info. And you still might be denied.

Other countries also have similar rules and policies in place. You can find the vehicle rules for many overseas duty stations on page 4 of the JTR POV regulations.

Second, think about the location you are headed. UK locations drive on the opposite side of the road. Does your US vehicle make sense or would you have additional challenges? Ditto for Japan. In addition to driving on the other side of the road, most roads are incredibly narrow and everything is designed for small cars. Does your US SUV or pickup make sense or would you get stuck in one of the many skinny “main” roads?

Questions to ask yourself before shipping your car OCONUS

Before you decide whether to take or leave your car, reach out to service members or military families who currently live there. You’ll want to ask:

  • Did you bring your car from the US?
  • If so, why? If not, why not?
  • Not that you are there, do you wish you had decided differently?
  • If I were to bring my US car (share make/model), would there be any issues with getting around?
  • How are the roads?
  • Does an US-style SUV, van or pickup make sense in this location?
  • If I don’t ship a car, what does buying a car look like there?
  • What is the average cost?
  • What do I do with my OCONUS-purchased car when I PCS back to the US?

Getting Started with Shipping Your Car OCONUS

If you are bringing your car, there are a few steps you’ll need to take.

First, confirm that you do rate a vehicle shipment to your overseas duty station. Hint: you probably do!

Next, confirm that your vehicle meets the weight restriction of 20 measurement ons. If you aren’t sure, multiply your vehicles length x width x height (in inches) and divide that total by 1728. Divide that answer by 40. This should give you your total MT or measurement tons.

Triple check the Personal Property Consignment Instruction Guide (PPCIG) to make sure that your destination country doesn’t have additional restrictions. For example, electric vehicles are currently banned in Bahrain. You can locate restrictions for all of your personal items, including pets and firearms, in the PPCIG. Every possible country where a service member may be sent is listed in alphabetical order.

Once you’ve done your personal check, contact your travel office at your current location to get the process officially started.

Working with Your Travel Office

The US government will handle all aspects of your vehicle shipment. What this means is that they will determine how, when and where your car will be moving. (Note: Shipping a POV via air is not authorized.)

Since OCONUS locations are usually over a large body of water, you’re likely looking at your vehicle going on a cruise.

There are also stipulations about when your car will be able to be shipped:

  • Air Force personnel can ship a car OCONUS when the car is delivered to the port within 90 days of departure for a tour of longer than one year; or within 30 days for a tour of less than one year. Shipments outside of this window require approval from the OCONUS Commander.
  • For the Army, USMC. Navy and Coast Guard, the vehicle should be delivered to the port when at least 12 months remain on the service members contract at the current duty station. Anything outside that timeframe requires approval of the OCONUS area Commander or certification from your CO indicating necessity of the vehicle for official duties.

You can check out the regulations on page 6 of the JTR for POV entitlements.

You’ll Need a Vehicle Processing Center

When you’re ready to ship your car, you’ll head to your local Vehicle Processing Center (VPC). If your local VPC isn’t convenient, you can work with the travel office to find another location that works for your family.

VPCs are exactly what they sound like: a location where cars, trucks, SUVs and vans are housed until they are ready to move OCONUS. Your paperwork will be checked and your vehicle’s condition will be confirmed.

From the VPC, vehicles will be taken to their ship or other transportation.

On the other side, you’ll go to a VPC near your next duty station. There you’ll go through the process in reverse, checking documentation and vehicle condition prior to reclaiming your property.

VPCs are currently appointment based. Luckily, there is an online portal, PCSMyPOV, that guides you through the process. You’ll be prompted to verify information and make an appointment for your drop-off time.

Everything You Need to Do Before Drop Off

Basically, if you’re moving OCONUS, you make a VPC appointment after confirming eligibility and checking the PPCIG for restrictions. On your drop off day, you’ll want to make sure that you have everything in order.

Do These Tasks Before You Move Your Vehicle

  • Clean your car. Vehicles will not be accepted with any dirt, mud, debris – including under the car
  • Make sure your car is in good working condition. Broken or damaged cars will not be accepted
  • Check recall status. Cars with active recalls of any kind will not be accepted
  • Written permission for leased cars or cars with a lien, on company letterhead
  • Have proof of ownership, including registration, in your possession
  • Have proof of insurance
  • Complete set of keys, not just the valet key. Keep a second set with you
  • Turn off anti-theft or alarms
  • Keep the gas tank no more than 1/4 full
  • Ensure that anti-freeze capable of handling temperatures of -20ºF

At the VPC, be ready to show:

  • Official military orders, including amendments
  • Proof of registration, ownership and insurance
  • Government issued ID
  • Destination address and/or email address where you can be reached for pickup notification
  • Complete set of keys for all/any locks on the vehicle, not a valet set. Keep a duplicate set with you
  • Documentation verifying any qualifications required by your host nation; check the PPCIG for specifics

Before your car is accepted, the VPC agent will conduct an inspection of your car. This will be when your car is either accepted or denied for shipment.

If you are not dropping off or picking up your POV, make sure the person acting on your behalf has a Power of Attorney (POA). You can generally have these documents created at your base legal office. There are also options to DIY your own form and have it notarized.

You can find detailed checklists for prepping your vehicle and the entire VPC process in the JTR (starting on page 9 of the POV regulations) and at PCSMyPOV.

Once everything is done, you’ll receive official documentation from the VPC agent. Keep this on you! You’ll need it to pick up your vehicle on the other side.

Picking Up Your POV on the Other Side

You made it to your final destination…and your vehicle has arrived. It’s ready to be reunited with you ASAP!

Upon your car’s arrival, you will receive a notification at your physical or email address. You should have shared a reliable address with your VPC agent at drop off.

From there, you can make an appointment. Use PCSMyPOV to schedule a time and day that works for you.

Bring These Items to Pick-Up Your Car:

  • Government issued ID
  • Proof of ownership
  • Vehicle inspection from from VPC drop off
  • Complete set of keys

If you or your spouse will not be picking up the car, make sure that you have a POA for the person who is acting on your behalf. At the VPC, you’ll go over your car together with the agent. You’ll both confirm condition of the vehicle and note any changes from the initial inspection prior to departure. If everything checks out, you’ll finish up paperwork and be able to drive away!

It’s super important that you take care of insurance and registration of your vehicle prior to picking it up at your destination. Every host nation has different requirements for insurance, import laws and taxes to be paid. You’ll need to check with your local travel office.

You should also know that VPCs are possibly not co-located with your military duty station. There may be travel to and/or from the VPC required. This transportation is on you to figure out.

Confused? Hopefully not anymore! However, the process is complicated and slightly different for every single OCONUS location.

Never fear, there is a resource at your fingertips to help!

Everything you need to know about moving your vehicle to or from an OCONUS location is outlined in the JTR, specifically the POV regulations. This will be your guide throughout the whole process. When in doubt, refer to the JTR.

Read more…

Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey. You can find Meg on Facebook. Meg is also available as a freelance writer and personal education advocate!


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