Military car shipping: The whole picture
Know your military acronyms
Military life is full of acronyms. Service members need to be familiar with many of them to transport a car for military assignment. Some of the most common acronyms include privately owned vehicle (POV), transportation office (TO), continental United States (CONUS), and outside the continental United Statues (OCONUS).
Military auto shipping acronyms
|CONUS||Continental United States|
|OCONUS||Outside Continental United States|
|PCS||Permanent Change of Station|
|PDS||Permanent Duty Station|
|POV||Privately Owned Vehicle|
If it’s too expensive to ship your car overseas
When overseas military vehicle shipping costs more than you can afford, you may want to consider selling your vehicle instead.
1. Get your orders (and talk to your transportation office)
You must get your orders before making car shipping decisions. Active duty orders will determine what entitlements you qualify for and when you need to get started.
And as helpful as we hope this guide is, we also recommend you meet early and often with your TO counselors. They’re the ones who know the nitty-gritty details about your losing and gaining installations.
For example, if there’s a backlog at your new base, your vehicle may not arrive in time for you to report at your PDS. In that case, the TO may be able to help you access government funds that aren’t usually available for CONUS moves.
2. See if you qualify for POV entitlements
You want to take advantage of every dollar the federal government will put toward your PCS. While military personnel can usually ship one POV OCONUS at the government’s expense, you'll need a second vehicle to qualify for CONUS-CONUS funding.
Here's what you need to know about the CONUS-CONUS POV entitlement:
It applies only to HHG moves
The Joint Travel Regulations (JTR) places POV entitlement guidelines under a section entitled, “HHG Transportation Related to Categories of Travel.”1 In other words, DITY moves don’t apply.
There’s no money available for CONUS-CONUS moves if you have only one POV. That's a benefit reserved for only those transferring overseas.
There must be more than one driver in the family, and the TO will usually state that those two drivers must be married.
The only way to qualify for the CONUS-CONUS POV entitlement is to load everyone into your first car and ship the second vehicle at the same time. That might make for a long trip if you have a big family—but it puts money in your pocket.
You may submit per diem reimbursement requests for only those dependents moving due to your PCS. For example, entitlements don't cover your 18-year-old daughter staying behind at college. You can bring her along for some quality time and then fly her back once you arrive. But it's on your dime.
When the military says that all dependents must travel in the same car with the service member, it means all dependents. No one can fly separately and then apply for airfare reimbursement. Well, they can—and they do. But it's such a common scam that the TO will nix your request before you even get started. Everyone drives together, or the entitlement doesn’t apply.
Even if you meet all of these criteria, you should talk with your TO to ensure there’s available funding and that your specific situation qualifies.
Looking for armed forces discounts?
Are you planning your own Personally Procured Move (PPM)? Check out our list of the best moving companies with military discounts. You could save loads of cash on professional movers, rental trucks, and moving containers.
3. Find a military car shipping company
For those who qualify for government funding, the military will handle all of the logistics. For everyone else, not only are you responsible for the costs, but you also must find a military auto transport company on your own.
There are thousands of potential options, but you don’t need to start from scratch. We’ve researched things like cost, military vehicle shipping expertise, and customer satisfaction to identify the five best military auto transport companies.
Best military PCS vehicle shipping companies
Data as of 3/3/2022. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Average cost calculated by comparing open shipping costs for three vehicle sizes across nine distances of more than 600 miles.
What if your orders don’t include a POV entitlement?
Entitlements are sometimes accidentally left off your orders. Talk to your TO counselor if that happens. For OCONUS moves, POV entitlements can be worth thousands of dollars.
4. Use military vehicle transport tips
You can often save money and stress shipping your military vehicle by following a few tips. Whether you’re learning from others who made common errors or identifying shortcuts, these nuggets of advice can make your PCS go a lot smoother:
- Use your travel office—a lot. We agree with Move.mil: “Whether this is your first move or your 15th [PCS], take advantage of counseling.”2 Your TO counselor knows more than anyone (even us) about what’s going on behind the scenes. There’s no substitute for talking with your TO counselor.
- Talk to friends. Few people know the tricks of POV shipping more than your friends who have PCS’d before—especially if they’ve gone to the same military base. Ask what surprised them and what they wish they’d done differently.
- Expect delays. The most common complaint we’ve heard about car shipping is that vehicles often arrive late. It’s better to plan for delays than bank on timely delivery.
- Keep receipts. Don’t throw stuff away. Receipts, paperwork, and even company emails can come in handy if you need to file an insurance claim or check on the status of your vehicle.
- Apply for moving assistance grants. Just because the government won’t pay for your POV doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. You can apply for a $500 Move.org relocation package and put the money toward car shipping, truck rentals, or even professional movers.
- Take care of those vehicle recalls. Your motor vehicle can’t have any open recalls if the government pays for your POV shipment. So, now’s the time to take care of that outstanding factory recall for your faulty tail light or seatbelt if you’re PCSing OCONUS.
Check for recalls
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a free tool to see if your vehicle has any recalls. All you need is the 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) found on your windshield’s lower-left corner.