Some military members that need to transport their cars to their new military stations can do so free of charge. In fact, the government normally pays for the shipment of a single privately owned vehicle (POV) if the permanent change of station is located overseas.
If you’re about to get relocated to a new duty station and are questioning whether the military will ship your car for free, you’ve come to the right place. This article covers the details you should know. The information provided below can help you understand whether you fulfill all the requirements for free shipping or not.
First Things First – Mastering the Acronyms
It’s no secret that military vocabulary is packed with acronyms, and so is the shipment related to it. So before we dive deeper into explaining the procedure for free car shipments within the military, it’s important to introduce commonly used acronyms around this system. You should be aware of the most important ones, like POV (privately owned vehicle), TO (transportation office), CONUS (continental United States), and OCONUS (outside the continental United States).
Military Acronym List
- PCS – Permanent Change of Station
- PDS – Permanent Duty Station
- POV – Privately Owned Vehicle
- TO – Transportation Office
- CONUS – Continental United States
- OCONUS – Outside Continental United States
- DoD – Department of Defense
Now that we’ve gotten the terminology out of the way, let’s move straight to finding the answer: does the military ship your car for free?
Who Is Eligible for Free Car Shipping?
You may be wondering, will the military ship my car? As a uniformed service member or a DoD civilian employee, you are entitled to get your POV shipped when you get a permanent change of station order.
However, there are certain criteria you have to meet.
- You’re a member of the uniformed service and:
- you have received a PCS from, to, or between OCONUS PDS
- there was an authorized change in the ship’s home port
- other specific conditions regarding CONUS-to-CONUS are met in regards to POV transportation
- You’re employed with DoD and:
- the government has transferred you to a new location
- you are newly appointed
- you received your first PDS as a student trainee
For retirement or separation to or from an OCONUS location with authorized POV transportation, there’s a one-year limit to ship the POV from the retirement or separation with severance pay date. Alternately, the limit is 180 days from the separation date. If you request the retirement or separation process, you’ll have to pay the customs fees of your host government, which are usually very high. In this case, you’re best off getting in touch with the local Personal Property Processing Office (PPPO) for more details.
Note that there are several restrictions when it comes to eligibility for POV shipment.
- The government can only ship one POV that’s owned or leased by you and that’s meant for personal use.
- For free transportation, the vehicle shouldn’t exceed 20 measurement tons (MTON). You can calculate your car’s MTON by following this formula.
- (L x W x H / 178 / 40); Here, you multiply the length, width, and height of your ride in inches and divide it by 178 to get its cubic feet. Then, you divide that by 40 to get the MTON. The expense for shipping things heavier than 20 MTONs is collected in accordance with Component publications. Note that if you are a service member married to another service member, it’s possible to combine the weight (20+20 MTON) for transporting a large POV for free instead of shipping two POVs if the transfer includes both partners.
- Members that wish to make their own arrangements for shipping an extra POV commercially should get in touch with their PPSO/TO for information on restrictions.
- There needs to be a document proving ownership of the POV for any shipment from, to, or between the US, its territories, and other countries. This can include a vehicle title carrying the entitlement holder’s name or a lienholder letter with the entitlement holder’s name.
- Some countries may have unique document requirements. You can check them on pages 4 and 5 on this document.
Military POV Shipping: Transportation Methods
When it comes to transportation methods, you can choose to use government transportation or organize it personally. In the first scenario, the transport is organized by the government, and they determine the transportation mode. Note that air transportation of POVs isn’t available at this point.
You can organize the transportation personally if you so desire. You can accept the government’s offer to ship your vehicle for free but find your own transportation company. If so, you can get reimbursed for the costs. If you arrange POV transportation personally, you’re solely responsible for potential issues. This includes the Status of Forces Agreement, tariffs, import and export processes, customs, and more.
To make things easier, you can organize the shipment with an auto relocation company of your choice. Most of these businesses provide both continental and overseas shipping services. They also offer discounts for military members.
The important advice here is to take your time when researching these companies. The best way to do so is through the Better Business Bureau rating system or through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration company standings. Additionally, online reviews or word of mouth can be of help. For example, Military Car Shipping is one of the few reliable companies that offers the best deals for military members.
POV Shipping Time
You may also wonder when the right time is to ship your POV at the government’s expense. The limit times are different for different service members and are as follows.
- Air Force members
- You can ship your car for free if you deliver it to the port within 90 days after departure for a tour overseas that lasts for more than a year. Alternately, you can ship your POV within 30 days after departing for duty overseas for less than one year.
- For OCONUS tours that last more than one year: If port delivery is more than 90 days late, or there’s less than a year left of the tour, POV shipment is possible with OCONUS Commander’s approval.
- For Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard members
- You can ship a POV when there’s at least a year remaining for you to serve at your current OCONUS station at the time of vehicle delivery to the port. All exceptions from this rule need Secretarial Process’s approval.
Which POVs You Can Ship for Free
The government considers a POV any motor vehicle in your possession (or under a long-term lease) or in possession of your dependent that serves as personal transportation and:
- is self-propelled
- has the license plates for public highway traveling
- can carry passengers and household goods
- has four or more wheels
Additionally, you can ship a moped or motorcycle if you haven’t already shipped a vehicle with four or more wheels under the same order.
If your vehicle is under a lease, you need to have written approval from your leasing company that your POV can be transported to your new PDS. You still need to respect all requirements imposed by your finance or leasing company agreement.
Also, note that trailers, campers, mobile homes, or recreational vehicles for commercial use aren’t considered POVs.
Items Allowed on Board
When shipping your vehicle at the government’s expense, you’re allowed to keep the following items inside.
- POV tools less than $200 in value
- Tire chains, tire inflators (nonflammable), jumper cables, first aid kits, trouble lights, jacks, and similar items
- A spare tire and two mounted or un-mounted snow tires with wheels
- Strollers, children’s car seats, or portable cribs
- Luggage support
- Bottle warmers, thermos bottles, cushions
- Audio and video equipment and speakers (if bolted down or fixed as a POV part)
- Pellets, catalytic converters, oxygen sensors
Make sure not to include any of the following items inside your vehicle before turning it in to the shipping company.
- All video or audio equipment that isn’t permanently set up
- Camping equipment or household items
- Hazardous substances
- Pressurized cans
- Citizens band radios, unless authorized
- Spare POV parts and consumables
All rules mentioned above are stated in the Transportation Command’s Defense Transportation Regulation K3 Attachment. They are meant to help service members ship their vehicles with the military and make the procedure faster and more straightforward. If you fail to comply with any of the requirements above, your POV may not meet basic shipment standards, and you can incur additional expenses or port changes.
Here are some extra tips to make sure the car shipment process runs as smoothly as possible.
Vehicle Turn-In Tips
- Make sure there are no unresolved recall notices for your vehicle. You can check the status of your vehicle by visiting this link.
- Make sure you have all your orders, amendments, and modifications in place. Also, include a power of attorney or authorization letter if you’re turning in a vehicle on behalf of someone else.
- Get a marriage certificate copy if your spouse will turn the POV in for you.
- Check that you have enough money to cover unexpected expenses or delays.
- If need be, get your leasing company’s written approval.
- Carry with you your photo identification issued by the state or government.
- Make sure your POV doesn’t have more than 1/4 tank of fuel.
- Have with you the proof of ownership and vehicle registration.
- Bring all keys, including those for the gas cap and wheel locks. Keep duplicates with you.
- Turn off or disconnect anti-theft devices before turning the vehicle in.
- Bring the POA or authorization letter that designates another person to act on your behalf.
For more tips, visit Page 10 of Transportation Command’s document on shipping your POV.
Vehicle Destination Pickup Tips
- Your transportation company will notify you when the vehicle is ready for pickup. It’s your responsibility to arrange the pickup procedure within 45 days.
- Include the following documents when you or the person you assigned for the role pick up the vehicle.
- Proper identification (driver’s license, military ID, etc.)
- DD Form 788 copy or a VPC-issued equivalent
- All keys
- POA or authorization letter if someone else picks up the car for you
- Valid street address in the U.S. (for OCONUS to CONUS shipments)
- To prevent damage or loss, do the following when picking up your vehicle.
- Go over the interior and exterior to look for damage.
- Make sure all items you left inside before the shipment are still inside.
- If there’s damage or loss, list all instances on your DD Form 788 or shipping document to get reimbursed for the damage.
Can the Military Ship More Than One Vehicle for Free?
The Department of Defense states that the government can cover the shipping costs for one POV on PCS orders. The transferring service member is in charge of the second (or any additional) vehicle shipment costs.
Can the Military Ship a Motorcycle for Free?
If you wish to ship a motorcycle or a moped to your next military station, you can do so for free. The government can pay for the shipment of one such vehicle if you didn’t previously sign up for shipping a four-wheeled vehicle.
Can I Also Transfer Personal Items for Free?
Given that shipping companies don’t insure items on board during transport, it’s best not to include any personal items. However, you’re allowed to pack basic vehicle tools, two snow tires with wheels, a spare tire, and any equipment permanently attached to the vehicle. Carrying these items comes at no additional charge.
How Does Military POV PCS Shipping Work?
Military members assigned to new duty stations are entitled to military PCS vehicle shipping. The government can cover the expense of one privately owned vehicle (POV), per the Department of Defense.
Can I Organize the Vehicle Shipment Myself for Free?
Service members entitled to free POV shipment by the government are free to choose their preferred transportation method. This includes organizing the procedure by yourself and getting reimbursed for the expenses. However, you may be responsible for additional charges, depending on your final destination or vehicle type.
Ship My Vehicle: Military Rules Say Yes
Military POV Shipping is one of the many benefits you get to experience as a service member. If you get relocated to a new duty station, you may even be eligible for a free POV shipment. Whether you leave it all to the government or decide to find your own transportation company, you can still benefit from this great opportunity.
Hopefully, we provided enough details for you to understand the process behind shipping a car to your relocation station for free. Remember that your best friend in this regard is still your local Transportation Office. They will have the most current information on requirements for shipping both within and outside of the country.
You can always reach out to Military Car Shipping for details on how to get your car shipped and get an instant free quote.