You’ve received orders about a new Permanent Change of Station (PCS). You’re excited about the opportunity to see new places and move forward in your military career. But you also need to handle the move. That’s a stressful experience for anybody.
You may already have plans in place to move your family and household goods to your new location. There’s just your privately owned vehicle (POV) left to consider. You want to bring it with you. But you don’t want to drive it to your new PCS. And if you’re shipping out overseas, you physically can’t drive it yourself.
That’s where secure car transport comes in.
Car shipping services specialize in getting your POV from Point A to Point B. But before you choose a shipping company, you need to ensure they ship your vehicle in a safe way. Auto transport companies vary in quality, so use these tips to find safe shipping services for your POV.
Tip No. 1 – Understand the Difference Between Open and Enclosed Transport
Most military car shipping companies offer you a choice between open and enclosed transport. Each has pros and cons, particularly when it comes to vehicle safety.
What Is Open Transport?
Open transport involves shipping your vehicle on a trailer without any sort of exterior covering. Shipping companies commonly use this form of transport when shipping several vehicles in a multicar trailer. It’s the most cost-effective option because open transport requires less equipment and allows carriers to ship multiple cars at once.
But is it safe to ship a car using open transport?
While the carrier takes precautions to ensure your vehicle is properly secured during shipping, the open nature of this option means your POV is exposed to the elements. That may not be a problem if the weather is perfect. But if it rains, snows, or hails, your vehicle may get damaged during the journey.
What Is Enclosed Transport?
Enclosed transport involves shipping your vehicle in an enclosed trailer. It’s the more expensive option because enclosed trailers have limited space. At most, they can store three vehicles for shipping. But many enclosed trailers are suitable for a single vehicle only.
This service is far safer than open transport. With four walls and a ceiling, the elements won’t be able to touch your POV. Plus, the vehicle is protected against debris kicked up off the road, in addition to benefitting from some minor impact protection.
Both open and enclosed services can offer safe auto transport. Your choice depends on your budget and how much you value your vehicle’s bodywork. If you’re not worried about the risk of scuffs and dents, open transport may be the best choice. But if you want to keep your POV in pristine condition, enclosed transport is the safer option.
Tip No. 2 – Remove All Items Before Shipping
There are two reasons to remove all loose items from your POV before shipping:
- Theft prevention
- Damage prevention
Most secure car transport services only accept liability for the vehicle itself in their insurance. You’re not typically covered for the loss of any personal items during shipping. If you’re using your POV allowance to benefit from free military shipping, you also need to remove personal items as per the regulations. Simply put, if it’s something that you don’t want to lose, it shouldn’t be in your vehicle when it’s shipped.
In terms of damage prevention, loose items can cause dings, dents, and scratches to your vehicle’s interior. Some may even crack or smash windows. Your vehicle will likely experience shocks and jolts during shipping, which can lead to loose items flying around. Remove or tie down anything that could cause damage.
Tip No. 3 – Check the Shipping Company’s Insurance
Safe shipping services always have insurance to cover any damage to your vehicle during transit. Avoid any company that doesn’t have carrier insurance. You’ll end up saddled with the cost of fixing your POV if an uninsured company damages the vehicle.
Request a Certificate of Insurance from the carrier. If it can’t (or won’t) provide one, that’s a red flag in terms of safety. Good carriers are keen to advertise their insurance coverage because they know it demonstrates they take their work seriously.
Of course, you have the option of taking out personal insurance for the shipping process. You generally don’t need to do this as long as your carrier has appropriate coverage. However, you may do so if the carrier’s coverage doesn’t cover the full value of your vehicle.
Tip No. 4 – Check for MC and USDOT Numbers
All auto transport companies receive a Motor Carrier (MC) number. This allows them to transport cargo across state lines, meaning the presence of an MC number is essential. If your carrier can’t provide this number, it can’t offer safe auto transport. In fact, the carrier will be transporting your vehicle illegally if it crosses state lines.
Furthermore, any company that hauls any sort of cargo across state lines needs to have a USDOT number. This number indicates the carrier is registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Safe shipping services can provide both of these numbers. You can check them using the FMCSA’s Company Snapshot service. Don’t trust any carrier with your POV if they don’t show up on the Company Snapshot service for the MC and USDOT numbers they provide.
Tip No. 5 – Wash Your Vehicle and Document Its Condition
Safe auto transport isn’t only about finding a shipping company that takes care of your vehicle. You also need to protect yourself in cases where your POV gets damaged during transit.
The best way to do this is to wash your vehicle from top to bottom before shipping. When the vehicle is clean, take timestamped photographs of the exterior and interior from every possible angle. As you do so, document any existing marks or damage. Place your photos and documentation in a binder that you can bring with you when it’s time to pick your vehicle up.
This documentation allows you to quickly highlight any damage to your vehicle that wasn’t there before you shipped it. As such, it’s a vital source of evidence if you need to claim against your carrier. Most safe shipping services carry out an inspection of your vehicle before loading it up. Still, it’s always a good idea to have your own evidence if you have to raise a dispute.
Tip No. 6 – Check the Equipment
Equipment is crucial for safe auto transport. Your shipping company should be able to walk you through its process for storing your vehicle while it’s in transit. This will include how it loads your vehicle and the bindings used to secure it in place.
Straps are essential.
Check the company’s straps to ensure there are no signs of fraying, tears, or similar damage. A broken strap makes your vehicle less secure, which increases the chances of it shifting during transit. It’s also worth checking that the carrier uses appropriate wheel chocks to secure your vehicle.
Tip No. 7 – Research Is Your Friend
A lot of companies claim to offer safe shipping services for military POVs. If you limit your research to the company’s website, you’ll only see that company’s sales pitch. You won’t see independent feedback from people who’ve used the carrier’s services.
You need to find reviews for that type of feedback.
Check social media and the company’s Google Business page for reviews. If you see star ratings, look for an average of at least 4.5 out of 5. Read any in-depth reviews you find. These are more likely to go into detail about the experience of working with the shipping company. You’re specifically looking for any issues related to vehicle damage, poor customer service, and a lack of tracking or communication.
Reviews are vital. They give you information from people in the same position you’re in. If the reviews line up with what the shipper claims on its website, you’ve likely found a safe auto transportcompany.
Tip No. 8 – Always Check the Contract
You’ll sign a contract with the shipping company you use.
Read that contract carefully before signing. Learn as much as you can about the company’s policies and procedures from this document. The contract may also contain information about additional fees you’re expected to pay beyond the initial quote. For example, some carriers charge fees for toll booths and similar costs whereas others incorporate those costs into their quotes. Reading the contract allows you to see what you’re getting from the service.
Finally, don’t work with any POV transport service that doesn’t use contracts. A lack of written evidence of your agreement means you don’t have legal recourse if something goes wrong with the shipment.
Tip No. 9 – Consider Last-Minute Car Transport
Last-minute car transport is a bit of a misnomer. The term conjures images of leaving your shipping until the last minute. But the term actually refers to expedited shipping.
Expedited shipping can offer more secure car transport. The service allows you to set a guaranteed pick-up date, which is often essential for military personnel who want access to their POV as soon as they arrive at their PCS. Last-minute services also require less documentation than standard shipping, which saves time.
If you choose expedited service, confirm that your shipping company uses tracking software. You want to be able to see where your vehicle is at all times so you can confirm that it’s en route.
Tip No. 10 – Ask About GPS Tracking
Speaking of tracking services, GP tracking is a must for safe auto transport.
GPS allows you to see where your vehicle is at all times. Not only does this provide peace of mind, but it also means you can keep tabs on your shipping company. With GPS, you can see if the carrier has gone off-route, which allows you to raise queries about the route with your shipping company. Without GPS tracking, you’re forced to rely solely on any updates the carrier provides.
Tip No. 11 – Pay Using a Credit Card
Be wary of any company that doesn’t allow you to pay using a credit card.
You can dispute charges on a credit card, which protects you from shipping companies that try to levy charges that you haven’t agreed to. You’re also more likely to get refunded if you pay by credit card as most providers offer payment protection for consumers.
Additionally, accepting credit cards shows that your carrier qualifies for a merchant bank account, which adds to their legitimacy. Avoid any carrier that only accepts cash or online payments. You won’t have any recourse if something goes wrong with the service.
Tip No. 12 – Experience Matters
Military POVs are subject to inspections before and after shipping. That’s especially the case when shipping a vehicle to or from an area outside the contiguous United States (OCONUS). In these cases, the carrier needs to know how to transport your vehicle safely while providing advice on any preparations you need to make so the vehicle passes through customs safely.
Experience matters here.
A standard vehicle shipping company may not understand the specific issues that you have to deal with when shipping a military POV. Though these companies may still offer secure car transport, they may not know enough about inspection procedures to make the shipping process as smooth as possible.
Only work with carriers that have experience in shipping POVs for military personnel.
Stay Safe and Secure
Shipping a POV can be a stressful process when combined with all of the work you’re putting into a move to a new PCS. You need to find a safe auto transport service that ships your vehicle properly and takes as much of the administrative burden off your shoulders as possible.
Military Car Shipping can help you.
We understand that members of the military often have to move with very little notice. That’s why we offer comprehensive and safe shipping services designed to eliminate the stress of organizing the transport of your POV to your PCS. Our team has over 30 years of experience in shipping vehicles on behalf of military personnel, which means you can trust us to provide a secure and safe auto transport service.
If you’d like to discuss our services or need a free quote for military POV shipping, call our team at 888-230-9894.