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How To Ship A Car When You're in the Military

Published by Joe Webster.

How To Ship A Car When You're in the Military

Shipping your car tends to be a complicated task. Given how valuable your car is, it's not something you should take lightly. But if you're in the military, take comfort in knowing that active service members who have received permanent change of station (PCS) orders are allowed to ship their privately owned vehicle (POV) at no personal cost. Still, the entire process can be confusing to many, especially in terms of eligibility and items that can be stored in the vehicle. Below is a step-by-step guide that helps make everything easier.


Confirm Your Eligibility

Confirm Your Eligibility

You must first be able to prove that you meet the requirements for having your car shipped as a service member. Remember that shipping a privately owned vehicle (POV) is only granted to those who have been given orders of a permanent change of station, either to or from locations overseas, as well members who've had the homeport of their assigned vessel changed. Being eligible here means you are officially one of the following:

  • An active member of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • A DoD civilian with the appropriate orders
  • An authorized retiree


Check That Your Car Meets Required Specifications

The U.S Government will only pay for one POV, which is either your own vehicle or leased by you for a dependent for personal use only. This car must be a wheeled self-propelled motor vehicle. Moreover, it needs to have at least six inches of clearance space from the ground if it was modified to be a 'lowrider' vehicle. This is to minimize the chance of any damage being done as it's loaded and unloaded and from the carrier. It also should not have a lift kit greater than 3 inches in height.

As for weight considerations, a POV can weigh up to 20 measurement tons (given a single measurement ton is the equivalent of 40 cubic feet). As a guide, use the formula of Length (L) x Width (W) x Height (H) = Cubic Feet, dividing the total value by 40.


Determine The Estimated Time For Shipping

Determine The Estimated Time For Shipping

When it comes to military personnel having their vehicle shipped, the timetable for shipping is generally split into two groups: (1) Army/Air Force members and (2) Navy/Marine Corps members. If you're in the Army, know that your car will be eligible for shipping within a 90-day timeframe from the moment you depart for the tour overseas, provided the assignment is for a year or longer. If the tour of duty is for under a year, it needs to be shipped within 30 days.

If you're part of the Navy, your car is eligible for shipping if you have a minimum of 12 months left on your time of service at the overseas duty station, starting from the time in which it was transferred to the loading port. Nevertheless, this is subject to exemptions if you can prove that the vehicle allows you to perform your duties in the Navy, which a commanding officer will assess.


Have All Documentation Ready

The following documents and papers are essential to have prepared for shipping to be as smooth and hassle-free as possible.

  • Proof of entitlement: One valid copy of your official military orders and amendments
  • Proof of identity: One form of government or state-issued identification (ideally your passport), which must be presented when dropping off and picking up your car 
  • Proof of ownership: A legible copy of either your vehicle registration (vehicle must be under the service member's name) and a lien-holder authorization letter, or your title and registration (must be original certificates, not photocopies)
  • Consignee Form: Provided by the shipping company, this form requires your name, address, contact number, information about your car and its estimated value, and details on the person assigned to pick it up at the end destination
  • Shipper Export Declaration: Required by the U.S. Census Bureau when shipped items are collectively valued at higher than $2,500
  • Declaration of Dangerous Goods: Required by many European countries, this declaration outlines potentially dangerous items (e.g., the battery of your car) 
  • Further documentation is required for the following:
    • Lien-holder authorization letter (if your car has a lien and is being shipped outside of the country of origin)
    • Notarized creditor statement (if your car is leased, this document proves that the creditor or lessor of your vehicle knows it is being shipped overseas)
    • Notarized power of attorney (if someone other than the service member is in charge of shipping the vehicle)
    • Other details such as a valid email address, emergency contact information, and a valid destination address (note: APO or P.O. Box addresses are not acceptable for U.S. imports; the address must be valid and able to accept mail addressed to you, and it must include the street name and number, city, and postal code).


Know Which Items Are Allowed Or Prohibited For Shipping

To prevent any delays when shipping (or potentially, removal fees on your side), it's important to follow this and avoid bending the rules in order to accommodate certain items. Basically, the rule is that anything considered either a household item or items for outdoor activities like camping can NOT be shipped with your vehicle. Examples of these are T.V. sets, DVD or Blu-ray players (unless factory sealed), liquids that can leave spills or stains (e.g., antifreeze), flammable substances or oils, and any accessory inside the vehicle that isn't installed in it permanently.

Items you can ship together with your car include the following:

  • Less than $200 worth of tools
  • Luggage racks and supports
  • First-aid kit
  • Children's accessories (e.g., strollers, car seats, carriages)
  • Audio equipment that is placed in the vehicle permanently
  • Items for car repair and maintenance (e.g., car jacks, tire chains, tire cables, non-flammable inflators, car jacks, fire extinguishers)
  • A spare tire and two snow tires, provided the wheels are mounted or unmounted
  • Items that can be packed into the carton supplied by the Vehicle Processing Center (VPC)


Clean Out Your Car Prior To Shipping

Clean Out Your Car Prior To Shipping

Before turning in your vehicle, take out all personal items from the trunk, compartments, seat pockets, and areas both under and in between the car seats. Also, items or gadgets that aren't permanently installed must be removed altogether, including navigation equipment, air fresheners, liquids or pressurized cans, citizen band radios, and, most importantly, all combustible or hazardous substances. With all items removed from the inside, have the trunk and your vehicle's interior vacuumed thoroughly. If you decide to have it washed and shampooed, ensure this is done at least two weeks before shipping, as this allows the car to fully dry before it's brought over. 


Ensure Your Car Is Safe For Shipping

Safety is paramount when it comes to your vehicle, even when no one is behind the wheel. Given the complicated nature of car shipment, it's best to keep your vehicle in a safe operating condition before handing it over to the shipper. Check that its parking brake is functioning perfectly well. Ensure there are no leaks whatsoever. Inspect the windshield closely for any significant cracks. And finally, note that the gas tank should be only 1/4 full or less in order to be shipped safely, as gasoline is heavy.


Have Your Car Turned Over For Shipping

The shipping company will be in regular contact with you regarding the actual day for shipping, so keep checking your emails and messages. And when the day arrives, be ready to turn over your vehicle with the complete set of keys. That includes the key for ignition, door and trunk keys, wheel lock, and gas cap key.


Track The Progress Of Shipment

Once your car is shipped off, track its progress using the International Auto Logistics site, where all you need is to input your surname or confirmation number and the Order Number. As your car is transported, you'll be contacted by the destination vehicle processing center in these stages:

  1. When there is a scheduled arrival for the vehicle (typically three days before arrival)
  2. When the vehicle has arrived at the location
  3. When the vehicle is available for you to pick up (at which time an appointment isn't necessary)

If your car is being stored, know that you will have to fill out a storage removal request form before you can arrange to have your vehicle released and transferred to a Vehicle Processing Center (VPC), where you'll pick it up. You must allow for a maximum of 21 days for delivering your car to a VPC. It might take longer if international transportation is required.


Collect Your Car When It's Ready

Collect Your Car When It's Ready

The day has finally arrived. Before heading to the VPC, ensure the following documents are on hand.

  • Proof of identity: One form of government or state-issued identification (ideally your passport), which must be presented when dropping off and picking up your car 
  • Inspection form
  • Notarized power of attorney or letter of authorization: This is required if you won't be able to pick up your vehicle in person, and you may empower a friend or relative to act as an agent on your behalf

To accept electronic payment for this, ensure you have your bank details available: the name of your bank, ABA/SWIFT number, BIC/routing number, your account name, and number. You will be asked to sign in and provide all of the aforementioned documents to a customer rep at the center. Once everything is verified, you and the rep can spot-check your car to look for any damages that might've resulted from the shipping or transportation process. Though unlikely, if some vehicular damage did occur, onsite claims personnel have the necessary technology to settle your respective claim on the spot.

Congratulations – you have successfully picked up your car after shipping.

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Joe Webster always knew the auto transport industry would be a great career option. And with decades of experience, Joe is now an established consultant for A1 Auto Transport.

Joe was born in Santa Cruz, California. During high school, Joe worked as a mechanic; a job continued to work part-time during his bachelor's degree.

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus Drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd,
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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