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Shipping Your Vehicle: Understanding the Rules of the Road


It’s that time of year again when many families are preparing for their next duty station. Among all of the necessary preparations that can be somewhat confusing is vehicle shipping. The regulations for shipping a vehicle are specific and aren’t always covered by Permanent Change of Station orders (PCS), so it’s important to understand how the rules apply to your unique situation.

Your family may be eligible for vehicle shipping in the following situations:

  • Your service member has been ordered to make a PCS to, from, or between OCONUS (Outside of Continental United States) Permanent Duty Stations.
  • A change in a ship’s home port is authorized.
  • Specific conditions are met dealing with a CONUS (Continental United States) PCS move, such as the rare circumstances when your service member (not the spouse) is unable to drive.

When PCSing between points within CONUS, vehicle shipping is generally not a covered expense. In some instances, you may decide to ship a vehicle on your own. For example, you may need to ship your teen’s vehicle or a hobby car. Selecting a carrier to trust with your precious cargo can be daunting. Here are some considerations to make the process easier:

  1. Choose a vehicle transporter. An internet search for “vehicle transport” will yield a ton of results.
    • Look for shipping companies that offer a user rating system or provide public feedback.
    • Choose companies with positive customer reviews.
    • Decide whether an open or closed transport truck is right for your vehicle.
    • Verify the carrier’s insurance coverage. Your personal insurance may not cover your vehicle while it is in transit.
  1. Door to door vs. terminal to terminal. You can choose to have your vehicle picked up at your home and delivered to your new address, i.e., door to door. If you choose this option, be mindful of your surroundings. Not all neighborhoods are conducive to door-to-door pickup due to clearance issues for the transport truck on residential streets. Another other option is to drop off your vehicle at a local transport facility and have it shipped to a transport facility at your new location, i.e., terminal to terminal. One major difference exists between door-to-door and terminal-to-terminal options: time. When you deliver and pick up your vehicle at a terminal, you control the drop-off and pickup time within the scheduled transport window. When you arrange a door-to-door transport, arrangements are coordinated with the transporter and may not be as flexible. Choose the option that works best for your family.
  1. Choose the bid and price that’s right for you. Many shipping companies will auction your shipment to eligible transporters. Some transporters will post their rates when you enter your vehicle information, or you may choose to post a rate you are willing to pay for shipping. If you choose to name your price, you are typically automatically assigned to the first qualified transporter who accepts your bid during the auction window. Base your bid on the reasonable average rates listed on the website, and be sure to verify that the transporter you choose is registered and in good standing with the Department of Transportation using the SAFER system before payment.
  1. Prepare for transport and taking delivery. Move.mil provides a comprehensive guide to shipping your vehicle that can serve as an excellent resource. It covers everything from preparing your vehicle for transport to how to properly take delivery of your vehicle at your new duty station, even when you choose to ship a vehicle at your expense.

If you’re preparing to PCS and are considering shipping a vehicle, it’s important to understand the regulations and to choose your transporter wisely. For questions regarding whether your vehicle qualifies for vehicle shipping coverage, contact your installation’s Transportation Management Office. For more information on the regulations regarding vehicle shipping, visit http://www.move.mil/dod/before_you_begin/privately_owned_vehicles.cfm.

Cassie Grainger
Written By Cassie Grainger
Marine Corps Spouse

Cassie has been a Marine Corps spouse for more than 20 years. She is also a family readiness volunteer and moonlights as a writer and editor.

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