Getting PCS (Permanent Change of Station) orders outside of the continental United States (OCONUS) can be very exciting yet overwhelming. A part of your PCS moving checklist when going abroad may be what to do with your vehicle. You may wonder if it’s best to bring it with you and complete the steps needed to legalize your vehicle in Germany or sell it and obtain transportation once you arrive overseas?
Vehicle expenses are one of the largest cost categories your family should consider when preparing and budgeting for your move to Germany. While the military usually pays for your family to ship a single vehicle to Germany, there are smaller, hidden expenses related to owning and operating a vehicle overseas that you should consider before making a decision.
Selling Your Vehicle
The military will probably only pay for your family to ship one vehicle overseas. So, if you have more than one car, you may decide it is easier to just sell it. CarMax and Carvana are quick and easy options if you want a fair price and a quick sale.
Selling your car also allows for some extra cash to put towards your move. If you’re on a tight budget, this may be the best option for your OCONUS PCS. The military also provides assistance overseas if you are in need of a vehicle.
Buying a “Hoopty”
A “hoopty” is a well-loved, used car that a service member drives while stationed OCONUS. The car is lent to various military members during their PCS. As you can imagine, hoopties usually come with high mileage. They are German-specification vehicles that get cycled and recycled through the overseas military community.
Most installations have a Hoopty Lot where families put their vehicles up for sale, and many bases also have an MWR Hoopty Bid Lot. The MWR Hoopty Bid Lot is a great opportunity to bid on hoopties that have been donated to the MWR Auto Skills Center. The Auto Skills Center fixes the cars up and makes them available for bid to the U.S. I.D. Card Holders.
An example of a hoopty may be a late BMW model with 100,000+ miles and no bells or whistles for less than $2,000. While hoopties may not have heated seats or working air conditioners, they are low maintenance and inexpensive solutions to needing a car while stationed in Germany.
More Like This: Learn more about your OCONUS PCS Weight Allowance! This is important information to know before you begin planning and packing for your military move across seas.
Transporting Your Car Overseas
From prepping your car for the move to securing the right paperwork for registration, transporting your car overseas can be quite a chore! However, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about transporting a vehicle overseas. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to do and budget for taking your car abroad.
The vehicle that you’ll ship overseas must be completely empty and very clean when you deliver it to port. Unless you have the time and supplies to detail the vehicle yourself, you’ll want to budget for the expenses related to deep-cleaning the vehicle before you move.
You should also make sure that you’ve removed all personal effects from the vehicle. Even little things like phone chargers, chapstick, etc., need to be cleaned out. The only items they’ll ship inside the vehicle are those items that are directly useful in the case of an emergency, such as a spare tire, tire iron, first aid kit and more. To avoid any issues at the port, we recommend triple-checking your car before you leave.
Proof of Ownership
Make sure you carry your title or other proof of ownership paperwork in your PCS binder. You’ll need your proof of ownership for your vehicle when you deliver it to the port before they will be willing to transport your vehicle. If you forget it, you could incur unnecessary PCS expenses.
It’s wise to budget for any small repair work on your vehicle before leaving the U.S. This is because maintenance and work on U.S.-specific vehicles overseas is more expensive than the same work done stateside.
Common repairs include new brake pads, cracked windshields, car alignment and oil changes. It’s essential to budget for any repairs or normal maintenance now before you PCS, and it’ll save your family money down the line.
Getting Your Vehicle to Port
When your vehicle is ready to ship, you’ll need to deliver it to the nearest port. Your basic expenses for transporting the vehicle to port will be reimbursed by the military, but it’s essential to know that it is possible that you’ll incur additional, non-reimbursable expenses as well during your PCS.
When you get information from the military about your vehicle’s delivery to port, read the fine print and budget accordingly. Although the military does offer to pay for basic moving expenses, you may make some personal choices during the move that could tap into your wallet.
German Safety Kit & Safety Vest
German law currently requires all vehicles to carry a safety kit, including a warning triangle and a reflective safety vest, in the cabin of the car at all times. AAFES sells German safety kits and safety vests at gas stations. Your family will need at least one safety vest and one safety kit in each vehicle you drive in Germany.
Parking Time Card
Another small expense to account for in your vehicle budget is a parking time card. Many German parking spaces have posted maximum time limits. You place your parking time card in your dashboard so that it’s visible to the Polizei (police), stating what time you initially parked your vehicle in the spot.
German Vehicle Registration
Finally, each vehicle you own overseas needs to be registered in your base’s country. Registration costs can be as low as $40 per vehicle, and the entire process can be conveniently handled on base. Owning a vehicle in Germany is a big responsibility and, at times, an even bigger inconvenience.
Once you get settled in your German duty station, you’ll find that having transportation is a big perk for soldiers and spouses. Whether you transport your vehicle overseas or purchase a hoopty, having some type of transportation is essential in a country where not everything is within walking distance.
Your OCONUS PCS Resource
Moving overseas can be hectic, but knowing what to expect can alleviate much of the stress that comes with the unknown. Stay updated on PCS best practices with AHRN’s resources, and sign up to connect with vetted military housing options.