Now that you’ve started to PCS to Germany and arrived to USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr, the next step is shipping a car overseas. With your car, you can grocery shop, explore the nearby towns, travel comfortably in bad weather, and overall redeem your independence.
But prepare yourself: the first 60 days of waiting for your car (and getting your car) will be an emotional roller coaster (#armylife).
Shipping A Car Overseas
If you’re shipping a car overseas when you PCS to Germany, you will need to take it to a designated shipping point. We recommend setting aside half your day for this process.
The logistics company will inspect your car and all your paperwork. And part of that paperwork is proof of entitlement. Keep in mind that most financiers will not let you ship a car if you still have an outstanding loan or lease (even if you’re with the U.S. Army).
Pro tip: you cannot ship your car until you have an APO Box. And your APO Box is set up by your sponsor, so be sure to bug them about it!
First, you have to clean the inside and outside of your car. “How clean,” you ask? if there’s any mud or dirt on your shoes when you drive the car to the shipping point, that dirt will get on the floor of your car. And that dirt is unacceptable.
You also need to remove anything that isn’t supposed to be in your car. That includes cleaning supplies, GPS devices, audio equipment, and hazardous materials.
Then they will essentially conduct a 360 inspection of your car. They will make a note of any marks and scratches that can’t be claimed as damages when your POV arrives in Germany.
Once all the paperwork is in order, you receive a copy of the inspection forms. Similar to household goods, it can take anywhere between 30 to 90 days for your car to arrive at your new duty station. You can track your car on the PCS my POV website, or wait to receive an email notification.
Taking the Driving Test
Luckily, you don’t have to take a practical driving test when you PCS to Germany. As of 2019, you just have to pass the written exam!
You can study online before taking the test, or even take the exam through Joint Knowledge Online (JKO) if you have CAC access. If you pass the test, you have 60 days to turn your score into the Driving Test Station in Building 301.
Otherwise, you can sign up to take a course that will review the topics on the exam, and then take the exam immediately following the class. When you pass, you can take your results down the hallway to receive your USAREUR driver’s license!
Registering Your Car…Temporarily
Once your POV arrives at USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr, you’ll need to pick it up. There’s a good chance your battery will be dead. If that’s the case, there are auto shops outside of Grafenwoehr and Vilseck with reasonable prices.
You will receive a temporary car registration, as well as a fuel card and license plates. You can use the fuel card to pay for gas on and off post, but only at Esso gas stations within Germany as of 2019. The card gives you a discounted price on gas for a limited amount of gallons every month.
Taking Your Car to Inspection
Your temporary registration and plates are only good for 30 days. In that time, your POV has to pass inspection at Building 301. As of 2019, you can make an appointment for vehicle inspection online (CAC access required).
If you can’t make an appointment, you can also just show up to the vehicle inspection center and wait in line. Depending on when you PCS to Germany, the line can be very long. Inspections start at 7:15 a.m., but we recommend you arrive at least 30 minutes before that.
And set aside your whole morning for the process. If you’re lucky, three inspection bays will be open. But there’s no telling how long a vehicle inspection will take.
Pro tip: Be prepared to sit in your car while it’s turned off. As you’ll learn before your driver’s test, you can’t leave a car running for longer than a few minutes in Germany. So make sure your phone is fully charged and you’ve downloaded something to watch or listen to while you wait in line!
The vehicle inspectors look for a variety of things, such as headlight alignment, tire pressure, window tinting, horn sound, and emergency roadside gear. You can pick up the emergency gear (triangle, vests, first aid kits) at the PX or the Shoppette before going to your inspection.
If your car doesn’t pass, they’ll explain to you what needs to be fixed before you try again. Once your car passes, you can take the approved form into Building 301 and finish registering your car! And don’t forget to bring your car title, ID, USAREUR driver’s license, proof of insurance, shipping documents, and application for registration.
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Still have questions about shipping a car overseas when you PCS to Germany? Let us know in the comments!