Now that you’ve started to PCS to Germany, 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).
*Although we’re stationed at Grafenwoehr, this POV shipping guide is applicable to ALL bases in Germany and most OCONUS moves.
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 may not let you ship a car if you still have an outstanding loan or lease (even if you’re in the military), so give them a call and talk through your options – you’ll need to obtain a lease holder authorization letter that gives you permission to export the POV.
Pro tip: Before shipping a POV, you must provide an email address, emergency contact, and shipping/notification address to the Vehicle Processing Center (VPC). Which means, you may need to set up your APO box first! Your APO box is set up by your sponsor before you arrive, so be sure to bug them about it!
In order to prepare for the initial drop off, you’ll need to have:
- – Orders/Amendements
- – Government/State Issued ID or Military ID
- – Proof of Ownership
- – Front/back of title (if you own the vehicle)
- – Electronic title (if applicable)
- – Bill of Sale (if purchased less than 90 prior to turn in date)
- – Lease/lien-holder letter (if leased/financed)
- – Lease authorization letter
- – Current Vehicle Registration
- – Must be in the entitlement holder’s name (if POV is titled/registered under the name of entitlement holder and another party, a letter of authorization from the other party is required to ship the POV)
- – Power of Attorney/Letter of Authorization (if someone other than the service member or command sponsored spouse is shipping the vehicle)
- – Email Address
- – Destination Address
- – The address must be valid and able to accept mail addressed to you
- – For US imports, no APO or PO Box addresses are allowed
- – Notification Address
- – Emergency Contact
Once you have all the required paperwork, it’s time to clean the inside and outside of your POV.
“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.
At a minimum, you must:
- – Clean the exterior of the POV
- – Remove personal items from all compartments, trunk, doors, under and between the seats
- – Remove all accessories not permanently installed
- – To include: audio, video, navigational equipment, cargo carries, air fresheners, anything hanging on rearview mirror, liquids, pressurized cans, flammable products, and hazardous materials
- – VPC will not accept vehicles that are wet or damp in the interior
- – Have a quarter tank of gas or less in your POV
- – Turn in a complete set of keys
- – To include: ignition, door, trunk, gas cap, and wheel lock keys
- – Make sure POV is in safe operating condition and does NOT have an open recall notice
- – You can print documented proof from the safecar website on the status of recalls associated with your POV
- – Check that brakes (parking and emergency) are fully functional
- – Make sure POV has no leaks or major cracks in the windshield
- – POV’s being shipped to a freezing climate should be safeguarded with a non-alcoholic, permanent type anti-freeze
- – Make sure battery, fluids, mechanical, and fuel systems are also protected to at least -20°F
- – Ship only 1 POV at government expense
- – POV can NOT exceed 20 measurement tons (if your POV exceeds 20 MT, you may need to pay extra fees
- – Compact cars = 9 MT
- – Full size = 15 MT
- – You can verify all measurement calculations at the VPC prior to shipment
How to calculate vehicle dimensions at home:
1. Multiply your POV length, by (x) width, by (x) height all in inches
2. Divide by 1728 (this will give you a value in cubic feet)
3. Divide this number by 40. This will be your POV dimensions in measurement tons
Items you CAN ship in our POV:
- – Hand tools (not exceeding $200)
- – Jacks, tire irons, fire extinguishers, jumper cables
- – One spare tire or two snow tires
- – An infant seat or child car seat
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.
*Sometimes these government links don’t like to cooperate, if that happens, just copy and paste this link: https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/
Pro tip: Talk to your state DMV in advance about license plate requirements. Some states require you to turn in your license plates before you move to Germany (and they’ll charge you a daily fee until they get it). Let them know you’re registering the POV in Germany and provide them with orders.
Tip #2 in the video above will go over my advice for using a bluetooth tracking device to pin point the exact location of your vehicle as well as your luggage when PCSing to Germany.
The photo above is a screen shot of a recent “PCSer” who used an AirTag to track her:
🧳 Suitcase Emoji – Unaccompanied Baggage (UAB)
📦 Box Emoji – Household Goods (HHG)
🚙 Car Emoji – Vehicle (POV)
✈️ Plane Emoji – Personal Luggage (what you bring with you)
You can look into purchasing these bluetooth devices below:
AirTag for Apple devices
Smart Tag for Samsung devices
Tile for ALL devices
Pro tip: Ask your insurance company about Marine Insurance (USAA has this policy). This will put your vehicle in a “shipping status” to help cover additional expenses/damage to your POV while in transit. In some cases, this may not be an international policy, but rather a stateside policy until your POV hits the port in Europe.
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. Non CAC login can be found here. 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.
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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 2022, 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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