PCS to Germany: Shipping A Car (POV) Overseas (OCONUS) with the US Military

Ready to PCS to Germany? Learn about shipping a car overseas!

Now that you’ve started to PCS to Germany, the next step is shipping a car (POV) 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.

Table of Contents

Shipping a Car (POV) 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: 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.

Pro tip: Make sure your insurance company AND any warranties will cover you while stationed overseas (some will not support international coverage).

If you have a loan on your POV, make sure the lienholder (bank) will allow the vehicle to go overseas BEFORE scheduling your shipment.

Lastly, ask your insurance company about Marine Insurance (Mirascon has this policy). This will put your vehicle in a “shipping status” to help cover additional expenses/damage to your POV while in transit on a boat. In some cases, this may not be an international policy, but rather a stateside policy until your POV hits the port in Europe.

Driving in Germany is like driving in America, except better!

“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 width, by 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 your 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

Learn more about what you can and can NOT ship in the Defense Transportation Regulation Guide

Then they will conduct a 360 inspection of your car, making notes 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.

Shipping a 2nd POV

You’ve probably noticed the government will only cover the cost of one POV shipment.  So if you’re planning on bringing that 2nd POV, or you need to get your cars safely back to the US, then here’s my recommendation:

My friend Jabby owns the American Business Center in Ramstein Germany.

This is your one-stop-shop for all your POV Shipping needs when arriving or leaving Germany!

Jabby and his family have been in the business for a long time, his team is trustworthy, and I’ve found their company to be the most cost efficient way for you to send your POV.

So.. here’s how you do it.

Before shipping, take a look into POV and Marine insurance. You will need to be insured once your car goes through inspection and registration on base.

Some insurance agencies won’t cover you while being stationed in Germany, however Mirascon will!

Mirascon is one of the largest insurance agencies for military families overseas, and getting a free quote takes minutes.

Selling your POV

Get rid of “my baby?!” 🚗

Tough decision, I get it, but here’s some things to consider when it comes to selling your POV.

Most families have more than one vehicle, but only one can be shipped on the government’s dime

(Unless you’re a civilian, then all POV shipments are considered taxable income under the TCJA). 

If you’re making car payments on one (or both) of those vehicles and will NOT be finished making payments BEFORE you PCS back to the states, you might want to think about selling (at least) one of your vehicles. 

*Caveat: If you have a large family (4+) and you’re comfortable with your current mini van or SUV, hold on to it!  Large family POVs are tough to come by out here.

Shipping a POV can get expensive, so will selling your car be less stressful than shipping it?

Food for thought:

– How far is the closest VPC? You may have to travel there more than once before it “passes.”

– Is selling your car more cost effective than paying out of pocket for it to be shipped? What about that monthly car payment, do you really want to pay that while living in Europe?!? (pssst.. travel money).

– Do you really need that American sized truck? Roads are more narrow in Europe, parking is tight, and gas prices seem to only be getting worse.

– Wait time. Most people that ship their vehicle often have to wait weeks (sometimes longer) before their POV is ready for pick up.  It’s a stressful process that everyone goes through when first arriving.  In addition, rental cars are NOT reimbursable, and availability is limited, so reserve a rental in advance if you know you’re shipping.

– Did you know there’s a bunch of safe, reliable, used car options right outside the base(s)?  People are selling their cars left and right online, and there’s even a “lemon lot” of used cars to look at on base.  

But I’ve got an even better option for you…

Buying a Tax FREE New or Used Car

One of the many glorious benefits of living overseas with the US government is the ability to buy tax free POVs. And not only that, but you can secure a tax free new/used car BEFORE YOU ARRIVE!

This is the most ideal situation for you and your family.

Once you arrive, you and your kids will have a ton of errands to run, appointments to make, and you need to get to work!  No one wants to rely on others to get from point A to B.  

Used Cars:

“Used Car Guys” – This tip will relieve a ton stress for you! 

You’re gonna LOVE the Sweeney Brothers!  They’ve got offices right outside Ramstein (Kaiserslautern Military Community), Stuttgart, Spangdahlem Germany and Aviano Italy! 

However, they’ll accommodate you no matter where you’re stationed.  

Can you really trust a “Used Car Guy?” these days?- Get your FIRST LOOK 👀 here!

Some Fun Facts about Used Car Guys:

– They sell cars & TRUCKS!  Guaranteed to pass the mandatory German car inspection (learn more about this here) 
– You can buy, sell, or trade-in vehicles
– They have a guaranteed buy back program for EU spec vehicles (for the end of your tour)
– You can communicate with them 24/7 through WhatsApp on their website!

And… we’ve partnered up!  This is a company I’ve worked with, I trust, and I can personally vouch for to help you during this part of the PCS.  

Not sure where to start on purchasing a used car in Germany?  We made a video to help you with that.

Take a look at their inventory or contact them directly with your questions/concerns. 

Don’t forget to tell them “DTV” sent ya! 😉

New Cars:

There’s nothing cooler than receiving a brand new (tax free) car with a big red bow on top!

If you decide to sell your car to save yourself the headache of shipping, then my brand new POV recommendation is Bavarian Motor Cars!

These guys are the gold standard for military auto sales, and the official BMW military sales partner for U.S. service personnel stationed in NATO countries.

I’ve been working with this company from the very beginning.  Since 2014, they’ve sponsored all my events, they’ve put my friends in new cars, and they’ve become family for my wife and I.  

Here’s the deal, if you just want to start fresh with a new car for your family, you have to check out all the special offers they provide:

– Tax Free, military discounted offers (learn exactly how that works here)  
– Pre ordered, custom builds guaranteed to be ready before you even arrive
VIP delivery service (Free one night stay in a beautiful 4 star hotel, or get it delivered right to the base with that red bow 😉)
– Stateside trade ins, meaning they can trade in your old car while you’re still in the US
– Loaner car programs & much more!  

If this is something you’re interested in, I highly recommend checking their inventory or contacting one of their representatives with your questions. 

Tell them “DTV” sent you!

Bottom Line: If you decide to sell your car(s), you need to prepare for NOT having a car when you first arrive – especially if you’re not going with the new/used car route. 

Shipping a Motorcycle Overseas

Germany and the surrounding European countries are beautiful places to ride a motorcycle – especially in the alps!

Instead of going through the VPC, motorcycle shipments can be made through your Household Goods (HHG) shipment.

To make things easy for you, you’ll want to get your motorcycle license in the states BEFORE moving overseas. In Germany, “you can’t get a USAREUR motorcycle license unless you have a US motorcycle license prior to arrival.”

*Depending on your overseas location, rank, & branch of service, some requirements may differ

Requirements before arrival:

– Active duty personnel, dependents and U.S. civilians must have a motorcycle endorsement on their stateside license prior

Requirements after arrival:

– USAREUR driver’s license

– Attend 2hr USAREUR Motorcycle Orientation Course and pass written exam

– Initial Training: Complete Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Basic Rider Course (BRC) or
State-approved curriculum for motorcycle operator’s safety training. This is one-time requirement for
all active-duty military riders. BRC course completion certificates/cards do not expire.

– Intermediate Training: Based on the type Motorcycle(s) owned and operated, Soldiers will complete
either the MSF ERC/BRC-2, Military Sportbike Riders Course (MSRC), Advanced Riders Course (ARC),
or DoD Component defined curriculum within one year (12 months) after completing initial training

– Sustainment/Refresher Training: Complete at least every 5 years (ERC/BRC-2, MSRC, or ARC).

Contact your gaining unit vehicle registration office for more information.

Storing your POV

You also have the option to store your vehicle in the states before PCSing to Germany.  One of your overseas entitlements includes shipping or storing your Privately Owned Vehicle (POV).

Just like shipping your vehicle, storing your vehicle takes place at the closest VPC.  

If you decide to go with this option (or if you just want a family/friend to store your vehicle), I would check with your insurance company about lowering your monthly premium beforehand.  

Tracking your POV Shipment Overseas

Shipping (or flying over) your most precious household items is stressful.

So in order to alleviate some of that anxiety, I’ve come up with my “Top 3 Packing Tips,” to include how to track your POV, personal luggage, and overseas housing shipment.

Video: Track your vehicle with a bluetooth tracking device!

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

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!

Vehicle registration inside Building 301: the headquarters for all your POV needs at Grafenwoehr, Germany

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.

Get Our FREE Checklist!

Taking Your Car to Inspection

Your temporary registration and plates are only good for 30 days. In that time, your POV has to pass a German car inspection. As of 2022, you can make an appointment for (USAG Bavaria) 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.

A standard inventory of trunk items when you PCS to Germany

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!

I recently took my car through inspection. This is what you can expect…

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.

Start Exploring Local Bavaria

Congratulations – you’ve just earned your independence to explore the local area! Now you can take day trips to Nuremberg, Bamberg, Bayreuth, and even Pilsen for a beer bath.

Looking for easy day trips from base? Check out our local “Day Trips” guide!

To learn more about PCS prep, stay prepared with my Ultimate PCS Checklist, or subscribe to the channel for more local insights!

Shipping a car overseas will open up all kinds of travel possibilities when living as an American in Germany!


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