Skip to main content

Shipping a Car During PCS: Benefits of an Auto Transport Company

by Lizann Lightfoot - March 17th, 2023

For military families, shipping a car during PCS can be one of the major out-of-pocket costs for a PCS move. While the military will pay mileage reimbursement for one vehicle, they do not reimburse any expenses for a second car, which many families own. When moving overseas, the transport cost is only covered from specific U.S. ports, but there is no reimbursement if you need to drive or ship your vehicle from your current location to that port.

So what's the best way to transport a vehicle during a PCS move? While there are several ways to do-it-yourself or tow it behind a moving truck, those aren't always the safest methods during a move.

We asked our friends at ACI Transport for their tips to move a vehicle when you PCS. Here's what they can tell you about transporting a vehicle, and why you should consider paying for this service and peace of mind when you PCS.

Tell us about yourself and ACI:

ACI Transport has been a logistics broker since December 2015. We deal with finished vehicles and freight as well. We have moved 300,000 VINs so far. ACI stands for Adaptability, Communication, and Integrity, and we wanted to bring those qualities to the forefront. Aaron Freedman and Gary Horton started the company, and I came in a month later. 

I have a background in event logistics and used to work for hotels, but I came in to help the team with logistics, sales, and strategy. I’m our Chief Quality Officer to make improvements and consistent processes. 

Does ACI do domestic and international shipping?

We are a nationwide provider, and do cross-border moves from Canada and Mexico. We can help individuals get their vehicle to a port for international moves, and can help connect them with freight transport there. 

What should customers look for in an auto transport company?

First understand what you’re looking to achieve. If you just want to move a vehicle from Point A to Point B, you can do that inexpensively, but you’ll need to manage each person individually. 

When shipping a vehicle, you should be looking for good service first. Make sure you are on websites that will not sell your data to outside companies. There shouldn’t be hidden fees added on after your quote. And the company should be properly insured to cover your vehicle during transport. Often, if you go with the cheapest option, you get what you pay for. 

How soon do I need to book auto transport once I have PCS orders?

Short orders are not a problem. We have been caught being too fast for some clients, because we can sometimes provide a driver the next day. We don’t usually sit on a request for very long. To make a reservation in advance, we pick up within 72 hours-- 3 or 4 days-- and then we go straight through for delivery without picking up extra vehicles. 

We only guarantee quotes for two weeks, because gas and diesel prices can change during that time. So if you call us and make a reservation months in advance, we will need to re-quote when we are closer to your pick-up or delivery date. We will give you a range in today’s dollars, and firm it up as we get closer. If you know you are moving, you don’t need to wait. We can search it now and help you stay on top of it. 

What are some advantages of having an auto transport company move your car?

You want to think about the value. We take on the liability of anything happens to your vehicle during transport. If you hitch it to the back of your moving truck, then it’s on you to fix and whatever happens happens. Additionally, using a hitch and towing a vehicle yourself adds wear and tear to the vehicle, tires, etc. You also get peace of mind not leaving your vehicle in the parking lot of a hotel or motel unsupervised while you move. 

How to prepare a vehicle for moving out of the country?

We have a full FAQ on our site. Preparing a vehicle means getting it ready to be transported. You want to make sure your windows are in proper working order. It should be cleaned for a proper condition report that would reveal any scratches. Any fluid leaks need to be addressed.

You may not think about automatic toll tags or markings, so pull them off and disable them so you won’t be charged for tolls during transport. Also disable any after-market alarms that were added to the vehicle. And try not to have a full tank of gas. It just adds extra weight for the driver. We recommend ⅓ to ¼ tank of gas when dropped off for transport. Any wraps you have to wrap the car in should be done before you get there. 

Make sure to take personal items out of the vehicle, and don’t plan to transport heavy or valuable items in the vehicle, because the transporter will not be liable for those items if they are lost or damaged during transport.

When shipping a car to Mexico or to Canada, you might need to get your speedometer changed over from miles to kilometers. We can help you work with the importer to match vehicle import laws. 

Should I be able to track my vehicle during shipment?

Any reputable company should offer some form of tracking. We offer GPS tracking and require an app for tracking our drivers doing moves. If they are in an area with bad service, we have an entire team of people making phone calls twice a day during transport to get updates from the driver and verify locations. We will be with you every step of the way to answer questions or keep you informed. 

If a truck breaks down, I may be able to call another driver to take over that delivery so it can still arrive on time. That’s a service you wouldn’t have access to if you were moving your own vehicle

What should I do if my vehicle is damaged during transport?

This is actually pretty rare in our moves. Ultimately, you should note that on your condition report or BOL (Bill of Lading). Make sure you note those conditions before you sign anything. Let your sales person know, because you’ll have a dedicated sales person assigned when you work with us, and we have in-house counsel to take care of you and coordinate with the driver. 

What should military and veteran families consider when transporting their car? 

The biggest thing is that most people assume if they drive the vehicle themselves, it will be cheaper. But if you have to fly anywhere to pick up the car or do a one-way trip, don’t forget to calculate the cost of the flight. 

Even if you aren’t flying at all, just the cost of gas, maintenance, and wear and tear on the vehicle can be hundreds of dollars for a short distance. Remember that when you are moving a second vehicle, the military does not reimburse the cost of fuel, car maintenance, etc. There is also the liability cost of any damage that occurs while you are on the road. Don’t forget the limiting cost of hotel stays as well, while you are on the road. There are a lot of hidden costs with road trips to consider. 

It’s important to understand the value of safety and peace of mind, and the overall value of having someone else move the vehicle for you rather than having to do it all yourself. 

What sets ACI apart from other transport brands?

Our core values of Adaptability, Communication, and Integrity are like a Venn diagram with our uniques in between each of those. Transparency, Effective Responsiveness, and Hyper-Friendly and Memorable Service are what make us unique. We are trying to be really effective, do things well, and make you feel good about it. Ultimately, there are a lot of options, and we want you to enjoy the vendor you pick. We are a tight-knit highly-effective team, and our success in the industry shows that. 

Does ACI offer a military discount?

Yes we do! There’s a military member link on our website that has a unique 10% discount for active duty, Veterans, military dependents, and Reservists. You can find a unique calculator to estimate your approximate costs with that discount applied. 

Lizann Lightfoot

Lizann Lightfoot

Lizann Lightfoot, the "Seasoned Spouse" is a professional writer and speaker for the military community. After two decades with her service member, her family has been through 7 deployments and 6 PCS moves. Lizann has raised 5 children and published several books for military families. Her most recent book is "Open When: Letters of Encouragement for Military Spouses" published Sept 2021 by Elva Resa. You can find Lizann's articles and resources at