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Shipping Vehicles During a PCS

by Lizann Lightfoot - August 19th, 2022

Shipping Vehicles During a PCS

Military families often find that they need to ship a vehicle during a PCS move. This usually happens for one of two reasons. Sometimes families choose to fly to their next location and they need to ship a vehicle to join them. And if a family has two or more vehicles to move during a PCS and they choose to drive only one, than they have to pay out of pocket to ship the other one. OCONUS moves will cover the cost to ship one vehicle, but there is no reimbursement for shipping a vehicle during CONUS moves.

That's why it's important to know your options when you are planning to ship a vehicle during a PCS move. You want to shop around and get a good rate... but you also want to make sure the carrier you are using is trusted, vetted, and covered by insurance.

PCSgrades is here to help with your PCS decisions. Each month, we interview industry experts so you'll have all the information you need to help your move go smoothly. This month's expert interview is with Matt Tincher of US Logistics. He has worked in the car shipping department of US Logistics for five years, and the company is very familiar with PCS moves.

How can US Logistics support a military family shipping a vehicle during a PCS move?

We offer open and closed transport, so whether you have a daily driver or you have a high-end vehicle to get shipped, we can handle that. We operate in all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.

We do door-to-door delivery. And we work with some of the largest moving companies and government relocation companies in the country. One thing that's really helped us separate ourselves from the competition is that we get your vehicle as close to base as possible. That way, you don't have to go somewhere else and pick up your vehicle. We'll get your car as close as possible, right up to the base.

Our rates are very competitive. We offer military members current and retired a $100 military discount. We understand budget is a big thing when it comes to PCS moves. And we understand moving is really stressful, so we take that hassle out of it, and we'll get your car delivered safely and securely.

Do you have trouble delivering cars to bases in small towns or remote locations? Do drivers have base access?

As a broker, we're not limited to the assets we have on the ground. We can contract these orders out to our carrier network, which is about 13,000 strong. So there's always somebody going in that direction. One thing we've noticed about military bases is, yes, they might be remote, but they are generally along major highways, so there's going to be some bypassing through there. We'll go ahead and deliver to more remote areas.

And yes, we won't always be able to have access onto the base. But we'll get to the closest Walmart parking lot or some kind of nearby grocery store or mall. That way, we can deliver conveniently and safely. At the end of the day, we want to make sure the customer has time to do a thorough inspection of their vehicle. And having that large parking lot will allow the driver to safely unload the vehicle and the customer to be able to safely inspect their vehicle all the way around.

How long does it take to deliver from coast to coast?

Coast to coast takes about five to 10 days. We have the fastest delivery times in the industry! When we pick up a vehicle, we don't take it to a local yard waiting for other vehicles to become available. Instead, once it's loaded, it is sent to its destination so the term can be very quick for them to get their vehicle. If it's going from Florida to Washington, some of our longer runs can take up to 12 days. But generally, coast to coast, we can get there within 10 days.

What if the car is going to arrive before the family does? Can they make other plans?

Yes. Typically, especially in the major cities, we do have storage options available. We've built great relationships over the last five years, so we have good storage options available that will be safe and secure. Or if they want to designate a family member or friends who receive the vehicle on their behalf, they can also do that. This is a good option if it's going to be a couple of weeks. Another option: we can always pick it up later after they leave. They can designate a friend or family member to release the vehicle. So it just depends on where they want to possibly be without a vehicle for a few days. We're definitely flexible, and we can help them make those arrangements.

Is there a way to estimate vehicle shipping costs ahead of time?

We do everything based on the market rate. So if someone's moving in January, it's going to be different costs than those moving in July. The more people that are moving, the fewer trucks are available, so it is more expensive to ship a vehicle during the spring and summer time.

There's not necessarily a standard that says what you're going to pay per mile. That's why we do it on a market basis, because we want to get the best possible price every single time. I don't want to have to charge you more. If you're going to ship 1,000 miles, I don't want to give you the same rate as if someone was shipping 3,000 miles. So we do look at everything on a case-by-case basis to ensure that we're getting the best possible price.

And then we also have that $100 military discount. If anybody goes to our website and requests a quote, there's a section that says "referred by." To get that military discount, just type in PCSgrades, and that's how we'll know to honor that $100 military discount.

What should you do to prepare your vehicle for shipping?

When someone gets a quote from us, we will send back an email stating all the specifics that they need. It lists all the terms and conditions. As far as paperwork, the driver will show up with a legal bill of lading. Then the driver is going to do a thorough walkaround inspection to mark off any scratches or damage on the vehicle. The customer will sign off on that. Once they get to the delivery, they will compare the paperwork and make sure the vehicle arrived in the same condition as when it left.

To prepare the vehicle, make sure that the car is as clean as possible on the outside to facilitate that inspection. On the inside, the military family might need a few things to be packed for their new location. Sometimes the car shipment is going to beat the household goods delivery. You may be living out of a suitcase for a couple of weeks, so if you need to throw some extra things in the car, that's fine. Try to keep it in the trunk area, so it's out of sight, and nothing will come flying out the windows.

Finally, it's pretty standard across the industry to have just 1/4 tank of gas in the vehicle when it is loaded for shipping. So prepare the vehicle and don't fill up right before pick-up!

What are you allowed to pack in the vehicle?

We do allow up to 100 pounds of personal items to be left in the vehicle. The appropriate items are personal items like clothes and bedding. Families that have kids may need to put in some baby items, clothes, blankets, bedding.

The list of what can be transported is much larger than what can't. Flammables, liquids, alcohol, tobacco or firearms cannot be transported across state lines. Those are the big ones. The things that I probably wouldn't ship in a vehicle would be a TV or computer monitor. The vehicles can bounce a lot while they are transported on a trailer, and that could break the electronics. The driver's insurance and the full value protection insurance does not cover personal items left in the vehicle, so anything left in the vehicle would be at the owner's expense and discretion.

What do service members need to know about insurance when shipping a vehicle?

US Logistics offers a couple different types of insurance. All of our moves come with standard insurance. All of our drivers maintain at least $100,000 coverage for cargo on their entire trailer. This includes any driver negligence like backing the vehicle into a pole, fender benders, scratches on the car, etc. All that is covered, but that $100,000 quantity is an umbrella for a large car hauler, which includes all nine vehicles.

That's why we have the second insurance, which is full value protection that can be purchased additionally. It covers any major acts that they call a loss. If a driver flips the trailer or has had a major wreck and causes a lot of damage to the vehicle, that's where that supplemental full value protection is going to kick in. And it's going to help either provide the actual cash value replacement for the vehicle, or it's going to help cover the cost of those major repairs. We do have that insurance option on our website, and you can get a quote right there. Just type in the declared value of the vehicle, and it will tell you exactly how much that cost is. There are two different options: a $0 deductible and a $500 deductible. The $500 deductible is a little more cost-effective. So we really planned it out to meet anyone's budget so they can know they are fully protected when it comes to shipping their vehicle.

Does anyone access the vehicle during transport?

No, because once it's on the trailer, it's pretty much not going to move unless the driver needs to move a couple of cars around. The keys are inside the cab with him, in a lock box, so you know that's all safe and secure. The only time that someone may need to access the vehicle is if you were stopped by the DoD or a police officer and they were doing an inspection of the cargo, but I've only had that happen to me twice in the last five years, so it's very rare.

What if you can't find a driver on the dates the service member wants to move the vehicle? What are the options?

By working with all the major moving companies and the major relocation companies across the country, we know what it takes to keep all of our clients on track and on schedule. We understand that they might have flights, or they have their household goods being delivered. First, we ask: do you have a backup option? It doesn't necessarily have to be the vehicle owner to release the vehicle, just as long as someone is there to do the inspection with the driver. Do you have a friend or family member that can hold on to the keys for you?

Next, what we can do is hire a local tow company. We will look for a local tow company that could possibly come and pick up the vehicle on a flatbed and then store it at their facility for a couple of days until our driver does arrive. So we do have options to make sure that people stay on track. Also, they're going to have good clear communication with us throughout the entire process. They're going to get updates from us throughout the entire process--before pickup, during transit, and then after delivery.

Does US Logistics handle all the communication during the shipping process?

We try to handle as much as we can through one point of contact at US Logistics. The driver will also have the military member's phone number. The driver usually calls a day in advance for pickup and delivery. If customers communicate through US Logistics, that typically goes smoother because we typically respond to quote requests and customer inquiries within five to 10 minutes. So if someone has an update, we're on it right away. We do everything we can to get that update from the drivers getting one point of contact from us.

Is it a problem if the person handling the vehicle is not listed on the car's registration? (Spouses handling their service member's vehicle, for example).

Not a problem. It doesn't need to be the vehicle owner who arranges pickup or delivery. We are very flexible, just call us and let us know who is going to be coordinating. We need to have a contact that can be reached via cell so the driver can call a day in advance for pickup and delivery to be able to coordinate The more contacts and communication we have, the better.

How does US Logistics vet their carriers and drivers?

We have the most thorough carrier vetting process in the entire industry. We look at the OT rating, we look at safety scores, and we look at the driver's industry rating to make sure they are doing good business with other companies. It all goes back to our process and what we've done over the last five years to really bolster that.

We choose drivers that really are the cream of the crop and the best of the best. We're going to pick the right driver for the move, because it's our name and reputation at the end of the day. Yes, the carrier is picking up the vehicle and delivering it, but it's all flowing through US Logistics, and that's what matters.

So yes, there's an approval process for the drivers in our network. We also have the backend support of a large logistics company that we can operate after hours and on weekends too. So if something happens to change drivers, or a driver breaks down, we can handle that. We're nationwide, and we know military members are still moving after hours and on weekends. So we are here to help and really just make this as smooth as possible.

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