One little known fact about PCSing overseas: the military pays for the cost of shipping one vehicle overseas. However, most families at our base in Germany have two cars, mine included. It just makes the most sense for our family due to Andy’s long/odd working hours (not waking myself and my sleeping babe up to drop him off at 0400, thanks, haha.) Another thing to consider in our rural area of Bavaria, military-provided housing can be as far as 45-minutes from post, and there is little to no public transportation in the local area. As we were preparing for our move, we had to consider both what we would do with our second vehicle from the States and how we would get a second vehicle in Germany.
It was a no-brainer that we would take my 2015 Ford Focus with us to Germany- we paid cash for it in 2018, we were the vehicle’s second owners, it’s in great shape, and the mileage is very low (less than 30k miles!) This left us with 3 options:
- Leave our truck in the States and buy a second car overseas.
- Sell our truck in the States and buy a second car overseas.
- Pay to ship a second vehicle overseas privately (and if so, which vehicle?)
In the various “PCS to Germany” Facebook groups I belong to, the most commonly recommended option is 1 or 2, buy a second car overseas. We weren’t too keen on this because we do not want to repeat the clunker experience. (Before we bought our current vehicles, we were in and out of the auto shop every few months – they seriously knew us by name! Also, let’s not forget the time Andy was driving his old truck in rural Missouri, all of the gears stopped working, and he drove in reverse for TWO MILES.)
For those of us headed OCONUS that owns a truck, most people recommend selling it. Trucks aren’t common in Germany and can be difficult to drive on the narrow European roads. I even heard a few times that parking a truck outside of your house makes it obvious you are an American military family and can target you as a potential crime victim. (I’ll come back to this thought in a minute!)
We weren’t comfortable leaving a vehicle in the States because we did not want the value to depreciate in the 3 years we’re gone without having driven it. After all, if we’re the ones paying for it, we want to be the ones driving it. We didn’t want to sell the truck, either – we bought it only a year ago and still had a payment on it. (And we’re very close to paying it off!) As with the car, we were the truck’s second owners, and it was in great shape. Those reasons alone were enough to sway us to keep the truck. It just didn’t seem like a great financial decision to get rid of the truck, and as y’all know, I’d like to consider myself financially savvy.
We ultimately chose option 3, privately shipping one vehicle. Because the cost of shipping a vehicle is based on the vehicle’s dimensions, we opted to have the military ship Andy’s truck and privately shipped my car, which is the smaller of the two. We were also hopeful that privately shipping my car meant it would arrive at our new home faster than the government-shipped vehicle.
Dropping my car off at the port in Baltimore!
Going back to the argument that trucks are impractical in Europe, we decided that the truck would be used only for Andy to commute to and from the base. That’s still better than letting it sit in storage unused for 3 years! Also, we weren’t too concerned about our truck painting us as targets for potential crime. After all, Andy walking out of the house in OCPs is a big indicator that he’s military and our minimal German language skills also give us away as Americans. Although we didn’t know it when we decided to ship the truck, our neighborhood is mostly Americans anyway.
Shipping a second car overseas to Germany- a truck at that!- is not the right decision for every family, but it was right for ours.
(Fingers crossed that posting this means we will finally have our vehicles back soon. As I write, Andy’s truck is in Bremerhaven waiting for the military to transport it down to Graf. My car has been in Bremerhaven for a week now, but I can’t get it down to Graf until the vehicle registration office on base lets me get tags… Sigh.)