Car Choices When Moving Overseas

When executing a PCS move to (most) overseas locations, military members may be authorized the shipment of a personal vehicle at government expense.  While the new contractor seems to have gotten their act together, there are still tons of people on the internet complaining about the process in general.  While there is always room for things to improve, most of these complaints make me wonder if the complainers really considered their options before deciding to ship their vehicles.  No one is forcing any service member to ship a car.  It is a CHOICE.  There are other options.  With each option comes advantages and disadvantages.  Pick the right choice for your family and be thankful that you even have choices.

Shipping Your Vehicle

Thousands of military families ship their private vehicles to overseas locations each year.  Sometimes that is a great choice, but I do see a lot of families who didn’t completely think through that decision.

Pros:

  • You don’t have to sell your current car (if you have one).
  • You don’t have to purchase a car at your new location.
  • You don’t have to worry about what to do if you are underwater on your car loan, meaning the loan balance is higher than the car’s resale value.

Cons:

  • You will need lender approval if you have a lien against your vehicle title (a car loan.)
  • Your car may need modification to conform to host nation vehicle requirements.
  • Parts may be difficult to obtain, and/or very expensive.
  • Some cars may make it obvious that you are American, which can be a security issue.
  • Insurance can be very expensive on non-local vehicles.

Selling Your Vehicle

In many cases, the easiest option may be to sell your vehicle before moving.

Pros:

  • You get to select when to make the sale.
  • Pay off your car loan, if you have one.
  • Can purchase a local-style car at your new location.
  • Local vehicles may be less expensive to insure.

Cons:

  • You may have to pay off the loan balance out of your savings if your loan balance is larger than the car’s value.  (Yet another reason that military families should not be taking out huge car loans.)
  • If your vehicle does not sell before you leave the country, you will have to ask a friend or family member to sell it for you.
  • Selling a car can be a pain.

Storing Your Vehicle

Storing your vehicle can take many forms:  having it stored by the government contractor, storing it yourself in a private facility (at your expense, or at the government’s expense) or storing it with friends or family.

Pros:

  • You can use your vehicle right until you leave the country.
  • You can use the vehicle if you visit the area where it is stored (option not available for storage by the government contractor).
  • You will have a vehicle waiting when you return from your overseas tour(s.)

Cons:

  • Car may have damage from not being driven for several years.  This is true even if it is stored in a facility that “drives” it regularly.
  • You will want to maintain some level of insurance on it.
  • The possibility of damage while stored.

There is no single right answer for every situation.  Make an informed decision, do what is right for you and your family, and take the good with the bad.

I am positive that you all have some pros and cons that I haven’t even considered, or have forgotten to put in this post.  Add them in the comments!

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Flash

    Two additional considerations: Gas prices will almost undoubtedly be 2-5 times what they are here in the USA and if you have an American made vehicle it’s larger size presents a challenge driving overseas through narrow roads and /or streets.

    • Kate

      Excellent points, Flash. Our fuel bill when we lived in Italy was terrifying. And our car has lots of lovely souvenirs from that same tour.

  • Pat

    Not sure about having to modify vehicles to meet foreign standards. US standards I think are tougher. Cars bought in Europe have to conform to US standards to bring them back which are mostly safety features. Going overseas is s good way to buy a new vehicle such as a BMW, Volvo or Mercedes. Plus there are dealers that sell American cars.

    • Kate

      So far, two of the three countries in which we’ve lived have required that we have modifications done to our vehicles. It is often just the lights, as different countries configure their lights differently. I have heard of other modifications, as well, but never experienced them. I think we spent around $300 each time, but I have heard of really expensive bills for modifications.