CONTRIBUTED BY AMANDA PAPENFUS
Shipping a Car to Germany
If the prospect of getting your car (or POV as the military calls it) to Germany seems overwhelming, that’s understandable. There are several steps required, not only to get your car overseas to begin with, but to be able to drive it once it’s here. As you probably know, or will soon find out if you don’t, things are always subject to change with the military, and of course individual situations may differ, so your experience may not line up with my experience or advice. However, hopefully knowing what I went through and learned will give you a better idea what’s involved in the process. This time I’ll tell you about shipping a car to Germany and, in a future post, I’ll tell you what needs to be done once it gets here. If you only have one car, you can skip the first section, and if the car you’re taking is paid off, you can skip the second one too.
Choose a Car
The military will only ship one POV, so if you have multiple cars, you’ll need to decide which one to bring. If you want to ship two, it’s an option, but you’ll have to pay for the extra car out of pocket. Personally, we elected to bring my car and leave my husband’s. I didn’t want to leave behind a car I was still paying on, and his was already paid off. Mine was also newer, which I hoped meant it would be less likely to require repairs overseas. It’s also a little smaller than my husband’s car, which we quickly found out was a benefit because the roads and parking spaces in Germany are smaller than most in America. Given these things, I think my car was a good choice, but I was still paying on it, so I had to get approval from the lien holder to take it out of the country. If you’re still paying on your car, read the next section. If not, you can skip to the one after that.
Get Permission from the Lien Holder
If you’re still paying for your car, it’s not up to you if you can take it overseas; it’s actually up to your lien holder. You’ll need a letter of permission from them before you can have it exported. We found this out a mere month before my husband’s report date, so it was a scramble to get the letter, especially since they initially sent one in my father’s name (who was supposed to be listed as the co-signer while they had him as the owner) instead of mine. I know the military doesn’t always give a lot of notice (we only had about three months from the time we found out we were moving to the day we flew out), but if you have the chance, get this done early so you won’t be panicking if there’s a mistake or delay. My lien holder was Chase, and someone in their department for military services advised me that in order to get a letter of permission I would need to fax or mail them the following, after which they claimed I would get a letter of permission in about 7-10 days:
- A letter stating we are moving to Germany due to military orders with both of our signatures
- A copy of my husband’s PCS orders to Germany
- A copy of our marriage certificate since my husband’s name is not on the loan
- A copy of proof of international auto insurance showing we’ll be covered overseas
- A copy of shipping insurance showing Chase as the lien holder
- Two references who live in the United States and their addresses and phone numbers
Get International Automobile Insurance
We have USAA auto insurance and were able to keep them and just have our policy updated to an international one. In addition to covering the car while we’re in Germany, they cover the car in transit, so I did not have to worry about separate shipping insurance. A representative from USAA told me that Germany requires 7.5 million euros in liability coverage (which I suppose is helpful if you manage to run into a Super Sport Limited Edition Aston Martin or something on the Autobahn), 1 million euros in property damage coverage, and 50,000 euros in coverage for other damages. Due to these minimum coverage requirements, insurance for just one car, which was about two years old at the time, was over $300 a month, more than we paid for both cars to be covered in America.
However, we were told that if we got a junker in Germany, the cost would actually go down. Apparently this has to do with the second, cheaper car, which would not be replaced in an accident, having the liability risk put on it. The woman told us the price would go down about $50 a month, but when we did eventually get an older car over here, it only went down about $50 for the whole year. That rep said that he’s never seen a $50 a month drop. Still, a small drop in price is better than an increase.
We also learned that, unlike in America, we couldn’t have a six month international policy. Rather, it had to be year to year. Obviously with the military we don’t always know we’ll be somewhere for a full year at a time, so we asked what happens if we move with time left on the policy. She indicated that, if we move back to the States, the insurance will get prorated when we move, so we only have to pay the international price for the time that we use internationally.
Apparently international insurance can’t take affect until the port day, so we had to call USAA when we had a date to apply it. However, we needed proof of coverage for the lien holder before we could take it to the port. She emailed us a letter to send to Chase advising that we would be covered during a time period to include the shipment of the vehicle and while it is overseas. She told me next time to finance through USAA because they don’t make it this complicated and that if Chase gave us any hassle to call USAA with them on the line and they would help iron it out. Fortunately we didn’t have to do that because Chase accepted the letter as proof of international insurance and shipping insurance.
Although I could swear that I called USAA back when we had a port date, it wasn’t until the car was in Germany and my husband tried to pick it up at the port that we discovered something had gone awry. Our insurance still showed coverage for Georgia. Fortunately, by speaking to a supervisor at USAA and showing proof of the letter the representative had sent us to give to Chase, we were able to get the international policy applied for the next day with the same rate we’d been quoted before the car was shipped. Unfortunately. we weren’t able to pick our car up until that insurance was applied, which meant the trip to the port was wasted, so I would recommend calling to make sure your international policy is in place before you leave the country and again before you go to pick up the car. If you have a car you’re leaving behind, check out the next section. If not, skip to the one after that.
If you’re going to leave a car behind in storage, when getting your international insurance set up is a good time to ask about a storage discount. Since we had originally planned to sell the car and the buyer fell through at the last minute, we didn’t know we’d be storing a car or that storage discounts were even a thing. Fortunately when we mentioned to USAA that we had left the other car behind in storage, we were told about a storage discount, and I’m grateful to the rep who told us because it saved us a lot of money. With USAA, to qualify for such a discount, which can drop the rate up to 90%, the car must be stored in a secure location and is not allowed to be driven. According to their website, that doesn’t apply in CA, HI, MA, NC, NY, PA, or VA, so if you’re coming from one of those locations it would be good to know before you leave if you’re going need to store your car elsewhere.
Get the Car Ready for the Port
Although we had a port in the city we lived in, we ended up having to go through the port in Charleston, which worked out okay because that’s also where we flew out from. We were told that the car had to be clean for the port to ship it, so we wiped down the inside and took it to a self-wash center, which didn’t work that well. My husband called the port and found out that they can clean it at the port for $4, so we decided to do that since we’d be transporting two dogs to the hotel we were staying at, and that would likely leave behind hair. We also had to get everything out of the car that wasn’t attached to or installed in it. Fortunately we had room in our luggage for the things we usually keep in the car that we thought would be okay to leave in there and weren’t: service records, car manual, tire gauge, etc. Finally, before the port will accept the car, it has to have a quarter tank of gas or less. You will also need documentation for the port.
Documentation for the Port
In addition to the letter from the lien holder mentioned above, my husband found out in his call to port that we would need:
- 4 copies of his PCS orders to Germany
- Our marriage certificate
- The car title
Even though we had all of the required information, we still had a little hold up. Since Chase had messed up the ownership of the car and had my father listed as the owner with me as the cosigner, when my husband took the car to the port, they wouldn’t let him ship it without permission from my father, even though they had sent a new letter of permission from the lien holder in my name. Although it was a hassle, it’s understandable, since the port just needed to make sure those listed as owners know their car is going overseas. If you happen to have another owner on your car, or even a co-signer, I would have them give you something like my father sent the port, just in case.
The port asked us to have my father send them a fax stating “I (my father’s name) will not hold the government or contractors responsible for any damage that occurs during shipment. (Vin #) (Year/Make/Model of Car)” with a copy of his driver’s license. My father wasn’t thrilled with this wording, but I confirmed with my husband that it just means he personally won’t go after them, not that I couldn’t if there was a problem. Since my husband’s name isn’t on the car, my father also added to the letter that the car belongs to me and my husband. Once the fax was received, the port finally accepted car, and soon it was on its way to Germany.
And now what? Check back soon to hear about Receiving Your Car (POV) in Germany.
Note: Click each photo to see its source.