Take A Car Overseas: Pros and Cons

Every year, thousands of US military families move to locations Outside the Continental United States (OCONUS).  In most cases, the OCONUS orders authorize the shipping of a privately owned vehicle (POV) to the OCONUS location.  Should you ship a car oversea, or not?  What factors do you need to consider when making your decision.

For the record, my family have shipped cars OCONUS three times, once from the mainland to Hawaii, once from Hawaii to Australia, and once from DC to Italy.  We’ve had pretty good experiences, but I’m still not 100% sure that they were the right choices.  It’s so complicated, and there is no single right answer.  For starters, you need to know the rules.  We’ve got an excellent run-down here at Military.com, Shipping A Car Overseas.


Shipping a car overseas allows means that you don’t have to sell a car before you leave and purchase a vehicle when you arrive.

 If you are purchasing a vehicle before leaving, you will find a much better selection while still in the US.

It is nice to have a car you know well when you are navigating new and possibly challenging driving situations.

The military pays for it, not you.


Vehicles with US specifications may require modification to conform to local regulations.  These modifications can be cheap and easy, or super-expensive.

Shipping times can be lengthy, meaning that you’ll have to either ship your car early or go without a vehicle at your destination.

Vehicles can be damaged during transit.

Larger American cars can be tricky in areas with small roads, and parking spots tend to be smaller OCONUS.

Some lenders will not permit you to take vehicles out of the US, so you would either have to refinance with another lender or pay off the car loan.

Warranties very rarely cover work done overseas, and some warranties become completely invalid once the vehicle leaves the US.

Higher insurance costs may mean that you would prefer to have a less expensive car overseas.

High fuel costs may mean that would prefer to have a less expensive car overseas.

Parts can be difficult to obtain if your vehicle is not sold locally.  Depending on circumstances, locally sourced tires may not be approved for return to the US.

Some vehicles are clearly American, which can be a security issue.

I am sure that there are 100 things I have failed to mention, so share your thoughts in the comments.  Together, we can help other military families make fully informed decisions about taking cars overseas.






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.
  • galloglas

    We bought a Honda accord that belonged to an Air Force Lt.
    It had literally been around the world, Germany, Japan you name it.
    Every change of station his family Honda went too.
    It was quite a car.

  • Steve

    When I received orders to Korea for a remote, I requested to store my F-150 extended cab at government expense versus having them ship it. Because my orders authorized me the shipment of a vehicle, I was told by finance that I could either store the vehicle at my own expense or ship it at government expense. I chose the later. Seems to me that transit back and forth in that one-year remote probably cost the government more than if they just paid the storage fees.

    Nonetheless, driving around Korea in that big vehicle was fun..everyone got out of my way!

    • Kate

      Steve, I’ve long thought that the military should change their POV shipment allowance system. I bet they would save a bundle if they would offer a cash incentive to NOT ship a vehicle when authorized. Families could use that money to buy a beater at the OCONUS location, or use it for another purpose.

      • Steve

        Kate, that is a brilliant idea. You should offer your idea to the military at this time of budget constraints.

        The only reason I shipped was because I didn’t want my vehicle sitting for an entire year without some care. I would have gladly accepted that money to pay for the storage. Osan AB in Korea is a “walking” base where everything is within walking distance. The ONLY reason I shipped was to ensure my vehicle was started and moved periodically to prevent tire rot. With 24 years and counting in the military, I’ve learned that our government doesn’t always do things the best way.

  • Jim

    Never shipped overseas, but did ship one back from Germany. My second tour, we bought a car in Germany from another GI, later traded it up for a little larger car. We purchased a car through the BX car system and had it waiting for us at Bayonne, NJ Naval Docks for pickup. Brand new, 15 miles on the Odometer. 1/2 the price of the same car through a US dealer; and NO hassle buying it at the local BX (Weisbaden AB at the time 1972). PLUS you get all the warranties and other stuff as you would buying new at a US dealer. To me, that is the best way to go. Back in 72, you had to have 6 months in country before you could use the BX car system. Do not know if that still holds true today or not. AF Retired