So, you make it through the paperwork, the flight and have managed to settle into your cramped hotel room in Vicenza. There are so many things to get used to when you arrive, but if you are anything like I am all you can think about is getting some wheels so you can learn about your new city. Unless you shipped your car early, you probably have a few weeks without your POV. That leaves you with the options of using public transportation, walking or renting a car. There is nothing wrong with the first two, but most Americans are not used to living without a vehicle, so the third option is pretty attractive.
Get A SETAF Driver’s License First
First of all, you run to the lovely yellow in-processing building by the Ederle Inn and take a class for your driver’s license. Then take the test. If you are here because you are military, you need to have the SETAF Driver’s License before you drive a car on post. It doesn’t do a lot of good to have a car and then be forced to park it outside of post each time you have to be on post. Even worse if you are staying in the Ederle Inn for obvious reasons.
Car Rental Options
One of the hardest things about moving overseas is figuring out whether or not to ship your car. If you decide not to ship the car; then you need to decide how you will get from place to place. You can choose to take public transportation (i.e. the bus and trains) and walk a lot. Your other option is to buy a car once you arrive in Vicenza. Here are some thoughts about deciding where to buy a car in Vicenza.
New or Used Car?
Only you know your budget for purchasing a car. There are places you can buy new vehicles. You can find some decent used cars for sale by people. There are also plenty of “hoopty” cars available. In case you have never heard the term “hoopty”, it is a less than impressive get around car. These cars often need repairs or are not meant to drive on your exploration trips around Europe.
New Car Dealers
There are several places to get a brand new car here in Vicenza. If you don’t plan on keeping your car when you go back to the states, you can go to any of the local car dealers. Most of these will not sell cars with U.S. specs. There are a couple of places that do sell new cars that are legal to drive in the U.S. Pentagon Car Sales sells both new and used cars and is fairly close to post. If you want a BMW, this is a good place to get it. The other place that is easiest to get to is AAFES Auto Sales. It is on post and you can browse the tiny lot of a variety of car makes. Or you can order a new car if you are in no hurry. Auto Exchange sells Audi, Toyota and Volkswagen. If you go in the main gate, you have to drive right past Auto Exchange to get there.
Finding a good used car can take a bit more patience and a lot more searching. The three ways people typically find used cars are by cruising past the used car resale lot, word of mouth, or by looking online. If you are lucky, someone you meet will be wanting to sell a reliable car prior to PCS. That does not happen to often, but put the word out so that you are the first person that comes to mind when someone is selling a car. The car resale lot is tucked back in the middle of post. Sometimes there are a lot of good cars other times, none. It is worth a drive by, though. There are several online sites that you can find used cars. Vicenza Bookoo, Vicenza MWR Marketplace and the Facebook Yard sale groups are the ones I can name quickly.
Hopefully this gives you a place to start in your search. Usually you can find cars that fit all budgets, but as always if you plan on buying the cheapest car you can find plan on making repairs! Happy Car Shopping!
What is the required paperwork?
Before you ship your car, you will need to prepare a few things. First of all, you need the title and registration to your car. If you still owe money on your car, you will need to get permission from your lien-holder to ship it overseas. The same goes if you are leasing a car you plan on bringing to Italy. Find an insurance carrier to insure your car. As far as I know, USAA and Geico insure autos in Italy. You will need to insure the car to ship it. As with any other activity involving military moves, you will need copies of orders and your military identification card.
Our insurance carrier was not among those that insured cars in Italy. We changed to USAA, because of this. We had difficulty with the company that financed our car giving us permission to ship it. So, we ended up refinancing with USAA, as well. If I must say, USAA gave us great customer service. I appreciated it when I was stressing out about the move.
Where do I take my car to have it shipped?
After you have the initial paperwork process started, you will want to figure out where in the heck you have to take your car to ship it. Depending on where you live, this can as simple as a short drive. For others, it may need a day of travel and figuring out the logistics of the return trip. Go to the website VPC Locations to decide the nearest drop-off site.
My family lived near Fort Riley, Kansas. To drop the car off, I drove it to Pontoon Beach, Missouri (outside Saint Louis.) The Army then paid to fly me back to Kansas City. No closer flight was available, nor would the Army pay for a hotel to spend the night. Because the car back to Kansas would have been a one-way rental, it was cheaper for them to pay for the flight. So, I could take a shuttle for the 2 hour ride to Fort Riley or finding someone to pick me up at the airport. Not exactly convenient, but I made it work.
Prepare your car for drop-off.
Your car will need to be clean to drop it off. The shippers do not want dirty cars. If your car is not clean inside and out, they may ask you to clean it up before they accept it for shipment. Remove everything you can before you arrive at the drop-off location. You can leave things like tools, snow tires and jumper cables in the car, but they will need to be secured. To see a list of what you can keep in your car during shipment, check out the American Auto Logistics website Vehicle Turn-In page. Make sure you have less than a quarter of a tank of gas left in your car. If you have more, you can’t ship it.
I am a bit paranoid and had a very clean car when I arrived at the vehicle turn-in place. Unfortunately, I had more than a quarter of a tank of gas. I drove and drove around. Finally, I took my car to a local repair shop and paid someone $20 to have it drained. They put my gas in a gas can and got my twenty bucks. (Sounds like a racket I should get into…)
What to expect when dropping your car off?
When you arrive at the drop-off site, someone will most likely meet you and then take a look at your car. If your car is not clean or if it has too much gas, the staff person will ask you to clean it or burn up your gas and come back later. You will fill out some paperwork and the staff will look at your orders, title, registration, proof of insurance and ID card. Once everything is in order, you wait in line for inspection. Once the inspection is complete, you will sign a form that you agree with it and you are on your way.
The process was pretty streamlined for me. The waiting in line took longer than the actual inspection. I did have a few items they would not let me ship, like the car manual. Take your key off of any key ring, because they don’t want that either. As long as you prepare, the actual drop-off is easy.
When will my car get to Italy?
Good question. Usually, shipping a car to Europe takes at least six weeks, but sometimes longer. We shipped our car in mid-June and it did not arrive until the second week of August. I have heard others have taken longer. The good news is that you can use the “Where’s My POV?” function on the website to track your car. It doesn’t help much when it just says “in-transit” but it will give you a heads up when your car arrives at port.
In another post, I will talk about sending a second vehicle and registration.