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Ask VMW: My bank said I can't bring my car over to Germany?

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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Ask VMW: My bank said I can't bring my car over to Germany?

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ask VMW: My bank said I can't bring my car over to Germany?

Not only did I have this question emailed to me, but I had a similar comment on one of my blogposts.  I guess people are starting to receive orders now to come overseas.  I thought this is an important thing to address and catches many off guard:

"I was all set to ship my new car over to Germany.  I didn't even think this would be a problem.  I didn't have my title because I bought the car last year.  I was told by the military shipping people that all I needed was a letter from the finance company.  I was shocked to find out that they refused to supply that letter!  I can't believe that here I am serving my country, and I can't take my car with me because of this stupid thing!  What am I going to do?"

Believe it or not, this same thing happened to my then young soldier husband on one of his first overseas tours.  His finance company refused to supply the certified letter or letter of release as it is called.  I'm sorry I'm not going to provide the answer you want, but you basically have two choices here.  You can either pay off the remainder of the loan to get the original title (or I believe certified copy) or you can leave your vehicle with a trusted person in the US.  My husband ended up leaving his car with my dad who drove it a few times a month.  The good news was that his insurance was superlow in that timeframe.  After that lesson, we only buy cars with cash now....we don't ever want anyone ever again telling us what we can and can't do with our cars.

But, before you do any of that.....try to negotiate with the finance company.  Send a nice letter, addressed to the boss of that finance company....address him by name and not "Dear Sir"....send it certified.  Make comments in there about being a career soldier, what your specialty other words, make yourself look like a responsible military person who is not going to lose their job anytime soon.  End the letter with some good contact information and something along the lines that you respectfully wait for his response.  Offer to pay the loan down if that doesn't work...not completely, but just down.  Believe it or not, I have seen some of these finance companies cave where military members were VERY persistent and VERY confident.  Be firm but don't be an a**hole.  Remember, the company has a larger stake than you do in that car...and honestly, I don't blame them for being cautious where as an example, you may have only paid $2k on a car worth $30k.  Can you imagine if you stopped paying on your loan and the major expense that finance company would have trying to reposses the car?.......the more leverage you have, the better it will be to get what you want!

One more thing....backing up here...I have heard but cannot confirm that car loans thru USAA and other military affiliated credit unions and banks "may" be more accomodating with taking vehicles overseas.  This would be a great question to ask before you purchase your vehicle and choose your finance company!

As an aside, this applies to any overseas location!  I've had someone tell me this happened to them going to Belgium and also Hawaii believe it or not.  Do your research before you are "stuck".  If anyone has any other tips on how they tackled this issue, please do post below.

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Blogger JennyO said...

Happened with my husbands Harley. The first person he spoke with didn't understand that even though he was coming overseas? The vehicle was still registered with the US Forces. Sometimes its also the person you speak to is not familiar with military moves and how we still fall under the laws of our home country.
And yes USAA gets it - good response on writing and communicating ;) the last thing you want to do is getting into a screaming match with someone in a position to deny you your car.

February 16, 2011 at 8:47 AM  
Blogger Bette said...

Our truck was financed through USAA, which allowed us to take it to Germany. Not sure whether this was because it is standard policy, or because my husband is a sweet-talking longtime customer. :-)

February 16, 2011 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Lee Chaix said...

We will be PCSing to Germany this summer, and our car loans are through USAA. I have already contacted them, and they are willing to provide letters for both vehicles. I would definitely recommend USAA for car loans, but as you suggested, be sure to verify this policy with them before buying the car!

February 16, 2011 at 1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went through my credit union which I always trusted. I had to pay like 1/3 down on the car and then they let me so it works.

February 16, 2011 at 5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can also refinance if your credit is good enough to a company like USAA that understand military obligations.

February 16, 2011 at 10:04 PM  
Blogger MooAtU2 said...

Ha, the anonymous reader above took the words right out of my mouth!

We had a lien on my car (meaning we used it as colatteral for a personal loan) through our local credit union. I called them up asking for the release letter, I got a phone call later that day (from one of the VPs, no less), and later that day he e-mailed a draft and also dropped the official copy in the mail.

I've heard of people going through hoops with larger banks, but I've gotta say- gotta love doing business with my local credit union.

Could you also refinance? Also, there's plenty of cheap "hoopties" here in Germany, and you don't have to worry about getting your new car dinged up on these narrow German streets.

February 17, 2011 at 9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have a brand new car bought specifically for the trip overseas, since both our cars had some mileage and were larger vehicles. USAA understood, emailed me a "scanned" letter for my records and dropped an original in the mail the same day we called. WE LOVE USAA!

June 29, 2011 at 3:40 AM  

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