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Ask VMW: How many cars can I ship overseas? Fuelcards?

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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Ask VMW: How many cars can I ship overseas? Fuelcards?

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.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ask VMW: How many cars can I ship overseas? Fuelcards?

I don't think I've ever gotten a question about shipping cars and fuelcards....definitely something you need to know if you are moving overseas!

 I was wondering does the military ship one or two vehicles and I read something about a fuel card how does that work?

The military will only ship one vehicle on its dime.  Some folks do ship a second vehicle, which would cost anywhere from 500-1000 euro typically.  You have to make all those arrangements on your own though.  Most folks buy a second beater-type car to get around in instead.  Each post usually has a lemon lot, and in the summer it'll be full of vehicles...everything from American cars to European-spec cars that can only be driven in Europe.  Most of the little cars are stick-shift, so if you haven't learned, it's about time that you do:-)  It'll broaden your options.  And no, it's not called a lemon lot because there are lemons's just called that.

You get authorized a certain # of liters of fuel for one vehicle.  This just means that you can buy a special fuelcard at a special price on post.  You can also buy more fuel, but it will be at regular off-post fuel prices.  Fuel in Europe is priced very high (which is why I don't even fret over American fuel prices...they are so low in comparison!).  I believe it is because fuel is taxed very high here.  Here in Belgium on post, you can buy 200 liters of regular unleaded for about 140 euro...actually the prices have gone up since I bought a fuelcard, so it is probably a bit more.  I buy one every few months unless we travel a lot by car.  Remember, in Europe it's priced in liters.  In the US, we pay per gallon, so to figure out the price difference, you have to do a little math.  We also can only use the fuel card at the Belgian Total gas stations.  As I said, you can buy gas anywhere, it's just that we have the contract with Total for our fuel rations. 

You get a fuel ration card, typed up on cardstock paper when you inprocess.  For us, we get 400 liters max a month.  If you have a gas guzzler and use it to drive around a could run out and then have to buy gas on the economy.  You bring your ration card with you to the rationed items store on post to buy your fuel card...regular, super or diesel is available.  You can also buy these fuel cards from the PX.  If your non-military spouse also works full-time, you can request to get more fuel rations if you need them.  Once you use up that particular fuelcard, you have to buy another one.

If you travel into France and other European countries, your fuelcard is useless, and you will pay regular fuel prices like everyone else.  If you have a leave form, you can visit the MP station in Germany and get a fuelcard to use in Germany....I believe also in the Netherlands and Italy....possibly Spain....all the countries where we have bases.  It's an extra hassle, but if you spend a lot of time in that other country and have the time to stop by one of our bases there, it may save you lots of money.

If you are PCSing to Germany, the process is a bit different, but you will still have a fuelcard.  They don't use fuel coupons anymore.  Your fuelcard is tied to that particular vehicle, so your buddy in another car will not be able to use it.  In Germany, you'll have more rations as well.  I have never run out while stationed there!  Super is the only available gas choice if you buy gas from AAFES, as many AAFES stores have their own gas stations (at the shopette).  You just pay with your regular American dollars.  Diesel is only available off post.  If you get a Military Star card (AAFES version of their credit card), you'll get 5% back on your purchases.  You can obviously also use your own choice of credit card with its own collection of bonuses and incentives.  If you want to gas up off post, you can use your fuelcard at Esso gas stations only IF you put a money advance onto your fuelcard.  So for example, you can put $100 on your fuelcard and then fuel up at Esso.  You won't pay the going rate posted on the pump, but our special discounted rate.  Once you get your receipt, you'll see how many liters you have left to pump on your advance, and you can also check this online.  Add money as needed.  It's kind of a pain to keep track of, and at any time if you pump OVER the amount on your fuelcard, you will pay the full fuel price for your entire transaction.  What I like here in Belgium, is that you can never go OVER what is on your fuelcard. Once it's done, it's done....and you have to buy another fuelcard.

I do want to mention a quick word about American cars over here in Europe.  Most of us do have American brand cars that are not sold in the European market.  You'll see Ford and some others over here, but they'll have model names you never heard of and European car models are much smaller than ours across the board.  Keep this in mind when you are thinking of shipping your extended cab super-size truck over here!

European roads are narrower.  Here in Belgium, they are absolute goatpaths unless you are on a major thoroughfare between major towns and cities.  I have a minivan and frequently have to stop or get over on country roads...and we have some big ditches along our roads!  Parking can be a pain.  Yes, the spots are a bit shorter, but worse, they are narrower.  I've had to squeeze out of my driver's side door, or go out the back and many times, I choose to park farther away so I have no other cars around.  Of course, practice your parallel parking, and when we drive downtown somewhere, we usually take my husband's little European specs car with us that fits in tight spaces.  Some parking garages will also be tight, not only in the spaces, but as you navigate around inside the lanes!

Yes, I've heard Americans say they love the room of a large car and that's fine....just be prepared to deal with a few hiccups.  Be prepared to stand out too as an American.  In light of recent world events, we are no longer allowed to wear military uniforms off post, even if just going home.  A regular sized car would make our footprint not quite as big.  We made the decision to take our van over here because we had a huge dog at the time, kids and had lots of visitors we would take on our travels...that was our choice....and it works fine I think.  Anything bigger I would've felt uncomfortable having over here.  Do what you think is right for your family and your situation!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info on the minivan! We are taking our minivan to Germany, and I wasn't sure what to expect.

April 12, 2011 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger angelmariaguzm said...

Thank you,

Do you know if is possible to get fuel coupons if on leave but I am stationed in San Antonio and I wanted to visit Italy/Germany. i am not sure if they have any restrictions as I was thinking about renting a car.

April 30, 2011 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger angelmariaguzm said...

Do you of any restrictions for members who reside state side and want to go take leave in europe. i was thinking about renting a car but the gas prices r ridiculous right now

April 30, 2011 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Please see the German Fuel Rations website, run by AAFES

You should find the answer there...from what I am reading, you either have to be stationed in Europe OR you have to be on leave from being deployed...not stateside. I'm sure they have a link on their page where you can ask just to be sure! It has to do with the SOFA agreement somehow yet again...

April 30, 2011 at 3:55 PM  

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