When you finally receive official copies of your PCS orders (yay!) you have a big decision to make: you can either move yourself, or have the military move you. Everyone has strong opinions on this topic, so depending who you ask, you’ll get a lot of different answers about the best way to move. Ultimately, there are pros and cons of either choice. The most important thing is to decide which type of move works best for your family. We are here to walk you through that decision!

How does a military move work?

If this is your first time receiving PCS orders or moving as a family, then you will surely have a lot of questions. Here are the essentials you need to know.

The military will cover the cost of moving your entire family and Household Goods (HHG) from your current duty station to your next assignment. If you choose to do a complete military move, you will register on Move.mil. You can select your preferred moving dates, but ultimately you will move on the military’s timeline.

Once you enroll, you will be assigned a Transportation Service Provider (TSP) who will contract with a local moving company. Movers will come to your house, bring all the packing materials, and pack everything in your house in 1-2 days. Then, they will return with a moving truck and load everything into the truck in one day. The TSP will take your HHG to a warehouse and hold them until you are ready to receive them at your new house. Then the process plays out in reverse: the TSP moving truck arrives at your new location, movers unload everything into your home, they re-assemble any furniture they took apart, and they are liable for most damages.

Pros and Cons of a Military Move

Working with a TSP contractor and doing a military move certainly has some advantages. First of all, there will be no out-of-pocket or surprise expenses for you, as long as you stay within your weight limit. (This is determined by rank and family size and will be written out for you on Move.mil.) All other moving costs are covered by the government, so you don’t have to rent a truck, hire movers, or pay for packing materials. And of course, since the professional movers do most of the work and heavy lifting, a military move is less time-consuming with less physical effort from you. That’s why a military move is a great option if you work full-time, have small children, or will be moving on your own while your service member is away.

Of course, a full military move has its own challenges and disadvantages too. Using a government TSP for your move often gets a bad reputation because of the number of items that are lost and damaged during these moves. Since items are unpacked into warehouses, you wait longer to receive your HHG, and there is a strong chance that some of the shipment will arrive with more wear and tear than when it was loaded. Yes, there is a claims process, and you can get some reimbursement for damages, but it can be a long and tedious process that turns into another moving headache. Working with a TSP also means that things are completed on their timeline, not yours. During peak PCS season (usually the summer), you may have to wait longer for deliveries, or you may not get your preferred packing dates.

How does a Do-it-Yourself Move work?

The other moving option is to skip the military moving companies and handle the moving process yourself. This is called a PPM (Personally Procured Move) although some people still call it a DitY (Do-it-Yourself) move. In this type of move, the government will reimburse you at 100% of what they would have paid professional movers to move you. (This changed in 2020. Previous reimbursement rates were at 95%). Your reimbursement is based on the weight of your Household Goods, so you must weigh your moving truck or trailer empty, then weigh it again when it is full to find out how much you will receive. You still need to log into Move.mil and request a PPM in order to receive reimbursement money later.

Once your PPM is approved, you will make your own moving arrangements. Moving costs like a rental truck, portable storage container, and moving supplies should ideally be put on the Government Travel Charge Card to make the reimbursement process more streamlined. You will be paying some costs out of pocket, so you can request an advance on part of your PCS funds to cover some of the expenses. The service member requests this through their Move.mil paperwork.

Moving yourself gives you more control over the process, and more options about how you want things to be handled. If you don’t have a large house or many belongings, you may choose to do all the packing and loading yourself. Or you can hire local movers to help. If you want to take the time to gradually load your belongings, you can order a portable shipping container (like PODS) to sit in your driveway for a month while you load. Some people rent a moving truck and drive it themselves to the new location. Another option is to hire a company like UPack to drive the trailer for you after you have loaded it. The less money you spend on the move, the more you will get to pocket once you receive your lump-sum reimbursement. Remember, your PPM reimbursement is based on your HHG weight, not your moving expenses. So many families are able to pocket several thousand dollars after a PPM.

Pros and Cons of a PPM

The main reason people choose to do a PPM is to make extra money off their move. Instead of the government paying a professional moving company, they are paying you to handle your own move. The more work you do yourselves, the more money you can keep after the move. People also like the extra control they have during a PPM. Instead of bending to the military’s timeline, you can choose when and how you want to do your move. If you drive your moving truck yourselves, your belongings won’t spend any time in storage and will arrive at the new home the same day you do.

The main drawback to a PPM, of course, is that it is a LOT of work. If you don’t have much furniture or belongings, it may not require too much heavy lifting. But if you have large furniture, many breakable collectibles, or live on a third floor walkup, then definitely think twice before jumping into a PPM. If the service member is deployed, you don’t have any local friends, or you are juggling a pregnancy or young children, then a PPM may be more than you can handle right now. Those situations are a good reason to do the full military move.

Another important consideration is the issue of insurance. If you move yourself during a PPM, you are responsible for any damage to your household goods. If you drop the TV or break antique furniture, you may have coverage of your belongings through your renter’s insurance policy… or you may be out of luck. There can certainly be a financial risk to moving yourself. With the military move, your belongings are covered through the TSP (Transportation Service Provider) and there is a claims process to reimburse you for lost or damaged goods. It isn’t always perfect, and people often complain about the frustration of the claims process or the low numbers offered. But it does provide some reassurance if your valuable furniture or collectibles are damaged during your move.

Now that you know the pros and cons of each type of move, you can make an informed decision about which type will work best for you! PCSgrades is here to help you throughout the move process.