Cross-Country Driving and PCS Auto Transport: Possibility or Pipe-Dream?

by | 04Oct2017 | Money Saving Ideas | 4 comments

Still-in and I thankfully are not yet up for orders again. But we had an interesting opportunity this summer. Some very dear family members moved faaaarrrrr away and we wanted to visit them on a cross-country trek, our first ever coast-to-coast family adventure. However, the spouse didn’t have a ton of leave to share the drive, and I didn’t want to have to deal with an outrageously expensive one-way rental or doing a round-trip drive by myself. I. Choose. Life.

I thought about this long and hard. When we first got PCS’d cross-country, we had a 2 month-old in tow and opted to fly while a friend drove our car for us. “Uncle Josh,” the most educated, under-employed, adventure-loving friend, lived out of the back of our car as he drove coast-to-coast and stopped at every baseball stadium along the way. We paid for his gas and a bit of expenses, and he had the time of his life.  Fast forward 16 years: how could I create this kind of low-cost, high-adventure travel experience for my family?
And then it hit me…I had seen military folks lament on a Facebook community page about the cost of getting their vehicles transported cross-country for PCS.  Maybe my next family adventure was the answer to someone else’s cross country transport dilemma.  So I did what any slightly desperate, web search-weary mom with a hair-brained idea would do. I advertised on Facebook:

 

Yes, it was a long shot, or so I thought. Beyond my wildest expectations, I had four people contact me within days, and one of them ended up being the right fit for us. I found someone who was moving in the EXACT (opposite) direction, from DC to eastern Washington, within the same timeframe. We just needed to get creative with our plan and travel in the opposite direction.

After coming down off the high of finding my cross-country unicorn soulmate, I did begin to weigh the pros and cons of this seemingly perfect coupling.  We both needed to enter into this with equal measure of blind trust. I didn’t know this lady, she didn’t know me. We were both pretty nondescript online, and didn’t have mutual military colleagues to gut check the background of the other.  But we chatted on the phone and learned about our respective motivations and agreed it was worth the risk.
She was 50-50 on selling the car vs transporting; she just didn’t want to pay a lot to move it. I needed someone to trust me and my 16 year-old co-pilot, who would be turned away by all rental car companies.
I also didn’t want a beater or a car that would fall apart on us somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.  Flash to my worst family vacation nightmare: woman and 2 teens broken down in the middle of mountain pass with a car that’s not their own, midway through a 3500 mile road-trip. But thankfully, my cross-country unicorn soulmate had a spacious 2014 Town & Country with a recent tune-up and good tires. She made sure her insurance carrier was good with us driving her car, and I promised to pay for gas and make sure I cleaned out all the teenager cooties before we delivered the car in Washington. And perhaps the coolest part: she packed the minivan with all of her camping gear for us to use along the way.  So when we parked the car at the end of our trip and headed to the airport for the return flights home, we didn’t have sleeping bags, tents, blankets, dishes, etc to schlep back to the East Coast.
So…too good to be true, you say? Just a flash in the pan?  Not something you can replicate?
I can’t really say. What I do know is that I saved over $1800 (the minimum cost for a one-way minivan rental for my points), and I had an AMAZING adventure with my family, seeing America the way we wanted to experience it.  We were able to make this happen by exercising a bit of creativity, and taking a chance with some like-minded military colleagues, all in the name of low cost, high-adventure awesomeness.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.
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4 Comments

  1. Aaron

    Sounds like a great experience, and low cost, which is great!

    Reply
  2. Drill-In

    Thanks, Aaron. It was such a win-win. Hopefully others can realize that it’s possible to think outside of the box for PCS and vacation (no matter which side of the arrangement you find yourself).

    Reply
  3. Craig Sanders

    Wow this was such an interesting story, to have somebody else drive your car cross-country seems insane! I’m impressed it worked out and shows other options instead of booking your vehicle with a company.

    Reply
    • Drill-In

      Craig, thanks for reading and commenting. It was definitely a long-shot, but it’s funny how many people actually contacted me after the initial query online. Have to have that trust factor, that’s for sure. And probably not a particularly high-value car, to be honest.

      Reply

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