DIY PCS Moves: A Just-Do-It Story!

AZ-sunsetWhen my coworkers found out my husband and I decided to do a personal procured moved (PPM) – or “a FULL DITY” move for you old school folks – from Northern Virginia all the way to southern Arizona, their reactions ranged from a simple, “Wow, good luck!” to speechless laughter (think: the ‘you have got to be kidding me… you must be insane!’).

We were fortunate this time around. This PCS didn’t come as a shock to us. We practically knew when it was coming. And we knew exactly where we were heading for our next career course: good ol’ Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

I started organizing way before we started packing, cleaning out junk drawers, purging closets, and things of that nature. Being organized really helped when we started filling the boxes. I scored free boxes from Craigslist, and made several runs to Home Depot for packing supplies like tape, packing paper, and bubble wrap because they have a 10% military discount!

Moving along, (get it? The pun was totally intended) we notified landlords, canceled utilities, submitted change of address, and requested necessary medical records, including our dog’s. A tip to remember: a month after the move, check back with the old utilities companies and make sure your accounts are closed out and have no remaining balance.

Once our cars were weighed, sans stuff, we convinced a few friends to help us load everything onto the trailer we purchased for the move. Our awesome crew happily accepted payment in the form of pizza and smiles!

All packed and ready to go, we stopped at the weigh station outside of town to get our full weight (loaded cars and trailer), and then we were off! The first leg of the trip was drama free. We stayed at a LaQuinta Inn in Nashville – they are inexpensive, super dog and pet friendly, and have military discounts! Score!

puppyThen, our truck lost its brakes between Memphis and Dallas. Try driving through downtown Dallas without brakes… actually, no, don’t try it! My husband managed to make it, thanks to the trailer hand brake.

We stopped in Dallas for a few days, stayed with family, fixed the truck and hit the road, again. Our poor pup was sick of the car by this point. I swear he rolled his eyes whenever it was time to go.

We crossed into Arizona as the sun was setting – a terrific way to welcome us to our new state. A few days of permissive temporary duty (TDY) was all it took for us to find a house to rent. The bonus was that we didn’t have to wait for any household goods to arrive! With keys in hand, we unloaded our boxes, filled the fridge and poured the wine.

Doing a PPM is not for everyone. But it can be done, and it can be worth it. We had it EASY, with only one furry ‘kid’ in tow.

Most people are weary of a PPM move because of the cost. Not every service member will receive the same amount money for moving expenses, which can end up costing a substantial amount upfront, and this may not work for your family.

We chose to put the expenses on a credit card with reward points, and paid it off along the way. In some branches, service members are able to get a cash advance from the military. So, don’t write the PPM option off immediately!

Here’s a glance at our breakdown of expenses:

Total Out of Pocket Expenses: $7,180

  • Trailer (we bought instead of renting): $5,000
  • Moving Supply Expenses: Roughly $200
  • Total fuel for two cars (one hybrid SUV, one diesel truck hauling a trailer): $1,100
  • Food for the trip: Roughly $350
  • Fix for truck brakes: $50 – an inexpensive fix thanks to a savvy father-in-law
  • Lodging while traveling: $80, LaQuinta Inn Nashville
  • Lodging during permissive TDY: $400, Holiday Inn Express Sierra Vista

Total Amount Collected + sale of trailer: $18,000 (after Taxes)

  • Trailer (sold it for the purchase cost): $5,000
  • Per Diem Pay, Dislocation Allowance, Mileage: $5,700
  • Pay per weight of move: $7,300

Total Profit: $10,820

This move ended up being a win for us, and a win for the Army, since they only pay us 95% of what they would pay professional movers.

So, would I do it again? Let me get back to you on that…

Has your family ever done a PPM (fully DITY) move? What were some of the challenges you faced?

alliePosted by Allie Jones, Program Manager, Spouse Education + Professional Support

6 responses to “DIY PCS Moves: A Just-Do-It Story!

  1. Allie – we did our first move from CO to NC as a PPM and we will never do it again! We rented a moving truck and first off – I selected the wrong size. We had to leave stuff behind because we didn’t have enough room. I disliked moving our furniture up and down stairs (we owned a condo at that time). We also had 2 cars to move and 1 moving truck. Family helped us drive from CO to NC. We stayed with family and friends along the way. We did manage to move without breaking anything and even though unpacking took time – we did make a profit and used the funds to purchase some new furniture for our on base home.

  2. Katie – I’m glad we did this, not only for the monetary profit but for the experience. Without kids and without too much stuff it was relatively speaking, easy. We were so fortunate to have friends help pack the heavy stuff and deal with the stairs during move out. Moving in, I had to put “Ranger Panties” on, figuratively speaking, and lift some heavy stuff with my hubs, but we managed!

  3. Melissa Wilkerson

    I think it’s an awesome idea. If I didn’t have 17,000lbs and three kids, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’m contemplating doing one once my kids are old enough to help. I like that you bought the trailer. I have heard of folks buying an RV to drive x-country and then selling it upon arrival. I’d much prefer driving in an RV than a minivan. ;0). Congrats on making a smooth move and some money!

  4. My husband is in the Air Force and we are headed to Randolph AFB in San Antonio, TX come October. I have always wanted to do a PPM move! I’m very particular about the way our belongings are handled. My friend had the military move them and they had their daughter’s clothes labeled Christmas Decorations! No wonder they couldn’t find them! Any ways, I don’t have any desire to let the military move us. I’ve started the process now and I honestly think it will be better for our family. We are saving the money now so we should be good! :) I’m actually very excited for this move! Thanks for your inspiration!

  5. Actually there is an error in their calculations. Every military member gets per diem (which includes lodging), dislocation and mileage to move. They only made the $7k minus the moving items (boxes..etc.). My suggestion go to TMO and they will give you an estimate, then you can see if the trouble is worth money.

  6. Just PCS from Texas to DC. I’m seriously thinking our next PCS will be a full dity. Our household goods arrived Wednesday on a flatbed truck loaded with 4 giant crates. It was as if our things multiplied while in transit. While only one leg of a chair was broke this move, they overpacked everything… using 10 sheets of newspaper like packing sheets to wrap the silliest of things, like a curtain! The movers who delivered our things were blown away with the amount of packing materials they had consumed. Totally unnecessary. And it’s been nearly a week and we are still unpacking boxes. Not because we are taking our time, but because we have to wait until the garbage truck arrives to take away all the packing paper and boxes we’ve discarded!
    This is our 3rd PCS in less than 2 years! I’m so over moving…but when the time comes again, I’m thinking I want to be in charge.

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