Q -- Dear JAG, I'm PCSing this summer and will need to ship my new car. I bought it here and I've never had to ship a vehicle. I'm concerned the shipping company will damage it. Can you give any tips to help make shipping my car as painless as possible? Sincerely, Pvt. Hot Wheels

Dear Pvt. Hot Wheels,

It's time to start planning your privately owned vehicle shipment.

In May 2014, International Auto Logistics (IAL) took over the DOD's contract for POV shipment and storage services for government personnel.

IAL and its partners operate vehicle processing centers (VPCs) around the globe.

Once you're ready to actually ship your vehicle, here are some tips to keep in mind:

•Turn-in inspection: The owner or his agent will conduct a joint inspection of the vehicle with the inspector to document its condition at the time of turn-in. Accessories should be included in the inventory. You (or your agent) will acknowledge that the inspection of the vehicle is a true representation of its condition at the time of turn-in by signing and dating the vehicle inspection form.

The inspector should turn on the engine to listen for any obvious problems, and you should request that all operating systems are checked and noted on the form. It's your right to object to any of the pre-existing damages noted by the inspector, but be sure to note the objections on the form at that time.

•Pick-up inspection: For the delivery inspection, the inspector usually brings the owner to the parked vehicle with the motor off. The inside and outside of the vehicle should be closely inspected, because any obvious external damage that is not reported at the time of inspection may not be payable.

Any damage you cannot reasonably notice at the inspection site may still be considered if you report the additional damage to the VPC within a short period of time, preferably within a 24-hour period after retrieving the vehicle (if you pick up the vehicle on Friday, return to the VPC the following Monday). It's critical that you don't wait to report any additional damage, because the longer you wait, the more difficult it is to argue the damage was caused during transport.

Too many owners and agents merely check for cosmetic damage, and they're likely to miss any mechanical or electrical problems during the pick-up inspection. Include the mechanical checks during the inspection, but if you forget, notify the VPC as soon as you detect a problem, and return to the VPC to report the problem to the inspector.

Make sure any additional damage is noted on the vehicle inspection form, and re-sign and re-date, if necessary. The inspector also needs to sign and date the form, so it can later be verified when the damage was reported.

•If there's damage: Be sure to both verbally explain the new damage to the inspector, and specifically annotate the new damage in writing, and sign and date it on the VIF! Even if it looks like potential damage, but you can't tell because your vehicle is dirty or it's difficult to see, annotate it as new damage.

Once new damage is reported, VPC representatives have been known to make on-site offers to settle. There is no obligation to accept this offer, and in fact, there's not even a requirement that you first file a claim through IAL.

SJA has seen many owners frustrated and upset at the low offers they receive from IAL because the offers seem to have no rational basis and don't correspond with the repair estimate, if there is one.

POV shipments are different from household goods shipments because there is no requirement to first file a claim with the carrier. You have the option of coming directly to the government instead of IAL.

-- Shipping a POV?

Your first steps should include educating yourself on the process, making an appointment with the VPC and gathering the required documentation to ship your POV. The website also includes information to prepare your vehicle for shipment.

Call the Honolulu VPC at (808) 527-3473.

-- Who you gonna' call?

If you have any questions, remember that the Schofield Barracks Area Claims Office is always available to answer questions or provide guidance. Visit 278 Aleshire St., Bldg. 2037, or call (808) 655-9279.