For members of the United States Armed Forces, moving is part of the job. A military relocation to another base is often referred to as a “permanent change of station” (PCS). PCS moves can be regional, cross-country, or international.
Military personnel often use the acronym CONUS (Continental United States) for domestic PCS moves and OCONUS (Outside Continental United States) for international PCS moves. Local moves, whether across town or across base, aren’t considered PCS moves because they don’t involve changing bases.
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Types of PCS Moves
Generally, PCS moves fall into three categories: PPM or DITY, partial PPM, and full PCS. Talk to your military transportation officers about whichever type of PCS move you’re considering. Discuss your options and find out how much your allowance will be.
Once you’ve started the moving process, you’ll be assigned a dedicated moving rep who can help you manage all the details and troubleshoot problems, like missing items or late deliveries.
PPM or DITY
During a personally procured move (PPM) — also called a do-it-yourself (DITY) move — you get a move allowance and arrange the move yourself. It’s up to you to either get moving materials, pack up, and schedule transportation of your stuff or hire a full-service moving company to get it done.
One benefit of a PPM is that it lets you maintain control over the whole moving process. You get to choose and schedule your movers. It doesn’t usually make sense to choose a PPM unless you’re willing to do most of the work yourself.
According to military members on several blogs and forums, you can also make money with a PPM. If you can ensure that the move costs less than your move allowance, you get to keep the difference. But you will probably pay in time and effort when you’re packing, organizing, and loading a truck.
Starting your PPM application
The PPM application process varies depending on which branch of the military you or your family member is in, but it usually involves filling out some forms with the relevant information. Ask a transportation officer on your base how to start the process for your branch, or call the Department of Defense at 1-888-332-7411.
Once you’re approved for a PPM, you’ll probably have to book a truck rental or container rental to transport your things.
Partial PPM moves are great if you have expensive, fragile, or treasured items you want to transport yourself. You can pack up a personal vehicle with things you want to keep close and leave the rest to military movers.
And you might still be able to make a bit of extra money if you can keep the DIY portion of the move under the government’s estimate!
You will have to put in some more effort than you would with a full PCS with less opportunity, with less opportunity to make money from the move than you would with a full PPM.
Starting your partial PPM application
Before you start any paperwork for a partial PPM application, decide how much of your stuff you want to move yourself and how much you want the military movers to transport.
If you decide a partial PPM is right for you, the next step is to apply and get your move approved. Consult with the transportation officers on your base for more details. If you have questions, call the Department of Defense hotline at 1-888-332-7411.
During a full PCS move government-vetted military movers pack, transport, and unpack your things.
If you’re looking for a stress-free, convenient move, a full PCS is a great option. You won’t have to deal with researching, getting quotes from, and booking moving companies. And you won’t spend hours or days packing and transporting your stuff. It’s all taken care of for you.
The drawback to a full PCS is that you won’t control the process. You might not like the military PCS moving company assigned to you. You won’t have the option to vet or veto the company.
But if you’re concerned about the movers damaging or breaking your items, you can still pack some things yourself. The movers get paid no matter what, so they usually won’t care if you do some of it yourself.
Scheduling your PCS move
To schedule a full PCS move, you need to set up a Defense Personal Property System (DPS) account. Then you can log in and upload an order to start scheduling your move.
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Where Can I Find a PCS Move Calculator?
Unfortunately, there is no standard-issue military PCS move calculator. But your military transport officer can help you figure out the final cost of your move. The officer will use a variety of factors to calculate your PCS move cost, including
- Your military rank
- The number of service members moving
- The number of dependants
- The distance between your new home and your old one
- The number of days it will take to move
- The weight of your stuff
The U.S. Department pays for PCS moves, but it’s still important to have some extra cash set aside for extra costs. The Military Family Advisory Network estimates that even after reimbursement, PCS moves cost military families an average of $5,000 per move.
Unreimbursed costs might include
- Lost or damaged items
- Some self-paid moving expenses
- The lost income as a spouse finds a new job
PCS Move Resources
- Military.com — The Military.com network includes members from all branches of the U.S. military. This article from members of the military explains PCS moves in more depth.
- U.S. Army PCS Move Checklist — This checklist is designed for Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield soldiers, but it still applies to almost all military moves. Always check with your transportation officer for specifics.
- Military One Source — This U.S. Department of Defense program offers valuable, up-to-date information on PCS and military moves.
- U.S. Army — This PCS move tip page was written for the 2022 move season, but it still has great advice.
Why Trust Us?
Before writing this guide, we interviewed military family members who have completed both partial and full PCS moves. We read military moving guides from credible government sources like Military One Source so that we could fact-check our information.
We also spoke with Tywanqualia Walker, author of the Order Your Life Moving Guide and a former military member who has completed several PCS moves.
Learn more about Home Bay’s editorial policy.