What is an MSO/MCO (Certificate of Origin)?

There’s a lot of confusion for people when they hear the terms MSO or MCO related to their new vehicles. There is no need to wonder any longer about these vague abbreviations. These terms simply refer to the Certificate of Origin and aren’t that complicated once you understand what they do.

What Does MSO Stand For?

MSO is the Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin.
MCO is the Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin.

Either way, it means the same thing.

This particular document simply tells you where the new automobile was produced. Most times, it looks just like the Certificate of Title and includes the manufacturer, vehicle identification number and the year of manufacture.

You will find an MSO is included with many things, not just vehicles. For example, aircraft, motorboats and trailers come with them as well.

Why Do You Need an MSO?

An MSO is issued when a new vehicle is purchased. It is used to register the vehicle for the first time and to obtain the vehicle’s first title from the DMV. Because federal law doesn’t require MSOs, the rules are different for each state. Some states require MSOs while others do not. You can contact the DMV in your state to see if it’s necessary to have an MSO to obtain a vehicle’s first title and registration.

If you didn’t get the MSO from the dealer or you lost it, then you will need to get a duplicate of it in order to proceed with the registration. The Department of Revenue or Department of Motor Vehicles might not issue the title without it.

How Do You Get an MSO?

When you purchase a new car, ask the dealership for the Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin before you leave. They should have it on hand and it shouldn’t be an issue to receive.

If you purchase the vehicle out of state, this might require a little extra work. Sometimes, they have to send the MSO to you instead.

If you plan to construct a motor vehicle on your own, you must also have an MSO. To do this, you’ll want to contact the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, otherwise known as AAMVA. It is entirely against the law to create the certificate yourself – so make sure you reach out to them for help.

Differences Between Vehicle Title, Registration, and MSO

Hopefully, by now you understand more about what an MSO is and why it is essential. Even with this knowledge, you might be slightly confused about the differences between a title, registration and the MSO. Let’s see if we can clear that up a little.

Title

The title certificate proves you are the owner of your car, truck, RV, motorcycle, etc. When you sell your property to another person, you transfer that title into their name thereby giving them ownership of the item.

Registration

The registration allows you to operate a vehicle on public roads. It’s possible to title a vehicle without having it registered, but you won’t legally be allowed to drive anywhere off your own property.

Other vehicles are registered as well. For example, you need to register a motorboat if you wish to operate it on a public waterway.

The different types of registration for each vehicle vary. In addition, most states require you to have the minimum level of insurance to receive registration.

In California, registration is done slightly different than the other states. In fact, if you purchase a new or used car at a dealership, it is their requirement to register it for you. On the other hand, all third party sales require you to go to the DMV like most other states.

MSO

The only person that will likely get their hands on the MSO of a car, other than the dealer, is the first person who purchases it. From there, it’s used to get the car titled and never seen again.

Many DMVs keep a copy of the MSO or MCO on file with the title, but this isn’t true of all of them. In fact, it’s been reported that once the title is issued, many dealers have no use for it anymore and simply destroy it.

Do You Use an MSO When Exporting a Vehicle?

We recently discussed how to import a used car from Canada or Mexico, but what happens when you export a brand-new vehicle from the United States?

It often doesn’t make sense to pay the fees to title and register it before exporting. Thankfully, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has a plan in place to alleviate this. If you intend on exporting a car that doesn’t have a title, you can use your MSO instead. Just make sure you fill out all the paperwork and have everything ready in order to lessen your time of inspection.

MSOs and the Dealerships

One quick word of warning: people do have trouble getting their MSO from the dealership at times. While it’s not common, it is something to be aware of. The majority of new car sales and titling go off without a hitch, so it’s not something you should always be worried about, but knowledge is power.

With that said, there are times when getting the MSO has been an issue. Just read this forum from the guy who bought a Tesla and never received his MCO from the automaker. Here’s another one on Reddit from a guy who bought a new Mazda6. So, you see this is a problem people face, even though it’s rare.

Bottom line – you need to know what to expect when walking into a dealership. Ask upfront about the documentation on the car and make sure you leave there with everything you need. Otherwise, you might end up with a headache in the end.

Final Thoughts

For the majority of car owners, the MSO or MCO is never an issue you need to think about. When you purchase a used vehicle, that document is long gone at whatever DMV the car was first registered through. The only time you might ever see the MSO yourself is when you buy a new car and need to obtain its very first title. With what you’ve learned through this article, you should have no trouble navigating the course ahead.


Title Gods specializes in recovering lost car titles and solving all kinds of title-related issues. We are not attorneys. This article is not legal advice.

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