New Jersey New Car Lemon law protects consumers who purchase, lease or register a new car, truck, or motorcycle in New Jersey that ends up having a non-conformity or defect. This law can help you if find yourself making repeated and costly trips back to the service department of your car dealer to address continuing mechanical defects and other non-conformities.
If you have taken your new car into the shop for repairs an inordinate number of times only to be told that the dealer can't duplicate or repair the problem, The New Jersey New Car Lemon Law may give you the right to recover damages or have your vehicle bought back at the manufacturer's expense. To learn more about New Jersey's New Car Lemon Law and what your legal rights are as a consumer, read on.
(To learn about other New Jersey consumer protection laws, visit our New Jersey Debt Management & Consumer Law Center.)
What Is the New Jersey New Car Lemon Law?
The State of New Jersey enacted the New Car Lemon Law to protect you, the consumer, in cases where you have purchased, leased, or registered a new vehicle in New Jersey that subsequently develops a defect or non-conformity which is covered under the manufacturer's warranty. The law covers vehicles that develop defects in the first two years of ownership or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.
The law requires vehicle manufacturers to correct and repair reported defects within a reasonable time and provides procedures for resolving consumer complaints. It also offers other remedies should the vehicle not be repaired within a reasonable time and the uncorrected defects substantially impair the use, value, or safety of the new vehicle.
It is important to note that the New Car Lemon Law does not cover defects which have been caused by an accident, vandalism, abuse, or neglect on the part of the consumer. It also does not cover defects caused by attempts to repair or modify the vehicle by a person other than the manufacturer or the car dealer.
Which Vehicles Are Covered Under the New Jersey New Car Lemon Law?
New Jersey's New Car Lemon law specifically protects all new passenger cars, trucks, motorcycles and authorized emergency vehicles which have been purchased, leased, or registered in the State of New Jersey. Commercial vehicles and the living facilities of motor homes are not covered under the law.
What Can I Do If I Suspect That My New Car Is A Lemon?
If you suspect that your new vehicle has a defect, immediately report the defect to the dealer. It is important that you keep a copy of all of your receipts, the mileage, and a record of all communications that you have with the dealer regarding repairs.
What Constitutes a “Lemon” Under New Jersey Law?
Once the car dealer has been notified of a suspected defect, the dealer is given a "reasonable amount of time" in which to repair or correct the defect. Your vehicle will be presumed to be a lemon if:
- the manufacturer or its dealer has made a least three attempts to repair the defect and has been unable to repair the problem, or
- the motor vehicle is out of service by reason of repair for one or more defects for a cumulative total of 20 or more calendar days since the original delivery date of the motor vehicle and the defect continues to exist.
The defect complained of, must substantially impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle.
What Must the Manufacturer and its Dealer Do?
If the car manufacturer and its dealer have been unable to repair or correct the defect, and the vehicle has been presumed a lemon, the manufacturer, in many cases, will privately resolve the matter with you through an informal settlement. Often, the manufacturer will agree to accept the return of the vehicle from you, and at your option, either replace the vehicle or give you a refund which typically includes:
- the full purchase price or leasing costs of the vehicle
- any finance charges
- sales tax, tags and registration fees, and
- reimbursement for towing and rental car expenses incurred
What If the Car Manufacturer Won't Resolve My Complaint?
If the car manufacturer is unwilling to resolve your complaint, you can file a claim under the New Jersey Lemon Law. Here’s what you must do before you submit a claim:
Send a letter by certified mail to the car manufacturer notifying it of the potential claim and giving it one final opportunity to repair the defect.
This certified letter can only be sent after the dealer has:
- made at least two attempts to repair the same defect, or
- 20 cumulative days or more have elapsed since the vehicle has been out of service for one or more defects and they still exist, or
- made just one repair attempt if the non-conformity is a "serious safety defect."
Once the manufacturer has received this notification, it has ten calendar days to repair the vehicle.
Options if the final attempt to repair the vehicle fails. If the manufacturer cannot repair the defect, you may:
- file a complaint with the Lemon Law Unit of the New Jersey Office of Consumer Affairs
- file a lawsuit, or
- participate in the manufacturer's arbitration program, if available.
If you chose to participate in the manufacturer's arbitration program, if available, and you are not satisfied with the outcome and have not been able to reach a settlement on your claim, you may still file an application with the Lemon Law Unit of the New Jersey Office of Consumer Affairs.
Filing a Complaint With the Lemon Law Unit
If you file a complaint, the Lemon Law Dept. will review your application and determine whether it warrants holding a hearing. If the Unit decides to accept your application, it will send the complaint to the car dealer and attempt to resolve the case.
If the case cannot be resolved, a hearing date will be scheduled within 20 days through the Office of Administrative Law. Once the administrative law judge issues an opinion, the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs can either accept, reject, or modify the judge's decision.
Filing a Lawsuit
You can also file your own lawsuit against the manufacturer in civil court. If you do so, you cannot later file a complaint with the Lemon Law Unit.
What Happens if I Win My Lemon Law Claim?
If you win your claim, the manufacturer will be required to take back your vehicle and issue you a refund. Your refund, shall include, but is not limited to:
- the purchase price or leasing costs of your vehicle
- any finance charges
- sales tax, tags, and registration fees
- attorneys’ fees
- costs of vehicle repairs
- towing charges and any rental car charges incurred
- expert witness, and
- court filing fees.
New Jersey has received national praise for having one of the most comprehensive and effective Lemon Law statutes. The New Jersey Legislature in passing the New Car Lemon Law recognized that the purchase of a new car is a major financial investment and incurring cost to repair defects in a new vehicle, creates an economic hardship that should not be shouldered by New Jersey consumers, but instead by the car manufacturers and their dealers.