The New Jersey Lemon Law—Protecting NJ Residents Who Buy Defective Vehicles

Knowing your rights, and how to enforce them, is very important when purchasing a new vehicle. The New Jersey lemon law is a consumer protection law that was enacted by the state's legislators to help you when you purchase a defective new vehicle or motorcycle.

The law covers vehicles that develop defects or become unusable for considerable periods of time for the first two years or 18,000 miles, whichever comes first. Being aware of the lemon law in New Jersey and familiarizing yourself with the proper procedures for filing a claim can save you a lot of headaches if a defect or safety issue should occur on your new vehicle.

The New Jersey lemon law requires that the manufacturer of a new motor vehicle correct problems that are covered by the manufacturer's original warranty. The lemon law is there to provide procedures and to find resolution in disputes between you and the manufacturer. The lemon law was also enacted to provide specific solutions to deal with unresolved vehicle problems related to safety and the vehicle's usability.

The law covers any consumer who purchases, leases, or registers a new passenger vehicle or motorcycle in the state of New Jersey. However, the lemon law does not cover commercial vehicles, or the living quarters of a motor home. The protection covers you for the first 2 years of ownership, or 18,000 miles, whichever comes first. If the vehicle is transferred to another person within the first two years or 18,000 miles, the NJ lemon law covers that person as well.

How Can I Tell If My Car Is a Lemon?

For your vehicle to qualify for the lemon law, its fault must substantially impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle. In addition, a new vehicle is considered a lemon if it has one or more defects that continue to exist even after three repair attempts or if the vehicle has been out of service for 20 calendar days.

I Have a Lemon. What Do I Do Now?

If you encounter a problem with your new car, report it to the manufacturer or dealer right away. The manufacturer should make repairs on your defective vehicle.

It's imperative that you keep all receipts of repairs, work orders, your purchase documents and your warranty, plus copies of any correspondence with the manufacturer or dealer. Send all correspondence by certified mail with a return receipt requested. This will give you proof that the manufacturer received your letters.

You have the right to receive a detailed and dated report of any repairs done to the vehicle. Be sure to keep those reports, as the New Jersey lemon law requires them should you need to go to court to gain compensation for your lemon.

These reports should include details such as a general description of the problem, parts and labor, an odometer reading when you bring in the vehicle, and an odometer reading after you pick up the vehicle from its servicing. Statements should also include the date you bring in the vehicle, the date that you pick it up, and a list of all the work done on the vehicle.

The lemon law in New Jersey allows the manufacturer three attempts to repair a defective vehicle. The law also requires that you write to the manufacturer, giving them one last chance to repair the defect in your lemon vehicle. In the letter, you would state that yo have a claim, and that you are giving the manufacturer one last chance to repair the vehicle.

This letter should be mailed out after the second repair attempt, or after the 20-day period of the car being out of use. Upon the date of receipt of your letter, the manufacturer has 10 calendar days to again attempt to repair your vehicle. If the defect is not repaired, you then have a right to file a claim for a refund.

Do I Have To Pay for Repairs?

The manufacturer pays for the repairs within the first year of the warranty, or the first 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. After that, you may have to pay for the repairs, but if the car is deemed a lemon, you will be reimbursed for the cost of all repairs that you paid for.

Filing a Lemon Law Claim

To file a claim under the New Jersey lemon law, you must provide a copy of your 10-day demand letter, and return receipt verification, and a copy of the final repair attempt invoice. At that point, the manufacturer may offer to replace the motor vehicle; however, you can refuse the replacement, and still demand the refund. If you receive a refund, it will be the total cost of the vehicle purchase, minus a reasonable allowance for vehicle use.

In your claim, you may also request any towing costs, finance charges, rental car fees, lemon law filing fees, and any attorney fees.

What If the Manufacturer Won't Give Me a Refund?

A manufacturer can refuse to pay you a refund or replace your vehicle. If the manufacturer refuses your lemon law claim, you may take ask for a hearing through the Division of Consumer Affairs's Automotive Dispute Resolution Program. Or you can send a complaint to the manufacturer's informal dispute settlement program. Or you can take legal action to enforce your rights. Having an experienced lemon law lawyer on your side is a good idea if you need to go to court. You may also want one for a hearing, since the manufacturer will have legal counsel present.

Being aware or your New Jersey lemon law rights is very important when making a large expenditure like a new car, truck or motorcycle. The lemon law is in place to protect you from defective vehicles, which could also put your safety at risk. Knowing what to do if a lemon defect should arise will enable you to act quickly and effectively to solve the problem.

NOTE:The information here is not legal advice and is only presented to you so you can know your options if you purchased a lemon. As with any legal issue, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney.


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