Lemon Law in New Jersey
Like most states, New Jersey has a Lemon Law intended to assist consumers who buy, register, or lease a new motor vehicle. The Lemon Law protects you from being stuck with a vehicle that develops defects that remain unresolved.
Is My Vehicle a Lemon?
The Lemon Law establishes procedures for resolving disputes between a consumer and a manufacturer and provides remedies when an uncorrected defect seriously hinders the use, value, or safety of the car. Under New Jersey's Lemon Law, the manufacturer must repair defects that are covered under the original warranty if they are identified and reported within a specified time period.
In New Jersey, the lemon law applies to only new vehicles you've bought or leased. You may receive protection under the law if any of the following apply to your vehicle:
- The defect persists after 3 attempts to repair it.
- The vehicle has been out of service for 20 days (cumulative) during the first 2 years or 24,000 miles.
If your vehicle matches the above criteria, the manufacturer may be responsible for repairing the defects under the original warranty. To ensure you're protected, be sure to report the issues promptly.
The Lemon Law does not cover defects caused by an accident, vandalism, abuse, or neglect. Furthermore, repairs must be done by the manufacturer, its agent, or an authorized dealer.
It is essential to keep on file detailed receipts of all repair attempts and a complete record of your contact with both the manufacturer and the dealer. Generally, a manufacturer's warranty covers repairs for at least the first year following the original delivery date or the first cited miles, whichever comes first - though your particular warranty may differ, so please check. If you lease a vehicle, check your leasing contract to see who is responsible for repair bills.
Filing a NJ Lemon Law Claim
If you think that your vehicle meets the Lemon Law's conditions, you might qualify for Lemon Law relief. You'll need to start out by completing a Lemon Law application and paying a $50 application fee, which will be returned if your case is successful. You can reach the Division of Consumer Affairs' Lemon Law Unit to begin the process by calling (973) 504-6226 or writing to:
Lemon Law Unit
P.O. Box 45026
Newark, NJ 07101
The Lemon Law also requires you to send a letter to the manufacturer by certified mail, return receipt requested, indicating that you might have a claim and that you are giving the manufacturer a final opportunity to resolve the problem. You can contact the Division of Consumer Affairs for the address of the regional office of your vehicle's manufacturer.
Then, the manufacturer has 10 days to make a final repair. If this does not happen, you can demand a refund of the vehicle's purchase price. To file a claim under the Lemon Law, you will need a copy of your letter to the manufacturer, your return receipt verification, and your final repair attempt invoice.
If the case is resolved, you should inform the Lemon Law Unit of the conclusion. If the matter is not resolved, follow the procedures the unit has established.
If the administrative law judge decides in your favor and the director of Consumer Affairs agrees with that decision, you will be given a refund plus other costs. If you are dissatisfied with the decision of the division or the court, you have 45 days to file for an appeal in the Appellate Division of the Superior Court. The court can be reached at (609) 292-4822.
What If My Claim Is Rejected?
If the manufacturer rejects your claim and refuses to refund your money or replace your vehicle, you may do one of the following:
- Send your complaint to the manufacturer's informal dispute settlement program. (If you take this route and you are not satisfied with the results, you can still file for a hearing before an administrative law judge.)
- File a civil action in court. (Note that once a court decision has been reached, you can no longer use the Division of Consumer Affairs' program.)
- Ask for a hearing through the Division of Consumer Affairs. It might be to your advantage to have a Lemon Law attorney present, because the manufacturer will have legal representation.
Replacement vs. Refund
If the manufacturer offers to replace your vehicle, you may refuse the offer and demand a refund. If your request is rejected, you can pursue the matter through a hearing or in court.
If you do accept a replacement vehicle, and the original vehicle was financed, the manufacturer must see that the financing is transferred from the original vehicle to the replacement vehicle. (It is your responsibility to have the title and registration transferred to the car you are given.)
If you accept a refund, you will receive the full purchase price of your original vehicle, minus a "reasonable allowance for vehicle use."
Hiring a Lemon Law Attorney in New Jersey
Hiring a lemon law attorney can help you claim your entitlements from the manufacturer with minimal stress. Once you decide to hire a NJ lemon law attorney for your case, you'll want to ask your prospective attorney(s) any or all of the following questions:
- How much experience do you have with the New Jersey lemon law?
- Have you worked on similar cases?
- What are your fees and when is payment due?
Here are some examples of how a lemon law attorney can be beneficial:
- Your lawyer will have expertise with lemon laws and consumer rights.
- You'll have more leverage to negotiate with the car manufacturer.
- You may be able to resolve your case faster.
Your lemon law attorney may even be able to work with the manufacturer to resolve the issue outside of court.