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Lemon Law for New and Used Cars

The following is a simple explanation of when the Lemon Laws apply, and a brief example of how our firm and this author resolved a dispute with a dealership.  The Lemon Laws are not intended to be complicated, but there are many steps that must be followed before filing a claim and it is not always easy for busy people to be sure they have correctly taken each step to protect themselves.  This article will explain how to determine if your car is a lemon under either New Jersey or New York law. 

New Jersey Lemon Law for New Vehicles (N.J.S.A. §56:12-29, et seq.)

When does it apply?

When a new vehicle is registered in New Jersey, or it is purchased or leased from a licensed dealership in New Jersey.

When is a new car a Lemon under New Jersey Law?

Under New Jersey law, a car is considered a Lemon if it meets the following descriptions:

The vehicle is under two years old or under 24,000 miles, whichever comes first;

It has a defect that substantially impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle, or has a serious safety defect likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if the car is driven.

The defect still remains after two attempted repairs for the same defect by a dealership (one if it is a serious safety defect) or the vehicle has been out of service for at least 20 days;

If the defect still exists after two repair attempts by the dealer, the manufacturer, not the dealer, must be notified directly by certified mail about the defect within two years from date of delivery or before 24,000 miles, whichever comes first;

The manufacturer must be given at least one final opportunity to repair the defect;

If the manufacturer fails to attempt repair within 10 days, or the final attempt is not successful, you are entitled to a replacement or refund.

Who pays?

Under New Jersey law, if you are forced to file a claim regarding a new car, and you are successful, then the Court may award your reasonable attorneys’ fees.

New Jersey Lemon Law for Used Vehicles (N.J.S.A. §56:8-67, et seq.):

When does it apply?

When the used vehicle is purchased from a licensed dealership in New Jersey.

When is a used car a Lemon under New Jersey Law?

Under New Jersey law, a used car is considered a Lemon if it meets the following descriptions:

The vehicle must be under seven years old and purchased for at least $3,000;

There are three classes of required Used Cars Warranties with different time limits and mileages:

     1.  Vehicles with less than 24,000 miles have a 90-day or 3,000 mile warranty, whichever comes first;

     2.  Vehicles with between 24,000 and 60,000 miles have a 60-day or 2,000 mile warranty, whichever comes first;

     3.  Vehicles with between 60,000 and 100,000 miles have a 30-day or 1,000 mile warranty, whichever comes first;

For vehicles above 60,000 miles the warranty can be waived by the buyer and the dealership will almost always try to include this in the contract;

The vehicle has a defect which substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of the vehicle and is located in its engine, transmission, or front or rear wheel drive system; and

The dealership is allowed a reasonable opportunity to attempt to repair the same defect at least three times, or the vehicle has been out of service for at least 20 days or more.

If the dealership fails to complete repairs within 20 days, refuses to attempt repairs, or its repairs are not successful, you are entitled to a replacement or refund.

Who pays?

Under New Jersey law, even if you are successful in bringing a used car lemon law claim, most likely attorneys’ fees will not be awarded unless the dealership’s defense is entirely frivolous.

New York Lemon Law for New Vehicles (N.Y. G.B.L. §198-a, et seq.)

When does it apply?

When the new vehicle is purchased or leased from a New York dealership or first registered in New York State, and is used primarily for personal purposes.

When is a car a Lemon under New York Law

Under New York law, a car is considered a Lemon if it meets the following descriptions:

The vehicle has a defect or condition that does not conform to the express manufacturer warranties;

The defect is reported to the manufacturer, its agent, or an authorized dealer, by certified mail within two years from date of delivery or before 18,000 miles, whichever comes first;

The manufacturer or its agent or an authorized dealer must begin repairs within seven days of receiving the notice;

If the agent or the dealership refuses to repair the vehicle, the manufacturer must be notified directly by certified mail, and given 20 days to begin repairs;

The manufacturer must provide a replacement or refund if the defect substantially impairs the value of the vehicle, and either: (1) the repairs are not started on time, (2) the repairs are refused, (3) the vehicle is out of service for 30 days due to the defect or repairs, or (4) after four attempts it cannot be repaired.

New York Lemon Law for Used Vehicles (N.Y. G.B.L. §198-b, et seq.)

When does it apply?

When the used vehicle is purchased or leased from a New York dealership or first registered in New York State, and it is used for primarily personal purposes.

When is a car a Lemon under New York Law

Under New York law, a used car is considered a Lemon if it meets any of the following descriptions:

The vehicle must be over two years old and purchased for at least $1,500;

The Used Cars Warranties then fall into three classes with different time limits and mileages:

    1.  Vehicles between 18,001 and 36,000 miles have a 90-day or 4,000 mile warranty, whichever comes first;

    2.  Vehicles between 36,000 and 79,999 miles have a 60-day or 3,000 mile warranty, whichever comes first;

    3.   Vehicles between 80,000 and 100,000 miles have a 30-day warranty or 1,000 miles, whichever comes first;

The vehicle has a malfunction or defect located in its engine, transmission, front or rear drive axle, brakes, steering, radiator, alternator, start, or ignition system;

You report this defect to the dealership and allow them at least three opportunities to repair the defect;

The dealership must provide a replacement or refund if the defect substantially impairs the value of the vehicle and either: (1) the repairs are refused, (2) the vehicle is out of service for 15 days or more, not including days waiting on parts, or 45 days total; or (3) after three attempts it cannot be repaired; and it substantially impairs the value of the vehicle.

Who pays?

Under New York law, if you are forced to file a claim regarding a new or used car and you are successful, then the Court may award reasonable attorneys’ fees.

______________________

Keep in mind that there are many exceptions, definitions, and steps along the way that must be followed and avoided in order to be sure the Lemon Law applies and you are protected.  For example, a client recently complained that the 2011 Luxury SUV he purchased for $26,000 kept breaking down.  The engine overheating light remained on and there was a problem with the rear axle.  The vehicle qualified under the Lemon Law and the dealership was required to repair the problems or give him a refund.  After three repair attempts, the indicator light was fixed, but the dealership refused to address the axle.  After one letter from our firm, the dealership took back the vehicle and replaced it with a smaller 2012 SUV with half the mileage. 

If you are unsure about the process or whether your vehicle qualifies as a ‘lemon’, contact Terence Steed at our office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 201-391-3737.

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