Buying a Car in New Jersey

New Jersey has fairly typical regulations relating to vehicle purchasing. We have gathered here the most important information for you to know if you are considering buying a car in the state, as well as links for additional details so you have as much information as possible.

1. Title Information

In New Jersey, all vehicles on the road must have a title. If you are purchasing your vehicle from a dealer, they should take care of the details for you (but make sure that they actually do so). If you are buying the vehicle with cash, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) will send you the title. If you have a “lien” (a loan) on the vehicle, the title will be sent to the lienholder, who will submit it back to the MVC when the lien is paid in full. At that point, the MVC will send you a new title.

If you are purchasing a previously owned vehicle from a private owner, you will need the previous title signed over to you, proof of insurance, an odometer disclosure and inspections/emission testing, if applicable. You will take these documents to an MVC station for processing.

In all cases, you have only 10 days to get the vehicle titled.

2. Insurance Information

New Jersey has mandatory auto insurance requirements for every vehicle in the state. The required minimums are $5,000 liability property damage per accident and $15,000 personal injury protection per accident.

However, New Jersey has an unusual insurance design. The aforementioned minimums are considered the “basic” policy and are perfectly legal, but they are designed for individuals with few assets and no dependents. The “standard” policy has insurance requirements of $15,000 liability per person bodily damage ($30,000 per accident), $5,000 liability property damage (per accident) and $15,000 personal injury protection (per accident), with some injuries paying up to $250,000.

New Jersey allows for both policies but suggests that anyone with families and/or assets to lose should consider at least having the standard policy, if not more.

3. Emission Information

New Jersey requires emission inspections on the majority of vehicles. If you are purchasing a new vehicle, it will be exempt from inspections for five years. Used vehicles are exempt if they are less than five years old and thus still within the aforementioned five-year exemption period. There is also a long list of vehicles that are exempt for very specific reasons.

Any other vehicle will need to be tested every two years, and the vehicle will get a sticker when it passes the inspection. Residents are allowed to have their vehicle inspected for free at a state-run station or at a private station; there is a long list of both types of stations to choose from. If you are purchasing a previously owned vehicle that is more than five years old, make sure you are aware of when it will need to be inspected again.

4. Lemon Law Information

New Jersey’s Lemon Law works much as similar laws in many other states do. It covers new and leased vehicles for the first two years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. Used vehicles that are purchased while still within that timeframe or mileage are also covered.

In order for the law to apply to a particular vehicle, the vehicle either must have a problem that has not been repaired after three attempts or must have been out of service for repairs for at least 20 cumulative days.

If either condition exists, the vehicle owner must send a certified letter to the manufacturer and allow it one final chance to repair the defect. If that fails, the owner has the option to either go to arbitration or bring a lawsuit against the manufacturer.

5. Special Information

New Jersey also has a Used Car Lemon Law, which covers used vehicles that are under seven years old, cost at least $3,000 to purchase, and have less than 100,000 miles on the odometer. The law only applies if you have bought the vehicle from a dealer, and it automatically gives you a warranty dependent on the age and mileage of the vehicle.

If, during that warranty period, the vehicle has a problem that is not repaired after three attempts or is in the shop for repairs for 20 cumulative days, the manufacturer must either replace or refund the vehicle.