I live in North Jersey and have owned my TJ for almost 3 years. I have a soft top currently and it holds up fantastic even in the winters we have had here. I have the stock soft top from the factory and it is still like new. It folds perfectly still and the windows are still holding up well (minus the one someone stabbed). I would recommend the soft top in NJ. The summers here can get quite hot. And if you practice enough, you can get the art of putting up/down of the top to just a few mintues (I'm at about 3 minutes). Also, being from NJ, hard tops sell very high here. You can get a very nice Bestop for the price of your hard top. As said above, get the sailcloth. My stock top can be quite loud on the highway. I am also a student still (college soph) so I get where you are with money.