Harley-Davidson And BMW Less Reliable Than Japanese Motorcycles. But Harley And BMW Owners Among The Most Satisfied.

new-motorcyclebisThe Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted their first-ever motorcycle reliability survey. Resulkts are in: about one in four owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles reported experiencing a major problem in the previous four years. BMW motorcycles were even less reliable than Harley-Davidsons with about one in three owners reporting problems in the previous four years. Only about one in ten Yamaha owners experienced issues during that time, followed closely Kawasaki and Honda.

But reliability is only 1 factor among those taken in account when purchasing a new or used motorcycle. Design lines, rumbling sound, brand image are 3 others that can “compensate” for less reliability. Despite the higher number of problems, Harley and BMW owners were among the most satisfied with their bikes. When asked whether, considering everything, they would buy their bike again if they had to do it over, 75 percent of Harley owners said “definitely yes”, closely followed by 74 percent of BMW owners and 72 percent of Honda owners. By contrast, only 63 and 60 percent of Yamaha and Kawasaki owners, respectively, were as emphatic in this subjective measure.

Among the bikes that needed repairs, survey respondents reporting having the most trouble with accessories, such as lights, instruments, switches, and radios (21 percent), brakes (20 percent), the electrical system (16 percent), and the fuel system (15 percent). Fortunately, most repairs were fairly inexpensive. Three quarters cost less than $200 out-of-pocket.

newmotorcyclesA welcome trend in motorcycle technology is the growing availability of antilock brakes (ABS). Bikes equipped with ABS are said to be 37 percent less likely to be involved in a fatal crash, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This critical feature is now standard on many high-end models and adds only a few hundred dollars to the price of more basic bikes – an investment Consumer Reports believes to be worthwhile and potentially lifesaving.

The full report is available at Consumer Reports and in the May issue of Consumer Reports, which hit newsstands on March 28.  Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications.

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11 Responses to “Harley-Davidson And BMW Less Reliable Than Japanese Motorcycles. But Harley And BMW Owners Among The Most Satisfied.”


  1. 1 Rodent Apr 2nd, 2013 at 8:38 am

    I must disagree having owned and ridden R75,R90,R100RS R80,R69s mit Steib plus a 05,06, 07 Sportsters and well over a half million miles I was only broke down along the road twice. The BMW R80 transmission snapped a main shaft which delayed me a few hours whle underwarrenty the dealer replaced tranny out of a brand new bike and Sporty lost a valve guide which the dealer replaced with a new head.
    Much better reliabity record than anyone of the 4 wheelers I’ve owned!

  2. 2 Fritz Apr 2nd, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    My old BMW R100/7 just would not quit. Due to hard times I had to sell it but the new owner is still riding it, now with 200,000 + miles on it. The new BMWs don’t even come close to the old “slash” series and that was 30 to 40 years ago!

  3. 3 Black Shadow Apr 2nd, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    My 06 BMW K1200S needed a $3500 driveshaft at 40,000 miles and my 07 K1200GT had quite a few problems then skipped a tooth on the cam chain, bent all the valves and wrecked the head. It took 51 weeks and $13,000 parts and labor to fix. They don’t build em like they used too!

  4. 4 Woody's Apr 2nd, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Does it matter if our individual experiences don’t mirror the aggregate of some survey? I’ve never been hit by a tornado, but that doesn’t negate any study that reports a certain % of folks have. Like any survey, I’ll read between the lines and enjoy what I can from it. Hopefully they’ll start doing the survey results in a rwadable raw data form like they do with autos & light trucks so we can see specific catagories of maint needed and above/below average symbols. Surveys like these are better than nothing, but often shaded even by folks that THINK they’re being honest. Back in the 80’s when Japanese car quality really started spanking some domestic car quality, it was interesting to read CU’s reports. People were buying Japan-built cars at a premium price compared to many domestic small cars because they BELIEVED they were getting superior quality. As a result, some of them had a perhaps subconscious tendency to excuse some defects in a “self-fulfilling prophesy” manner or not mention things because it was covered under warranty, etc. because it would have violated their preconceived quality beliefs. Ya gotta chuckle at folks reporting more problems but claiming they’re happier, but also question if other import owners fudge their experience because they want to feel superior to the top dog.

  5. 5 burnout Apr 2nd, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Agree w Woody’s. peace

  6. 6 fuji Apr 2nd, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Woody’s. Couldnt have said it any better. Thanks for some common sence

  7. 7 Sharrack Apr 2nd, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Ground breaking research….. 😉

  8. 8 Mark Shubin Apr 3rd, 2013 at 10:38 am

    I agree with Rodent, have owned Beemers I the past, last one was a 1986 Fly’in Brick RS 100 . Coolest/Pain in ass bike was BSA owned When I was 19, wish My cousin did’nt T-Bone it when I was over seas in the Navy. Suspension and brakes on my 05 police issue Road King need improvement! But have to say our 2000 mile road trip a two weeks ago was a gas!!! Motor is very sorted out!

  9. 9 carl M Apr 3rd, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Something doesnt work right or not!
    It’s that simple. In todays world you can expect to have a vehicle perform its duties for several years and thousnads of miles and not have a single thing ever not work correctly.
    It might be boring, but this is the new expectation.
    Things not working correctly is not acceptable any longer!!!!

  10. 10 Martin Twofeather Apr 3rd, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    How in the world would theInsurance Institute for highway safety know anything?The last study was in the late 70’s and I am not sure ABS brakes were around then and the recent study is bogus,so can anyone explain to me were they are getting thier information?

  11. 11 Rob Apr 4th, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Consumrr reports is merely a guide. I don’t have much faith in these reports.Years ago they said the 2001 impala was basically very unreliable. My impala ran almost 160,000 miles with only a fuel pump failure. At the rnd it was pretty much wore out buttstill roadworthy after 12 years………………….

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