Harley-Davidson may be an iconic American maker of motorcycles but its bikes have been repair-prone, according to Consumer Reports’ first-ever motorcycle reliability survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.
About one in four owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles reported experiencing a major problem in the previous four years. The full report is available at ConsumerReports.org and in the May issue of Consumer Reports, which hits newsstands on March 28.
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.
“Reliability is one of many factors consumers might consider when purchasing a motorcycle. However, other factors like sculpted lines and rumbling engines also strike the right note among motorcyclists,” said Rik Paul, Auto Editor, Consumer Reports.
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.
A welcome trend in motorcycle technology is the growing availability of antilock brakes (ABS). Bikes equipped with ABS are 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 — and investment Consumer Reports believes to be worthwhile and potentially lifesaving.