12 Major Motorcycle Brands Ranked Worst To Best

There are many factors that can inform your decision to buy a specific brand of motorcycle. These might include value for money, performance, legacy, and efficiency, all of which contribute to this ranking. However, the best indicator by which one can judge the quality of a motorcycle brand overall is its reliability. After all, none of us wishes to spend more time and money than is absolutely necessary on maintenance and repairs, and while safety should be a primary concern when considering buying any vehicle, this especially applies to motorcycles.

This is beneficial information if you are in the market for a new bike or simply a current owner who wishes to see how your motorcycle brand stands up compared to the rest of the pack. While it is undoubtedly true that some motorcycles are more reliable than others produced by the same manufacturer, it is fair to generalize a brand as a whole, as they tend to employ the same manufacturing methods throughout their product lines and adhere to the same standards of build quality according to budget constraints and design principles. This ranking determines which bikes look after their owners best and keep them out of the garage while considering other factors, such as return custom and popularity, to see which major marques come out on top.

12. Aprilia

According to the stereotype, Italian bikes offer riders more excitement and flair but are widely considered less reliable than many of their Japanese and European counterparts. Headquartered in Noale, Italy, Aprilia is a highly regarded bike manufacturer known worldwide for its high-performance motorcycles, many of which are renowned for their build quality. One such example is the Aprilia RSV4, which has been labeled as "bulletproof" by some of its devotees. Yet Aprilia ranks disappointingly low in reliability reports due to some issues that appear to affect much of its product line, such as expanding gas tanks, melted wiring harnesses, rectifier malfunctions, oil leaks, and general corrosion.

Yet while the prioritizing of form over function may leave Aprilia coming up short in the reliability stakes, a well-looked-after Aprilia can treat you well in return by clocking up a respectable number of miles before any major maintenance is required. Like its fellow Italian brand Ducati, the Aprilia is an exotic marque, and a little respect is required to get the best performance from your machine. With its highly aspirational and beautifully-designed line of vehicles, including the RSV4, Tuono V4, and RS660 sports bikes, as well as its Tuareg 660 ADV, the brand maintains a loyal following and shows no chance of slowing down any time soon.

11. Royal Enfield

Enfield has a long and distinguished history dating over 100 years. While its bikes have been considered among the most unreliable, a recent company overhaul has seen it produce some very well-received models that boosted its reputation. It is, therefore, important to understand where Enfield has come from, where it is going, and what has been done to address its past issues.

Royal Enfield enjoyed a period of joint productivity in India and the United Kingdom (where it was established in 1901). However, when sales dried up in Europe, production continued on the Indian subcontinent, and research and development were much more limited, with models like the Bullet dominating for around 40 years. More recently, with a new U.K.-based design team, and new models such as the Continental GT, Interceptor, and affordable Himalayan ADV, Enfield is trying to roll back the clock to regain confidence among the bike-buying masses. It's necessary to mention that the RE brand is very competitively priced within its segment, and, as with everything else, you get what you pay for. And while it is not placed high on this ranking, Royal Enfield has successfully reinvented itself as a major player among the world's top-selling brands.

10. Indian

As another century-old brand with a reputation for building quality, traditional machines, Indian is a well-respected U.S. manufacturer that predates Royal Enfield by a matter of months. However, it had changed hands so many times in its long and illustrious lifespan that it understandably underwent periods when it varied in build quality and reputation. Things have since leveled out for the brand when, in 2013, it was acquired by the automotive company Polaris. This led to new heights for Indian in terms of research and development and the introduction of new diagnostic technology and state-of-the-art software. As a result, build quality significantly increased, and the Indian motorcycles we see today retain their traditional aesthetic while being a far better product on the whole.

Much like its Royal Enfield counterpart, Indian has experienced a renaissance that heralds a very bright future for the marque. However, low overall reliability ratings and fewer return customers compared to the competition leave it languishing near the bottom of this ranking. Reputations are hard won and harder to re-establish, so while this comes as little surprise to those who know a little about Indian's history, they are making great waves to overcome this, and bright days lie ahead for the brand — thanks to such reinvented classic machines as the Scout, Chief, Bagger, and Chieftain, as well as a few contemporary options, such as the FTR series of bikes.

9. Ducati

Italy is renowned for its exotic and exciting automobiles, and this extends to its two-wheelers. With its signature red livery, Ducati could be considered the Ferrari of bikes, and it lives up to this image with its range of high-performance motorcycles. If this list were ranked according to aesthetics, Ducati could well top the ranking. However, when it comes to the best motorcycles, Italian machines seem to have a reputation for being less reliable, and some of this negative press is well-founded in the case of some of the Ducati product line. The often-cited Consumer Reports motorcycle reliability ranking compiled in 2015 rates Ducati as number eight on its list of 10 brands. However, this report has since been criticized for its accuracy and is by now a little dated.

Current reviews show that Ducati has improved in recent years, with bikes such as the Ducati Monster naked bike receiving glowing reviews from owners for its simplicity, reliability, and performance. Interestingly, like its compatriot Aprilia machines, Ducatis have been reported to suffer the same issues with swelling plastic fuel tanks, but similarly, provided you adhere to a strict maintenance regimen, a Ducati bike will go the distance. That being said, with service fees costing up to $1,000 a time, these bikes are not for the economically challenged.

8. KTM

Known for its street and adventure bikes, KTM caters to most riding styles and budgets. Its main manufacturing branch is located in Matighofen, Austria, where the brand's headquarters are located, but it also has factories in Spain and India, the latter catering to more budget-friendly models, such as its Duke 200, 250, and 390 models.

Some recurring problems with KTM bikes include an ABS malfunction with the 2016 1290 Super Duke, which prompted a factory recall, plus fuel pump issues, oil leak issues, and suspension issues among some of its larger ADV bikes. It should be noted, however, that these bikes are made to be ridden hard, and the stresses and strains placed on off-road bikes contribute to their quicker wear and tear. There have also been reports of poor fit and finish on some of their less expensive vehicles, but this is likely due to its keeping production costs in line with the Asian consumer market. These cheaper vehicles will bring the global reliability ratings down a few notches, but the bikes fare well in practical tests, and the brand has a loyal customer base that speaks of KTM in glowing terms.

7. Triumph

Triumph has a long history and is well-respected as one of the leading U.K. bike manufacturers that have consistently kept up with the times since the brand's rebirth in 1990. Nowadays, its modern classic bikes, such as the flagship Bonneville and Speed Twin, are manufactured alongside newer, more technologically advanced motorcycles, including the Tiger range of adventure bikes and the Speed Triple and Trident roadsters. So, does the new breed of Triumph bikes meet the same reliability and build quality standards as the Triumphs of old?

With a new methodology that combines tradition with modern technology, Triumph makes sure it uses the best components and employs the best construction methods in keeping with its stellar global reputation. This results in bikes with excellent performance and handling and a good record of reliability. The old "thumpers" of yesteryear have been replaced by slick new machines that don't require hours of garage maintenance and won't leave oil stains on your driveway. Hence, Triumph ranks well on this list, superseded only by some high-end marques and, of course, the Japanese brands that are unsurpassed in terms of build quality and reliability.

6. Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson is famous worldwide for its powerful, road-dominating machines that have become legendary thanks to its loyal followers, who not only buy the brand but often tattoo it on their person. The oldest Harley motorcycle club dates back over 100 years, so it's little wonder that it has become as ubiquitous as Coca-Cola in the public consciousness. But do its bikes live up to this reputation?

Harley is known as being unreliable in some biking circles, but this is likely unfair. It should be said that aside from some general maintenance issues, they are relatively easy to repair and have comparatively long lifespans. As with many classic bikes, vibrations are known to be a curse on HD machines, and resultantly, bolts are known to come loose, and other issues, such as oil leaks, may occur over time. But most bikers enjoy looking after their vehicles, and many of the aforementioned issues arise from the many modifications that are widely available and additional to the original stock bikes. In fact, aside from a period between 1969 and 1981, when the company was under the ownership of AMF, Harley-Davidson has had a pretty good record that goes against the common Harley-bashing grain.

5. BMW

German manufacturing is known worldwide for its efficiency and quality, which is undoubtedly true of BMW Motorrad, the auto giant's biking sector. While it is only bested by its Japanese competitors, these bikes have some of the most impressive longevity on the market. While the vast majority of BMW bikes sell in Western Europe, the U.S. market is catching up, thanks to such popular bikes as the segment-leading R1250 GS adventure bike and M1000 RR premium sports bike, and it is the leading importer of motorcycles in the lucrative Chinese market.

Aside from having excellent build quality, BMW bikes are usually packed with features, high-end accessories, and fittings, including rider aids like ABS, traction and stability control, onboard navigation, and TFT displays. At their heart lies years of research and development spent on producing some of the best engines in the industry, more often than not, in a flat twin configuration. Aside from dominating the ADV segment, BMW is also known for its touring bikes, including the exceptionally well-appointed K 1600 that gives even the market-leading Honda Goldwing a run for its money. But are they reliable? Well, it would be unwise to compare these two tourers in a reliability test, and maintenance costs can be very high, but if you don't mind reaching a compromise in return for exceptional performance and style, you can't go far wrong with this great German brand.

4. Suzuki

While it ranks bottom of our list of Japanese manufacturers for reliability, this still makes Suzuki one of the most reliable brands in the world. This more than 100-year-old company delivers quality machines in every major motorcycle category, and its bikes make impressive lasting mileage. Part of the reason that Suzuki continues to rank among the world's best motorcycle manufacturers is the stringent testing regimen that it applies to all of its bikes along every stage of the design and manufacturing process. This has stood the brand's bikes in good stead throughout its successful history, whether they're ridden off-road, on the street, or on the race track.

Every Suzuki product is subjected to wind tunnel testing in the same facility as its Moto GP racing bikes and Hayabusa sports bikes. They undergo obstacle testing on various demanding road surfaces and other types of terrain. The brand uses a robust durability testing procedure to ensure its bikes meet its high standards of reliability, as well as electronics testing, chassis stress testing, and a host of other checks before they are allowed to roll out of the manufacturing plant. When a company holds itself to such a high standard, it is safe to say that it delivers a product worthy of both your trust and your investment.

3. Kawasaki

Known for its famous Ninja line of sports bikes, Kawasaki has long been a major player in motorcycle manufacturing. Much like its compatriot, Suzuki, the company dedicates many of its resources to build quality, reliability, and after-sales support, ensuring that its customers are properly looked after before and after purchase. The use of quality materials and third-party parts and accessories, like Showa suspensions and Nissin brakes, adds to an overall better product, with excellent performance and handling, while Kawasaki engines are well known for being incredibly efficient and, in most cases, economical.

While Kawasaki consistently ranks highly for reliability, it is best known for its large capacity, manual transmission bikes and doesn't sell as many scooters as Suzuki, Yamaha, and Honda. However, the brand stands up very well when compared to its Japanese counterparts as a very efficient and quality brand whose products represent excellent value and retain their value in used markets. This includes several highly respected sports bikes, including the formidable Ninja H2R, which is currently the world's most powerful production motorcycle.

2. Yamaha

If you are in the market for a grand piano or a motorcycle, you might consider a Yamaha, as this diverse company manufactures both. While musical instruments and combustion engines sound far removed in terms of function, they are related by means of precision manufacturing and performance. Indeed, on every Yamaha bike's fuel tank is the company's logo that consists of three overlapping tuning forks, and every Yamaha engine is meticulously tuned. Therefore, it's no surprise that Yamahas are among the most reliable bikes you can buy. Sure, the brand doesn't produce such iconic machines as the Africa Twin, Hayabusa, or Road Glide, but as far as functionality is concerned, Yamaha consistently ranks highly among its peers.

Like Kawasaki, Yamaha doesn't produce cars, so the focus is purely on two-wheelers which are renowned for their engine performance. While you are more likely to see one of its excellent scooters, such as the ubiquitous NMax, on the street as you are one of its high-performance sports bikes from its YZF series, there's no doubt that Yamaha is a powerful presence in the motorcycle market and has been for some time. Regarding reliability, there's little difference between Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Yamaha, as all are rated very highly, with most decisions coming down to a buyer's tastes. In this instance, only one brand can beat them all.

1. Honda

How many brands can say they mobilized an entire continent with their reliable and affordable small-capacity motorcycles? The Honda Super Cub has sold over a million units and almost singlehandedly revolutionized how people in Asia live from day to day. Unsurprisingly, it consistently tops lists of the most reliable and best-made motorcycles with its most popular machines. While it is true that some of its bikes are proven to be more reliable than others, on the whole, Honda vehicles have a reputation that precedes them (and that extends to its automobiles).

It is this reputation for quality, reliability, and efficiency that makes Honda the most successful motorcycle brand in existence, and it accounts for around one-third of global bike sales. In 2022 this meant 14.5 million sales of two-wheelers (including the scooter market, in which Honda is also the most significant player). It is not uncommon for Honda owners to wring over 150,000 miles out of a well-maintained machine, with some touring bike owners even reporting odometer readings of twice that amount. So, while Japan reigns supreme in terms of the best-made motorcycle brands, Honda is a king among kings, which, in itself, is no mean feat.