A reliable PCR reference assay for relative genetically modified organism (GMO) quantification must be specific for the target taxon and amplify uniformly along the commercialised varieties within the considered taxon. Different reference assays for maize (Zea mays L.) are used in official methods for GMO quantification. In this study, we evaluated the reliability of eight existing maize reference assays, four of which are used in combination with an event-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay validated and published by the Community Reference Laboratory (CRL). We analysed the nucleotide sequence variation in the target genomic regions in a broad range of transgenic and conventional varieties and lines: MON 810 varieties cultivated in Spain and conventional varieties from various geographical origins and breeding history. In addition, the reliability of the assays was evaluated based on their PCR amplification performance. A single base pair substitution, corresponding to a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) reported in an earlier study, was observed in the forward primer of one of the studied alcohol dehydrogenase 1 (Adh1) (70) assays in a large number of varieties. The SNP presence is consistent with a poor PCR performance observed for this assay along the tested varieties. The obtained data show that the Adh1 (70) assay used in the official CRL NK603 assay is unreliable. Based on our results from both the nucleotide stability study and the PCR performance test, we can conclude that the Adh1 (136) reference assay (T25 and Bt11 assays) as well as the tested high mobility group protein gene assay, which also form parts of CRL methods for quantification, are highly reliable. Despite the observed uniformity in the nucleotide sequence of the invertase gene assay, the PCR performance test reveals that this target sequence might occur in more than one copy. Finally, although currently not forming a part of official quantification methods, zein and SSIIb assays are found to be highly reliable in terms of nucleotide stability and PCR performance and are proposed as good alternative targets for a reference assay for maize.