We report on investigations of the excitonic quantum efficiency in GaN epilayers as function of buffer layer thickness, buffer layer material, sample thickness and residual oxygen content. These values are compared to that of GaN bulk material. The quantum efficiency of the free excitons rises with increasing buffer layer thickness, increasing sample thickness and decreasing residual oxygen content. The influence of oxygen on the quantum efficiency is stronger than that of the buffer layer thickness. Additionally, the homoepitaxial growth of GaN shows higher quantum efficiencies than the growth with an AIN buffer layer. In general, the observed quantum efficiencies in GaN epilayers are below 20% indicating the strong impact of nonradiative relaxation and recombination processes in the excitonic range. Only, GaN bulk material shows quantum efficiencies of 25 % for the free A-exciton XA and of 50 % for the donor-bound exciton complex D0,X).