Abstract This paper addresses the numerical solution of random crack propagation problems using the coupling boundary element method (BEM) and reliability algorithms. Crack propagation phenomenon is efficiently modelled using BEM, due to its mesh reduction features. The BEM model is based on the dual BEM formulation, in which singular and hyper-singular integral equations are adopted to construct the system of algebraic equations. Two reliability algorithms are coupled with BEM model. The first is the well known response surface method, in which local, adaptive polynomial approximations of the mechanical response are constructed in search of the design point. Different experiment designs and adaptive schemes are considered. The alternative approach direct coupling, in which the limit state function remains implicit and its gradients are calculated directly from the numerical mechanical response, is also considered. The performance of both coupling methods is compared in application to some crack propagation problems. The investigation shows that direct coupling scheme converged for all problems studied, irrespective of the problem nonlinearity. The computational cost of direct coupling has shown to be a fraction of the cost of response surface solutions, regardless of experiment design or adaptive scheme considered.