While price shouldn’t be the primary factor that dictates your helmet purchase, it’s rare that we are afforded the luxury of shopping unrestricted by budget.
The price of a helmet is influenced by several things, such as the materials used, technology integrated, certifications, and brand. There are some other intangibles as well; Arai helmets, for example, are all handmade and their premium over segment-comparable helmets reflects that.
If you’re just getting into riding, budget $300 for your helmet. You don't have to spend $300 to get a good helmet, but you will find great helmets in and around that price point.
Price points climb when you get into more highly-engineered/specc'd out helmets, helmets made with advanced materials (such as carbon fiber), or helmets that come with a lot of integrated technology. A racing helmet made of carbon fiber, while being much lighter than a traditional helmet, will have a price tag to match the "exotic" materials used.
Mid Range & Premium Helmets
$500 - $750 gets you into premium helmet territory, where helmets offer great sound management, airflow, comfort, and protection. You will find excellent helmets here with built-in functions, including photochromic visors, integrated intercoms, integrated sun visors, and more.
Once you're into the four-figure territory, you're looking at the best of what you can buy right now. Handmade, made with carbon fiber, application-specific, limited colorways, etc.
We recommend that you avoid purchasing a high-end helmet until you've gotten a better sense of how you like to ride and what style of helmet you like. If you're just getting into riding, investing in expensive gear and losing interest is frustrating. And really, the difference between a $500 helmet and a $1,000 one is not twice as good or twice the helmet.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to spend enough to protect your head, but not so much that you need to pull back from other gear.
The first and foremost purpose of your helmet is to protect your head in the event of an accident. If there is one area that you should not compromise on, it’s safety. You want a quality helmet that will provide you with the protection you need.
At a minimum, your helmet must pass local regulations. In North America, that’s the DOT – Department of Transportation. In the EU, it’s ECE – Economic Commission for Europe. Helmets that have DOT/ECE approval are safe and road legal. However, if you want to ensure your helmet provides maximum protection, you will also want to look for SNELL or SHARP certification.
Note szmost DOT or ECE-approved helmets are not actually tested prior to certification. The helmets are built to specific standards outlined by DOT or ECE, but are not actually required to be tested to prove their compliance.
If you want proof in the pudding, you need to look at third-party helmet safety standards.
Third-Party Helmet Standards & Testing Programs
SNELL is a non-profit, independent organization that is more thorough and rigorous in its testing compared to DOT standards. Helmets that receive SNELL certification have proven themselves to withstand impact and fit tests; however, SNELL certification often adds somewhat to the price of a helmet.
SHARP is a British government helmet safety program that hands-on tests and evaluates helmet impact resistance and other aspects of rider protection.
See also: the differences between DOT, ECE, and SNELL.
Fit & Safety
Fit is one of the most important aspects of how equipped your helmet is to protect you. A helmet that fits poorly may fall off in an impact or compromise its ability to transfer forces effectively.
To be clear, a DOT/ECE approved helmet that fits well is a safe helmet to wear and ride in. A guide to helmet fit is a bit further down in this page!
Fit & Comfort
How a helmet fits is critical for its ability to protect you. A helmet that fits well not only provides maximum protection for its wearer, but also allows for a more enjoyable ride. You’ll be amazed and how long you can hit the back roads with a great-fitting helmet.
What Influences How Well a Helmet Fits?
Size – If you’re unsure of how to determine your size, go here.
Materials – Foam comes in many different densities, as do most materials used a helmet/helmet-liner.
Your head shape – Let’s face it: we don’t all have the same head shape. Some helmets work better with certain shapes. We discuss this further below.
Customization – Many helmets come with pads/inserts/removable sections that can greatly alter how a helmet fits.
Weight – Riders should place more emphasis on the weight of their helmet. The lighter the helmet, the less energy it transfers upon impact. Plus, a lightweight helmet is much more enjoyable and comfortable to wear for long periods.
We consider helmets that weigh under 3.25 lbs / 1.47 kg "light", 3.25 - 4lbs / 1.47 - 1.8 kg "average", over 4 lbs / 1.8 kg to be "heavy".
See also: helmet size chart.
Helmets come in many shapes and sizes, categorized by their defining style or use. We break down the differences between the helmet types in way more detail below.
Common Motorcycle Helmet Types
Full face – This type of helmet provides the most protection. As its name implies, it covers most (if not all) of your face.
Open face – This type of helmet does not have a chin guard, leaving the face exposed.
Modular – A combination between an open and full face helmet, a modular helmet allows you to remove or flip up the lower section of the helmet.
Off-road / motocross – These helmets typically feature sun visors, extra chin protection, and additional venting. However, many also come without a visor and can be worn with goggles.
Half – Offering the least protection compared to other helmet types, a half helmet covers the top portion of the head and leaves the rest exposed.
Dual-sport – Dual-sport helmets can be worn on or off-road. Many feature integrated sun visors, removable face shields, and other features that make switching them up between on and off-road riding easy.