what to look for when buying a motorcycle helmet

Identifying the safest motorcycle helmets comes down to a few common factors. We'll give you the clues to separate the real domes from the real duds.

7 things to look for in a motorcycle helmet

As shoppers, you rarely need the "best" of anything. It's nice, sure, but what's really the worst an average cake stand or shower cleaner can do? With motorcycle helmets, however, the stakes are a bit higher. After all, your helmet's the only thing between you and serious (or fatal) head injury during a crash … so it better be pretty darn effective.

Once you're narrowed the type of motorcycle helmet you want, being a savvy shopper becomes crucial. Here are the features you'll want to consider when choosing a new helmet.

1. DOT sticker

All helmets that meet Department of Transportation (DOT) safety standards will have a DOT sticker on the back, so it's definitely a must-have. However, it's not the only one. While it's tempting to see that stamp of approval and immediately head for the checkout, resist the urge to rush. Due to the possibility of counterfeit stickers, it's smart to validate your helmet using other characteristics as well.

2. Thick liner

The polystyrene inner liner of your helmet has the substantial job of absorbing much of the impact of a crash. So it's no surprise you want it to feel substantial. The liner should provide a full inch of padding to give you the (literal) peace of mind you need.

3. Riveted, sturdy chin strap

Make sure the chin strap is securely fastened (or riveted) to the helmet and strong enough to hold up in an accident. Most riders readily acknowledge the importance of protecting their brain, but keeping your face and jaw out of harm's way is also of major concern in a crash.

4. Manufacturer's label

In addition to the DOT sticker, you should find the manufacturer's label sewn or glued into the inside of your helmet. This label should list all the key details about your dome, including its materials and date of manufacture.

5. Snug fit and solid retention

You want your helmet to match the size and shape of your head as closely as possible and (obviously) to stay firmly in place during a crash.

6. Acceptable weight

The safest motorcycle helmets typically weigh roughly 3 pounds, which is a good reason to either buy helmets in person or check the specifications closely if buying online.

7. Features that make you comfortable

Once you've verified the essential safety elements, you can focus on features that add to your overall comfort — which is a big part of safety, after all. These can include things like vents, breath deflectors, and face shields (which many recommend, given the added protection of full-face helmets over partial-coverage ones).

red flags of an unsafe helmet

Just as some features should invite you to further examine a helmet, there are some red flags that should prompt you to set that helmet down and back away slowly.

Spike or other protrusion

You're not heading to Thunderdome, so ditch the forehead spear. The DOT doesn't allow anything to extend more than two-tenths of an inch off a helmet's surface, whether bland features like buckles or visor fasteners, or something more extreme.

Ornate styling

Not all intricately fashioned models are bad news, but it's a sign to tread lightly. If, for instance, a helmet's designed to make you look like a retro racer or stormtrooper, that's probably a novelty helmet not fit for today's standards.


Many novelty helmets weigh only about one pound or have just a thin outer shell with no substantial padding. It usually only takes a few seconds to feel these sorts of shortcomings.

get top-flight coverage for your motorcycle helmet (and more)

Even the best motorcycle helmets typically need replacing after an accident. Thankfully, we've got you covered. With Esurance motorcycle insurance, you can get up to $500 per helmet when you add collision coverage. That way, if your helmet's banged up in a covered incident, your wallet doesn't feel the sting.

And with optional equipment coverage, you can secure protection for your other valuable accessories, such as saddlebags, engine modifications, and much more.

Start your free motorcycle insurance quote today.

Snell Foundation®-certified helmets
Browse a list of lids that have the thumbs-up from this respected safety organization.

6 myths about helmets
Learn why there's never a good reason to hit the road without your helmet.

Get your free quote online

or call 1-866-455-1980