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Snell or DOT?

Which Is Best For You

A frequent question asked by someone shopping for a helmet is "how should the different safety standards influence my purchase?". My answer to that question is straightforward. The best helmet to buy is one that is comfortable, fits you properly and that you're willing to wear every time you ride. Whether the helmet displays both the SMF and DOT labels, or just a DOT label, you are assured of the best protection available.

Each of the two major standards, Snell and DOT, have their strengths and weaknesses. One of the first differences you notice is the disparity in average price. Is a $400 helmet were really four times better than a $100 helmet? Certainly not from the safety standpoint. Within the last few years helmets that sell for less than $100 have surfaced with Snell's seal of approval. What gives? Fit, finish, and advertising cost more than meeting various safety standards.

Value shoppers follow the adage "you get what you pay for". With this in mind it becomes evident that there are other factors driving helmet prices besides different safety standards. Fit, finish, and quality of materials used must improve hand-in-hand with higher prices in order to satisfy our desire for value. Next time when you're reading your favorite cycle magazine and come across full-page ads for a particular helmet, take small consolation in the knowledge that a part of the money that you would plunk down for that neato skid lid helps pay for that ad.

Inspect the helmet yourself to determine your satisfaction with it. Does that meet your personal standards for finish and fit? Is the helmet within your desired price range? Does the dealer support this brand by stocking spare parts? These questions are the ones that really need to be answered when shopping. The testing standards are important, just don't pass up a helmet that fits you perfectly just because of which safety sticker.


Question and answer from a Snell Foundation Spokesman

Given all of the elements of safety helmet construction, what would you say is the most important?

"This may sound funny, but Snell thinks it should be comfort and wearability. The reason for that is that nobody will wear a helmet they can't stand to have on their head. There is no Snell-certified helmet that stands head and shoulders above any other. They're all equal in terms of protection. The criteria, then, becomes comfort and fit."

We at Motorcare think this is a good, sensible approach, and helps to put the differences in testing standards in prospective for typical users.

Recent Magazine articles and answers to readers questions have validated my viewpoint. The following is an excerpt from MCN:
We have done a comparison of helmet standards, and the current European standard is the best out there, based on the most up to date information. Snell is essentially a race car standard (multiple hits against roll bars are its calculated crash) and liners approved under this standard are too hard for the average motorcycle crash (it's always best to have an "average" crash isn't it?). Unnecessary concussions can result from a Snell helmet vs. DOT approved models. The DOT standard is actually based on real-life data, and is perfectly adequate, it just sounds generic.




Page last modified on Friday, June 21, 2013 Customer Support/Webmaster MasterTim