Make Your Motorcycle Helmet as Safe as Possible

Shopping for motorcycle helmets online feels somewhat like a paradox. With more choices than ever, it should be easier to find the perfect one for your riding needs. But all these choices can make the task even harder. You narrow down your options by riding style, helmet type, fit and features, but what about all those safety ratings? What’s the difference between DOT, ECE and Snell certifications, anyway? Fortunately, you don’t have to wade through all these details by yourself. This quick guide can help you make sense of motorcycle helmet certifications and choose a helmet that best meets your needs.

DOT, ECE, and Snell Certificate Meanings


Motorcycle helmets usually get three types of certifications: DOT, ECE and Snell. Three major organizations certify that helmets must meet certain safety standards to provide optimal crash protection:


  • Department of Transportation
  • Economic Commission for Europe
  • Snell Memorial Foundation


As you’ve probably guessed, each organization sets unique requirements. The DOT currently evaluates helmets by its FMVSS218 technical standard, considered the absolute minimum that headgear must pass to even be on the market. The DOT’s standards are rather comprehensive and strict: They evaluate a helmet’s retention system, penetration resistance and field of vision. The DOT permits manufacturers to test and certify helmets within their own labs.


ECE certification is based on European Standard 22/05 and specifies some of the same tests as both DOT and Snell. The criteria for passing are slightly different and ECE incorporates retention standard testing for slipping, abrasion and durability. ECE certification also requires a helmet rigidity test. Meanwhile, Snell mandates the most rigorous tests with its set of minimum criteria:


  • Impact testing: measures gravitational forces and acceleration
  • Roll-off testing: tests positional stability during impacts
  • Dynamic retention: evaluates how well the retention system keeps the helmet in place
  • Chin bar testing: evaluates the chin bar’s integrity during collision
  • Shell penetration testing: evaluates how well the shell holds up during targeted impacts
  • Faceshield/visor tests: checks for face shield integrity against debris and impacts

Where to Buy the Best Motorcycle Helmet


When shopping for motorcycle helmets, you’ll probably notice many models with multiple certifications. As mentioned earlier, DOT certification is the minimum standard for safety, and a DOT helmet provides solid protection. As you look this list of top 10 street motorcycle helmets, for instance, you’ll see many models with both DOT and ECE certifications. The Bell Qualifier Solid Helmet is a great example, as is the Icon Alliance Dark Helmet. Gaining the coveted Snell certification is a little more difficult, but you’ll also notice Snell M2015 certified dirt bike helmets and other Snell-certified headgear that also have DOT and ECE certifications available from online retailers. Choose dealers that solely specialize in powersports parts, accessories, tools and other gear for the best shopping experience.


Sourcing the best helmet is one thing, but it’s also important to purchase yours from a reputable dealer. When you shop, look for sites offering specs, certification, features and other key info on each helmet. Look at other crucial factors including customer feedback, shipping options and return policies before making your purchase.