What is the Safest Motorcycle Helmet?

January 2, 2024
By Michael Padway

The freedom of the open road and the wind running across you as you ride is a feeling hard to describe. But, with the excess freedom you get from motorcycling comes the responsibility to ride with a suitable, safe motorcycle and safety gear. In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know when choosing the safest motorcycle helmet. Whether your state requires wearing a motorcycle helmet by law, you should ALWAYS ride with a helmet. Use of DOT-compliant motorcycle helmets was 64.9% in 2021, not statistically different at the 0.05 level from 69.0 percent in 2020 (read our Motorcycle Accident Statistics article). 

We’ve assembled a guide on the top 10 safest motorcycle helmets you can buy in 2023 based on the helmet safety ratings from experts.

What are the Safest Motorcycle Helmets in 2023?

AGV K6 Helmet

($336.46 – $349.97)

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The AGV K6 boasts a lightweight carbon-aramidic fiber shell. Its aerodynamic design and ventilation system are well-thought-out, promoting stability at high speeds. When it comes to safety, it meets ECE 22.05 and DOT standards, ensuring comprehensive protection for the rider. Given its price point, this helmet offers good value for riders prioritizing safety.

AGV K6 Helmet

Scorpion EXO-R420 Helmet

($159.95 – $164.95)

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The Scorpion EXO-R420 is a testament that safety doesn’t always come with a hefty price tag. Meeting both Snell M2015 and DOT standards, it provides commendable safety features. The polycarbonate shell is sturdy, and the EverClear no-fog face shield adds convenience. While not as premium as some of its counterparts, it provides solid protection at a budget-friendly price.

Scorpion EXO-R420 Helmet

Shoei RF-1400 Helmet

($579.99 – $659.99)

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Renowned for its quality, the Shoei RF-1400 Helmet stands out for its Advanced Integrated Matrix Plus (AIM+) shell which maximizes high-speed impact safety. Boasting both DOT and Snell certification, it’s clear that safety is paramount in its design. The dual-layer multi-density EPS liner offers enhanced impact absorption, making it a top contender for those prioritizing safety, albeit at a higher price.

Shoei RF-1400 Helmet

Schuberth C5 Helmet

($769.00 – $785.00)

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The Schuberth C5 Helmet, known for its modular design, brings both convenience and safety. Built with Direct Fiber Processing (DFP) shell construction, it ensures maximum strength and protection. With integrated antennas for enhanced communication, noise reduction, and DOT/ECE certification, the C5 places itself as a high-end option for riders desiring both safety and integrated features.

Shoei X-15 Helmet

($899.99 – $919.99)

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A race-ready helmet, the Shoei X-15 is designed for high-speed performance without compromising safety. Its multi-layered and multi-dense EPS liner provides optimum protection against impacts. Meeting both DOT and Snell standards, it integrates superior aerodynamics and ventilation, justifying its premium price tag. For racers and those who don’t mind splurging, it stands out as a top-tier option.

Arai Defiant-X Helmet

($449.97 – $659.95)

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Shoei Neotec 2 Helmet

($799.99 – $819.99)

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The Shoei Neotec 2 Helmet blends convenience with safety, offering a modular design without compromising protection. With its AIM shell and dual-layer EPS liner, it ensures robust impact protection. It holds DOT certification and integrates features like an integrated sun shield and optimized aerodynamics. For those seeking versatility with safety, it is an excellent high-end option.

Motorcycle Helmet Safety Scheme and Ratings

Motorcycle helmets serve the fundamental purpose of protecting a rider’s head during an impact. However, not all helmets are created equal. The presence of specific stickers on the back of a helmet signifies the safety standards it adheres to. These stickers aren’t just decorative badges; they are a testament to the rigorous testing that the helmet has undergone.

DOT (Department of Transportation)

This is the standard determined by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Helmets that carry the DOT sticker are compliant with the federal standard FMVSS 218. If you’re riding in the U.S., DOT certification is the bare minimum you should look for.

ECE (Economic Commission for Europe)

Recognized by over 50 countries, this standard signifies that the helmet meets the ECE 22.05 requirements. It’s similar in nature to the DOT standards, but with variations in testing parameters and details.

SNELL (Snell Memorial Foundation)

Unlike DOT and ECE, which are mandatory for helmets sold in their respective regions, SNELL is a voluntary standard. Helmets undergo additional and sometimes more rigorous testing to obtain this certification. The current SNELL standard for street use is SNELL M2020.

FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme)

As the governing body for motorcycle racing globally, FIM has set its standards primarily for track use helmets. It’s a testament to a helmet’s suitability for high-speed impacts and race conditions.

While it is essential for your helmet to have at least one of these stickers, helmets that boast multiple certifications offer assurance that they meet several stringent safety criteria. For instance, a helmet that is both DOT and SNELL certified has met the safety requirements set by both organizations.

However, be wary of helmets without any of these stickers. Often referred to as “novelty” helmets, they might look like the real deal but offer no protection. These are not only unsafe but also illegal in places where wearing a certified helmet is mandatory.


features of the safest motorcycle helmet

Current helmet technology involves an inner liner to absorb shock, made of EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam. In addition, there is a comfort liner that riders often mistake for a protective component, which also does provide some padding. A helmet should also have EPS foam in the lower area to properly protect the face and jaw. 

  1. When considering a helmet, always look for a shell-built design. The first line of defense protects your head to avoid direct contact with the road. Choose another helmet if the helmet you picked doesn’t have thermoplastic or reinforced composite shell-like polycarbonate. 
  2. The second feature to look for is the impact-absorbing liner. As the name suggests, it is the helmet’s inner liner, which not only gives comfort to your top head but also absorbs impact in crashes. The second line of defense protects you from severe head injuries. 
  3. The third feature is the chin strap, a helmet can only do its job if it’s adequately strapped.


There are several safety standards for motorcycle helmets, and knowing what they cover can be confusing. The most important criterion of a helmet is its safety rating. Here are the primary safety standards and what you need to know about each:


The Snell Foundation certification is not a requirement by law anywhere. However, they go above and beyond the minimum criteria to thoroughly test helmets in many respects. They also test for bicycling, karting, and professional motorsports. Below are the safety features they test for:

  • Impact Testing: The impact test uses controlled impacts to simulate different impact surfaces. The object is to measure gravitational (G) force or acceleration. If the peak acceleration in any test exceeds a value, the helmet is rejected.
  • Positional Stability (Roll-Off) Test: A head form is mounted to point the face downward at an angle of 135 degrees. The helmet is placed on the head form, and the straps and buckles are adjusted to obtain the best-fit condition. Weight is connected via wire rope and dropped from a determined height. The helmet is turned 180 degrees, and the test is conducted again. The helmet may shift but must not roll off the head form to pass the test.
  • Dynamic Retention Test: The helmet is placed on a head form with the chin strap fastened under a device representing the jaw. The jaw piece has a 23 kg weight applied for around one minute. The retention system is tested by removing the 23 kg weight and applying a 38 kg mass in an abrupt guided fall. The retention system fails if it cannot support the mechanical loads or if the maximum instantaneous deflection (stretch) exceeds 30 mm (1.18 inches).
  • Chin Bar Test: The test helmet is attached to a base with the chin bar facing upward. A 5 kg weight is dropped to hit the central portion of the chin bar. The maximum downward deflection of the chin bar must not exceed the stated distance.
  • Shell Penetration Test: The test helmet is attached to a base. A sharp-pointed 3-kg object is dropped from a prescribed height. The test striker must not penetrate the helmet or even achieve momentary contact with the head from inside the helmet.
  • Face Shield Penetration Test: The face shield (also called a visor) is attached to a test helmet and shot along the centerline in three places with an air rifle. The rifle shoots sharp, soft lead pellets at approximately 500 kph (310 mph). The pellets must not penetrate the visor for it to pass the test.


FMVSS218 is the technical standard that defines the minimum criteria a helmet manufacturer must certify against in the United States. It’s known as the DOT helmet standard certification generally. The tests are very similar to the Snell Memorial tests. Still, the judged values are slightly different on criteria for impact, severity, and test equipment used. As a result, the Snell certification is more difficult to pass than the DOT testing. One additional note is that the manufacturer certifies their helmets in their labs. In contrast, Snell tests and certifies any helmet submitted to them from any manufacturer.


The European standard is similar to the DOT and Snell testing. The values and tests vary slightly on most criteria, and it also adds a retention standard testing for slipping, abrasion, retention, and durability. One additional test for helmet shell rigidity is done under the ECE 22/05 standard, not done under Snell or DOT.


Europe also has a second standard that helmets are measured by, which is very close to the Snell testing scheme. Passing values on specific tests vary slightly from the Snell standard. Still, many of the categories list the benefits as the “same as the Snell M2005 test” as a reference. The BSI tests also incorporate the chin strap slippage, retention, and abrasion testing seen on the ECE 22/05.


SHARP is a testing and rating system only available for helmets sold in the UK (United Kingdom / England). It measures the impact protection of the helmet based on similar testing to the other standards and rates helmets with a star rating system instead of a pass/fails result. The ratings are shown from 1 to 5 stars.

When To Replace Your Motorcycle Helmet

A common consensus insists helmets should be replaced every five years, even assuming you have not had any direct impacts that would jeopardize the impact protection of the helmet. This recommendation is mainly from helmet manufacturers and the Snell Memorial Foundation after studying the effects on a helmet from regular use. There is no evidence we’re aware of that suggests a well-maintained, undamaged helmet will suddenly lose its ability after five years. Deterioration is gradual, and many variables can slow down or speed up that process.

Motorcycle Helmet Degradation

Helmet degradation happens from normal wear and tear, hair oils, body fluids, and cosmetics. Cleaners, paints, fuels, and other materials affect the liner materials and overall helmet performance. Here are some tips to help prolong helmet degradation:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s care instructions for your helmet
  • Use the mildest soap recommended
  • Exposure to potent cleaning agents can cause the helmet to decompose and lose protective value. Avoid any petroleum-based cleaning fluids, especially with polycarbonate helmets.
  • Keep your helmet’s face shield clean. Typically, mild soap and warm water with a cloth will work. If it gets scratched and vision is impaired, replace it.

The Best Under $300

HJC i10 Helmet

Polycarbonate shell that creates a full-face helmet with a light, aerodynamic shell shape using advanced CAD technology to reduce turbulence. Advanced Channeling Ventilation System draws hot air and moisture out of the helmet by blowing air through it. To avoid fogging, the chin bar intake vent directs air upward into the face shield. Impact-absorbing, multi-density EPS liner SuperCool® moisture-wicking interior materials D-ring chin strap closure Bluetooth-ready design accepts SMART HJC 10B or 20B Bluetooth communicators DOT and SNELL M2020 approved (sizes 3XL-5XL are DOT only)

$159.99 - 174.99

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Scorpion EXO-R420 Helmet

Advanced LG polycarbonate shell that is SNELL approved. Ellip-Tec II Ratchet System for easy, secure, tool-less face shield changes in seconds Optically-clear, anti-scratch hardened coating, 100% UV protected face shield Removable and washable anti-microbial fabric Trained emergency medical experts can remove the cheek pads with ease by pulling tabs on the neck roll. Large top vent and mouth vents are used in an aero-tuned ventilation system to increase airflow to the rider's head while minimizing noise. The face shield is locked in place safely by a lock system. Speaker pockets SNELL M2015 (XS-2XL only) and DOT-approved

$159.95 - 164.95

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Sedici Strada II Primo Helmet

Performance, protection, and a Snell safety certification. A strong, lightweight shell is created using fiberglass and DuPont™ Kevlar® fiber. You can concentrate on the road ahead thanks to the shell's aerodynamic reduction of lift and turbulence at speed. To help distribute airflow through the helmet for excellent ventilation, the dual-density EPS liner has cut-out channels. Exhaust ports draw stale air out of the helmet, while numerous intake vents bring in the fresh air. To effectively control wind noise, a chin skirt that can be removed helps seal off the bottom of the helmet. Three unique EPS liners. Reflective inserts at the bottom of neck roll and cheek pads Double D-ring closure Meets or exceeds DOT and SNELL M2020 standards


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Bell SRT Vestige Helmet

Full-face helmet, both DOT and Snell M2015 rated. Lightweight fiberglass shell with 3 EPS liners. The center lock is ambidextrous. You can use either hand to open and close the Panovision face shield. Add a communication system to the SRT Helmet's speaker pockets. Double D-ring closure. Included chin curtain.


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Shark Skwal 2 Blank Helmet - White LEDs

Full-face helmet with LED lights integrated at the front and back to help in SMIDSY avoidance. (The LED lights have three modes: blink, steady, and off). Design that is stable, with improved aerodynamics and a rear spoiler. To maintain antibacterial, anti-sweating, and hypoallergenic freshness, the interior has been bamboo treated. Injected thermoplastic shell The auto seal technology seals the helmet against water and cold, improves soundproofing, and flattens the face shield onto the helmet. Integrated inner sun shield. DOT approved.


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The Best Over $300

Nolan N87 Savoir Faire Helmet

Premium full-face helmet with a polycarbonate shell. Has a face shield mechanism with tilting capabilities that enables a broader extension of the Pinlock fog-resistant shield's coverage area and lowers the possibility of unintentional opening/closing and air infiltration. Double-density micro-perforated materials are used to create the newly designed Clima Comfort inner liner and cheek pads. Highest level of comfort is provided by the Eyewear Adaptive system (for those who wear glasses) and the large perforated wind guard. The AirBooster ventilation system keeps the rider cool and dry. The ultra-wide face shield is equipped with a Microlock2 double lever retention system, a fully adjustable VPS sunscreen with 400 UV protection. Configured for the Nolan N-Com Bluetooth communication system. DOT approved.


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Shoei RF-SR Helmet - Solid

With a lighter overall weight and a smaller outer shell, there will be less turbulence and neck discomfort. To achieve the ideal fit, the padded liner's components can be switched out. Handmade in Japan to the highest standards and easily surpasses DOT and SNELL M2015 safety certifications. Enhanced aerodynamics through extensive wind tunnel testing and feedback from experienced riders. Improved impact absorption and ventilation provided by a dual-layer EPS liner. Hot air is expelled through the top outlet for a more comfortable ride, and two upper air intake vents are positioned to increase air volume into the helmet's interior. To build a shell structure that is incredibly light, rigid, and resilient, high-performance fiber materials are mixed with extremely elastic organic fibers. E.Q.R.S. (Emergency Quick Release System) allows emergency medical personnel to remove the helmet from an injured rider easily. Standard chin strap clip neatly secures the chin strap. To dramatically reduce wind noise, the QR-E closure system offers a tool-free shield removal and installation process and an airtight seal.


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Arai XD-4 Helmet

Has a removable floating peak and multiple vents for improved ventilation. Riders can customize the fit with the 5mm peel-away comfort lining and cheek pads. In conjunction with the detachable floating peak, the shell's aerodynamic tuning directs air into newly designed vents, boosting overall ventilation and reducing buffeting at high speeds. Dry-Cool technology keeps the rider dry and cool for greater comfort. Exhaust ports added to the top diffuser vents. Chin vent with more intake ports. The larger sculpted side cowl vents improve ventilation. Snell M2020 approved.

$639.95 - 649.95

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Arai Regent-X Helmet

Arai can offer protection where it's most needed while offering a low-profile, lightweight helmet thanks to multi-density odor-resistant EPS. The face shield can be positioned lower on the helmet while still having adequate room to open thanks to the Variable Axis System (VAS), which offers a pivot point for the face shield that moves. PB-cLc shell construction. Free Flow System (FFS) ventilation reduces wind noise and turbulence by creating airflow under the helmet while enhancing hot air exhaust. Dual intake front vents, side exhausts, and one-piece rear exhaust. Three-position chin vent. Neck vent exhaust. Pockets for speakers. Non-removable chin curtain. Double D-ring strap. DOT and Snell M2020 certified.


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Bell Star DLX Mips Helmet

Combines performance and aerodynamics developed for racing with a touring helmet's comfort and riding attributes. Panovision ProTint Photochromatic shield is included. ProTint Photochromic shields automatically adjust with light conditions, darkening when exposed to sunlight and clearing in low light. Riders benefit from improved vertical and lateral visibility thanks to the Panovision viewport, which enables the rider to conduct safer lane changes and head checks while cradled or tucked. It is now possible to wear a prescription or a favorite pair of sunglasses. Clinical testing has shown that the X-Static liner material offers odor and bacterial protection for the duration of the liner. Bell's Tri-Matrix shell, which combines the strength and exceptional qualities of these synthetic materials used in racing, offers unrivaled durability and strength. MIPS energy management system Integrated speaker pockets Meets or exceeds Snell M2015 and DOT certifications


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Arai Signet-X Helmet

Large switches that are simple to handle, even when wearing thick gloves, and a high-performance ventilation system with significant inlet and exhaust apertures. To help avoid accidental opening, the VAS shield latch system more securely grabs and holds the shield closed. The wider latch design enables an intuitive and seamless operation of the shield in addition to a de-mist position. The Peripherally Belted - Super Complex Laminate Construction shell design utilizes a variety of internally developed Arai materials and methods that offer performance and affordability. Fully removable interior liner system is made from odor-resistant material The VAS MAX Vision shield is pre-installed with a clear anti-fog Pinlock insert to improve vision in all riding conditions and seasons. For quick and easy face shield removal, a dual-function lever releases both the side pod and the face shield. To reduce interior heat, the neckroll is detachable and contains additional exhaust channels. Cheek pads with Emergency Release Tabs. Features speaker pockets for easy installation of communication systems. Includes clear Pinlock insert. Snell 2020 and DOT approved.

$699.95 - 719.95

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Shoei VFX-EVO Helmet

The VFX-EVO’s liner incorporates the special M.E.D.S. (Motion Energy Distribution System), a module of the EPS liner that was specifically installed to lessen the rotational acceleration to the head in the event of a crash. This system is designed to absorb sudden impacts. Built with high-performance AIM+ (Advanced Integrated Matrix Plus Multi-Fiber), a combination of fiberglass and organic fibers. The result is a rigid, ultra-lightweight, yet elastic structure. Braced nose cover with mesh to filter dust and dirt, aluminum mesh to stop roost from getting into the mouth, and an easy-to-remove cap for cleaning and maintenance. Based on the choice of many top-ranked riders, the adjustable visor selects the top position on the helmet as the default position. Testing on riders and in the wind tunnel maximizes aerodynamic qualities. To increase flow-through ventilation, additional front intake vents are combined with rear exhaust outlet vents and an expanded neck outlet vent. The material of the 3D Max-Dry detachable liner system absorbs twice as much moisture as its weight. E.Q.R.S. (Emergency Quick Release System) contains unique straps behind the cheek pads that make them easily removed, allowing emergency personnel to remove the helmet fast after an accident. Snell M2015 and DOT approved.


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Schuberth C4 Pro Carbon Fusion Helmet

In a 100% carbon fiber shell, making it the lightest modular helmet ever. The C4 Pro carbon is one of the most compact and technologically advanced modular helmets accessible to touring motorcycle riders. It features German-engineered quality and is the most recent in aerodynamics. Featuring a new and improved Coolmax inner liner (antibacterial, washable, and fast-drying). Aerodynamically tuned shell to mitigate fatigue. Integrated one-touch sun visor. Complex multi-channel ventilation system. Integrated antennae, pre-installed speaker, and microphone. Plug & Play prepared for the SC1 communication systems. Extra-large anti-fog lens insert. Spoiler built into the neck roll or helmet shell. To achieve the maximum shock absorption for various impact scenarios, the EPS foam impact liner features a sectional, multi-part design. This detailed segmentation ensures improved force distribution and absorption. DOT certified


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In closing, here are the key takeaways on the safest motorcycle helmets:

  • The full-face helmet is the safest type of helmet
  • Motorcycle Helmet features to focus on first: Shell-built design, Impact-absorbing liner, Chin strap
  • A higher cost doesn’t necessarily equate to a safer helmet
  • A helmet’s safety rating is the most important metric when considering helmet safety
  • DOT FMVSS218 is the technical standard that defines the minimum criteria that a helmet manufacturer must certify against in the United States
  • There are multiple tests you should conduct to ensure your helmet fits appropriately
  • The typical recommendation for replacing a helmet is every five years. Ultimately, the need to replace your helmet will be determined by the amount of wear, quality of helmet, and upkeep on the helmet
  • Avoid strong cleaning agents that can deteriorate your helmet over time

Michael Padway

Michael Padway uses his expertise in personal injury and motorcycle accidents to represent a broad spectrum of clients dealing with life-changing and permanent injuries for the first time. His offices are located at 235 Montgomery St., Ste 668, San Francisco, CA 94104 and at 3140 Chapman St. Oakland, CA 94601. For more information, please call (800) 928-1511.

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