Protect Your Head: How Much Does a Motorcycle Helmet Cost?

If you’re checking on prices of motorcycles and seriously considering buying your own ride, you’ll want to factor in the number of things such as a helmet and other gear. These don’t always have to break the bank, and wearing an affordable helmet is better than no helmet at all.

Even if laws in your state do not dictate that you must wear a helmet, don’t automatically assume it is best, most enjoyable, or coolest to go without. Consider your life and those who care about you, as well as the potential risk you pose to drivers on the road if you risk your safety in riding without a helmet.

A decent, full-face helmet can be purchased for only around $100 and sometimes less. Not to mention there is an inherent cool factor to a sleek motorcycle helmet, both on while riding, and off when you are carrying it with you.

States Requiring Helmets

At the time of this writing, only three states (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire) do not have any motorcycle helmet laws. Previously, more states had universal Hamilton laws, but things have changed, notably in the past few decades.

As of now, the District of Columbia and 19 states legally require both operators and passengers of motorcycles to wear a helmet. In 28 other states, only specific motorcyclists must wear a helmet by law (age restrictions, for example).

California, as well as New York, are among the states with universal helmet laws requiring drivers and passengers to wear their helmet at all times. Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Nebraska, Missouri, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Vermont all have universal laws, too.

If your state has partial helmet laws, make sure you are up to date on them. For instance, Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Michigan all have laws covering those 20 years old and under. While several states such as Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Maine, Connecticut, Indiana, Indiana, Ohio, and Wyoming have laws regarding those 17 years old and under.

Types of Helmets

There are six standard varieties of motorcycle helmets. These include your full face helmet, modular, the open face helmet, half helmet, off-road, as well as a dual-sport version.

Full Face

A full-face helmet generally is the safest type you can get. These cover not only your face but most of your head and neck from not only falls, possible crashes, but also debris from the road. According to one study, during accidents, a motorcyclist’s chin suffers around 50 percent of the severe impact. The full face helmet is the option that can protect your jaw and chin.


A modular helmet also called a flip up, is a hybrid of 3/4 helmet mixed with a full face model. The visor and chin bar can be flipped up for an open front in these helmets. The addition of the hinge for this flipping design makes these slightly heavier than a full face version. These offered the ability to open the face but also add more protection than a standard 3/4 or half helmet.

¾ Helmet

A standard open face helmet is also called a 3/4 helmet. These are the versions you see that cover the head including the back of the head but often leave the chin or face exposed. A 3/4 version can be a decent option for those who insist on feeling the breeze on their face. There is no chin bar, and this is worth considering for your safety. Some offer a windshield over the face portion, though.

Half Helmet

A half helmet begins to drop in safety, as they only provide protection from for the top of your head from your brow area to the same spot on the back of the skull. Your neck, ears, and face are left out in the open, but there are some DOT-approved half helmets available.


An off-road helmet is designed for those with dirt bikes or motocross bikes. The design of these is not ideal for cities or highways, and they will often need protective glasses or goggles to be purchased with them. They are similar to 3/4 helmets but have larger visors and more protruding chain bars. This helps aid the airflow, and these helmets can be lighter weight than standard 3/4 helmets.

Dual-Sport Helmet

A dual sport helmet is also known as a crossover, hybrid, or Enduro. These are a blend between off-road and full face designs. Initially, they look similar to an off-road helmet, but these tend to provide more padding on the inside, comparable to a full face version. In short, they are constructed for use both on the road as well as off-roading.

What to Look for in a Motorcycle Helmet

Many states that have laws surrounding motorcycle helmets also have requirements about the helmets themselves. Many of these states require that a helmet be DOT-approved. A DOT-approved motorcycle helmet means that it is compliant with the guidelines set by the Department of Transportation and its standards. Many states also require specific protective eyewear.

Most will have options for both a half-face and full-face helmet that meets these DOT guidelines. However, the more coverage you have of your head and face, the more protection you will have not only in the case of a fall or accident but also from potential debris in the road.

You could still be protected by a helmet that does not meet the DOT criteria, but we don’t recommend them. You will need to look into your particular state’s laws to see if it is legal to wear one of these.

Snell and DOT Approval

For the safest motorcycle helmet, it is a smart idea also to seek out one that is Snell-approved. A Snell-approved motorcycle helmet will generally cost a bit more than those with only the DOT-approval. However, these motorcycle helmets meet two guidelines for safety, and the Snell-approved versions are considered among the safest you can buy.

New or Used Helmets

It is vital to know that even small drops, bumps, or falls can notably affect the integrity of a motorcycle helmet. It is because of this that it is never recommended to wear a used helmet. If it was not in your possession, you can’t be entirely sure of a helmet’s full history.

It’s smarter to be on the safe side and buy one, even a more affordable model, than risk using a helmet that was dropped a few times and treated poorly. You may not enjoy paying for the helmet, but when you consider it is there to prevent thousands and thousands of dollars in medical expenses potentially or even save your life, the price is well worth the cost.

Helmet Fit

The correct fit of a motorcycle helmet is just as crucial as getting a new, DOT-approved one. Your helmet should fit you snugly around your entire head, but not so tightly that you cannot pull it down all the way. If there is too much play and the helmet can spin back and forth or feels a bit loose, it is too big.

While the variety of helmets online is substantial, it is highly recommended you try a few in person to get a better idea of the fit. If you do not have an option of doing this before taking your bike out for a ride, at the very least, measure your head circumference and checking the ratings to see how others who bought the helmet say it fits. Testing outfits in a store is still a better option if you can manage it.

How to Buy a Helmet

As mentioned, when it comes to DOT and Snell approvals, look for stickers or indications of these approvals on the packaging for a motorcycle helmet. At the minimum, seek out one that has the DOT approval clearly labeled.

It is always best to try on a helmet before purchasing one. Even if your head fits the measurements of a helmet, everyone has slightly different shapes to their skull. It is a wise idea to test them out to see which ones suit you the best. Not only will trying them out increase the safety of the helmet, but also your comfort while wearing it for long periods.

As differentiated with the types of helmets mentioned above, pay attention to the helmet’s designated use and what you plan to wear it for. Naturally, do not buy an off-road helmet if you plan to ride only in cities and highways. If you plan to do off-roading and a bit of highway use, it is best if you can buy a separate helmet for both. If that’s absolutely not in the budget, look for a dual-sport or crossover helmet.

How Much Do They Cost?

So, how much do motorcycle helmets run? Just as different motorcycles will have vastly different prices, helmets can swing in price quite a bit. Top-of-the-line motorcycle helmets can be priced over $1000. Extremely affordable, simple ones can be found for under $100.

On average, a motorcycle helmet will run you around $150 to $200 for something a bit above the cheapest model you can find. There are several reasonable helmets in this price range for the rider who wants a decent helmet but is not willing to pay several hundreds of dollars on it.

It is understandable if you want to try out a more affordable helmet as your first option, just be sure you don’t sacrifice safety and quality in doing so. Even if you’re starting out riding a motorcycle and plan to drive safely and lowers speed roads, remember that newer riders have less experience on the highways. Even in your first months driving a bike, you want to be sure you are protected with a quality helmet.

Replacing Helmets

It is also vital to remember that no motorcycle helmet last forever. Even the highest quality helmets will eventually need to see their final ride. Ideally, a motorcycle helmet should be replaced at least once every five years. If you can swing it with your budget, get a new helmet before the five years is up.

If they have more than typical wear and tear, they must be replaced sooner. Any helmet that has undergone stress in an accident or a severe drop should be immediately replaced. Even if you do not buy a new helmet after it is dropped, be sure to inspect it thoroughly for damage and make sure the soft interior has not been impacted.

Deciding on Your Helmet

It’s imperative to know that new or used motorcycle values will not necessarily reflect the cost of a helmet. A used helmet is not something you want to risk using unless you are 100 percent certain it has never taken any hit or bump.

As with any other potentially life-saving investment, a helmet may not be necessary, and hopefully, you will never need it. However, just as accidents in cars are not always your fault, the same can be said for riding a motorcycle.

The minute you need a helmet, you will be thankful for every penny you spend on buying a good, decent-quality version. It’s in those moments that it is too late if you don’t have one and wear it, so be smart and protect yourself.

While you are at it, remember to consider if you plan to have a passenger on your bike. They will need a helmet, too, and you don’t want to risk someone else’s life on your bike without having them protected, as well. If you have a partner, riding buddy, or spouse, make sure they get measured and try on some helmets for proper fit, as well.