Understanding motorcycle helmet ratings is key information when you're shopping for your helmet. State laws vary on what type of motorcycle helmet is acceptable, and you may have your own preferences to take into account. Motorcycle helmets range in terms of protection, comfort and style.
When you're shopping for motorcycle helmets, make sure that they are rated. Unrated motorcycle helmets aren't regulated and you really don't know what you're getting. You can find a rating on the liner or on the helmet itself, on a sticker.
There are two organizations overseeing the rating of motorcycle helmets. One is the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the other is Snell Memorial Foundation.
DOT requires that a motorcycle helmet meets a certain standard, but it don't test the helmets themselves. Rather, it rates helmets based on what the helmet manufacturer says that the helmet can withstand. Occasionally DOT will actually send a helmet for testing, and not all helmets pass; in fact, roughly half do not, which means that a DOT sticker may not indicate a safe helmet. To make matters worse, DOT stickers are popping up. It's important to do a little research into the type of helmet that you're thinking of purchasing before you shell out the cash for it.
Snell does its own testing on motorcycle helmets after the manufacturer has done its tests. This double-testing puts many consumers at ease, but not all manufacturers are using the Snell certification because of costs. Many experienced motorcycle riders choose to purchase a Snell-certified helmet because of the more stringent test requirements.
Make sure you spend the money to purchase a good helmet. A motorcycle helmet is an investment in your life. Be sure to buy quality (even if it's a bit more expensive); it's worth it.