When shopping for a motorcycle helmet there are two crucial factors to look into before purchase. First, check if the helmet has earned Department of Transportation (DOT) approval. Second, see if it meets the Snell Safety Standards. If the helmet meets both of these criteria, then your helmet will be safe to wear and for you to trust.
Helmets are put through rigorous testing to gain proper endorsement by DOT and Snell. It is not the fall that does the damage, but the suddenness of the stop and impact. Testing reflects this and helmets are approved accordingly to how they perform. DOT and Snell test for this using an accelerometer mounted into the headform. This device measures the acceleration and deceleration during the impact testing. The acceleration pulse is measured against the milliseconds of the impact’s duration. The acceleration pulse is equal to the acceleration due to the earth’s gravity. This acceleration pulse determines if your helmet will be safe or fails.
Once you see that the helmet is approved by DOT and Snell, your choices then become all about personal taste and how much you are willing to spend. A hundred dollar motorcycle helmet that is DOT and Snell approved is not any less safe than a five hundred dollar helmet according to safety tests. The materials vary though as some helmets are heavier than others, or have more padding and fit more comfortably. The biggest question here is how comfortable are you with what kind of weight? Additionally, how important is padding to you when you ride?
A good way to determine how important comfort is to you is to ask yourself how often you are going to ride. If you are an everyday motorcycle commuter, you will probably want to spend more money on a more comfortable helmet. If you are a hobbyist, maybe the comfort factor is not as important to you. It is all a matter of your own budget.
Again, it cannot be emphasized enough that anyone seeking a motorcycle helmet must look for DOT and Snell approval. Any helmet that does not meet both of these requirements should be a non-starter for you. Everything else is secondary.