Does helmet safety match cost?

Helmet safety motorcycle crash accident ratings

Does helmet safety match how much money you spend on the helmet? It’s an often-asked question that we try to verify with statistics.

The Bell helmets ad campaign of 50 years ago “If you’ve got a $10 head, wear a $10 helmet!” may have been true then, but is it now?

We could not find any empirical evidence of the correlation between cost and safety, only anecdotal. For example, I can attest that my Shoei Hornet DS saved my head after I was run over by another bike, but I wouldn’t know how a cheaper or more expensive helmet would have coped.

Since you often pay more for special graphics for the same helmet in a solid single colour, we can assume cost isn’t always related to safety.

So we have gone to statistics to see if they show any safety/cost correlation.

HELMET SAFETY

It’s very difficult to assess all the helmets on the market, so we have used data from two websites: the NSW Transport Accident Commission “Crash” ratings and the British SHARP helmet safety scheme ratings.

Both have comprehensive testing systems that provide overall helmet safety ratings out of five for each model.

The Crash site doesn’t give prices and only lists 157 helmets, but it shows that full-face helmets are safer, and they are usually more expensive.

Nineteen full-face helmets scored four stars, 56 scored three and 16 two stars, while only 12 open faces scored three stars, 16 scored two and seven scored just one star.

Crash also rates helmet safety on “dual-purpose” models with nine scoring four stars, 13 scored three and one rated two stars.

Shark Helmets Heritage model
Shark Heritage top scores in open-face with three stars on Crash

The more comprehensive SHARP helmet safety scheme is now relevant to our market as these helmets are European UNECE22.05 approved which are allowable across Australia.

So it should cover a range of helmets available here, as well as some that aren’t. However, you can still legally buy them over the internet.

Not every helmet is tested and rated, but it gives a good cross-section of open, full-face and modular helmets.

An initial impression of the market is that most are reasonably safe, with 57% scoring four stars or more and 15% scoring one or two stars.

PRICE CATEGORIES

We then divided the helmets into three price categories up to £150 (about $A240), £150-£450 (about $A720) and £450 and above. The most expensive was the five-star AGV Pista GP at £799 ($A1300).

Most helmets were in the cheap category with 209, followed by 150 in the midrange and just 15 in the top sector.

And, as expected, the old Bell advertising slogan is true: The more money you spend, the safer the helmet, at least according to the SHARP ratings.

Schuberth S1 Pro rates one star
Schuberth S1 Pro rates two stars

There were no one-star helmets in the top price category, while 46% top-scored, 20% rated four stars, 26% three stars and just one helmet, the £450 Schuberth S1 Pro, rated two stars.

So you can still pay a lot of money and not get great safety.

But while the statistics show the more you spend the more safety you get, there are some anomalies.

Thankfully, there are 17 helmets under £150 that top score (seven of which are Caberg), plus a whopping 42% with four stars and 29% with three stars.

In the midrange, there are 32% that top-scored, 46% with four stars, 26.5% with three stars and 7.2% with two or one star.

BEST AND WORST BRANDS

It is more difficult to assess which are the best and worst brands, as it depends on how many models they have.

For example, BMW helmets are not necessarily bad because they only have one helmet with five stars. There are only three helmets featured.

The most prolific helmet brand in the survey is Shark with 24 helmets and all but one scored four or more stars, making it the safest, statistically.

It marginally pips AGV with 20 out of 21 helmets rating four and above, then Caberg with nine out of 10, Bell with nine out of 12 and Shoei with eight out of 11.

Shark Race-R Pro
Shark Race-R Pro rates five stars

CHOOSING YOUR HELMET

However, you can’t use statistics to buy your helmet.

Every helmet needs to be evaluated by the rider for a solid mix of price, purpose and safety.

So we encourage riders to check the above websites to check for safety star ratings.

Then it’s a matter of getting an affordable helmet that fits your head. Remember, every rider’s head is a different shape and helmets also have different shapes that present varied pressure points.

6 Comments

  1. Hi, as usual you have provide a informative article in an endeavor to improve the safety of motorcyclists. But do we really need the negative stereotypical lead picture. You are not writing for a certain Queensland newspaper anymore. Keep up the good work, but please keep the photos positive (Shock horror pictures have proved to be ineffective in modifying behaviour anyway)

  2. I think all the comments so far highlight the fact that primary safety is not the only concern. If your not comfortable in your ‘safe’ helmet, then your going to be fatigued during the ride.

  3. The last helmet I purchased was evaluated by price, fit and lastly safety. I actually wanted to buy the cheapest helmet I could find but as it turned out (after trying on heaps of helmets) I found that fit became the most important factor, so that I ended up buying a Shoei NRX and it is only coincidence that it has a fairly high safety factor and it happened to be a mid range price, somewhere in the $700 region.

  4. With the minimum standards all helmets must meet the only places price makes a difference is in fitment quality noise and weight.
    The better fitting helmet is the safer helmet
    The quietest helmet is the safer helmet
    The lighter helmet is the safer helmet
    To get all three usually means more money as the more expensive helmet should be using lighter more exotic materials and spend more on research and development and have more size and shape options.
    But this is often not the case as you can have two helmets one from an elcheapo supplier and one from a name brand being identical in every way that counts the only difference being the name and often it’s because they are made in the same factory.

    The trouble with buying off the Internet.
    I bought an L2 brand helmet even with shipping it was half the price of the same helmet here. It’s a good helmet but it was a bit tight so I took the removable liner out to see if there was any adjustment and what did I find?
    The helmet was supposed to be a xxxl it’s labeled as such every where except on the internals there I found xxl embossed on the parts no wonder it was a bit tight!

  5. As always price does not always indicate quality and even with the UK Sharp ratings there are some glaring problems such as low percentages of chin bar lock retention on some high rated flip up helmets

    The NSW Govt CRASH rating system should be discontinued now we have moved to UNECE 22.05, the money could be better spent on other things and the NSW Govt collaborate with the UK developing further a single worldwide rating system

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *