Is there any real difference between the cheap and expensive cycling helmets? Is it really worth buying a helmet at say 3 or 4 times the price of a cheap helmet? Will that helmet really give you 3 or 4 times more protection?

  • 2
    A lot of people wonder this and there are a lot of helmet choices out there. The extra expense for ventilation often does not occur to new riders or riders who rarely travel great distances. I am glad you brought up this question.
    – DC_CARR
    Commented Nov 24, 2010 at 17:08
  • 2
    One has to strike a balance between affordability and safety features. The fact remains that helmets aren't designed to last and that, after a serious crash, ALL helmets should go into the garbage.
    – WTHarper
    Commented Dec 8, 2012 at 4:07

6 Answers 6


No, usually expensive helmets are lighter and more comfortable because have more ventilation.

So, if you plan to ride for long hours it's better to buy the more expensive helmet that you can afford, otherwise - for short rides - a cheap helmet will do the job.

  • 8
    The same standard of safety achieved by a helmet with more holes in it is a real accomplishment on the part of helmet manufacturers. Any dummy could probably stuff foam into a hemispherical mold, put a strap on it, and call it a helmet. A good quality helmet is one that you forget you're wearing.
    – DC_CARR
    Commented Nov 24, 2010 at 17:10
  • Helmets are also a lot like clothing, in that what's comfortable for one person often isn't for another. That aside, yeah, the cheap helmets are usually horribly uncomfortable. Commented Nov 24, 2010 at 18:50
  • 2
    And cheap ones, as with much cheap attire, will degrade, the buckles will likely fall apart, the covering will tarnish. And we haven't even hinted on low prices due to sweat shops ...
    – Unsliced
    Commented Nov 25, 2010 at 10:35
  • I think this answer is no longer true. Today there are more expensive helmets with systems like MIPS which are supposed to reduce brain injuries in case of a crash.
    – Michael
    Commented Jun 16, 2019 at 6:20

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute did a impact test of two sets of helmets. One of them cheap (US$20.00) the other expensive (US$200.00). The results are clear: there's no difference. Buy from a reputable brand.

Just check:

BTW, they give nice and reasonable tips:

"Beware of gimmicks. You want a smoothly rounded outer shell, with no sharp ribs or snag points. Excessive vents mean less foam contacting your head, which could concentrate force on one point. "Aero" helmets are not noticeably faster, and in a crash the "tail" could snag or knock the helmet aside. Skinny straps are less comfortable. Dark helmets are hard for motorists to see. Rigid visors can snag or shatter in a fall. Helmet standards do not address these problems--it's up to you!"

Their site is really informative. It's worth to spend half an hour browsing it.

  • 1
    From a safety standpoint there's no difference, but that's not the only factor to judge a helmet on. How did they compare regarding lightness, bulkiness, comfort and ventilation?
    – GordonM
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 8:24
  • I don't know if its safe to conclude that theres no difference just based on this test (given the few number of helmets tested and lack of curbstone anvil) - sure, they all meet the minimum requirements which are set for helmets, but not everything that passes is the same (for example, in car crash tests, there are a lot of 5 star cars, but some of them will leave you better off than others after crashing if you watch the test videos!).
    – Batman
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 9:46
  • The debate over rigid visors goes on and on for kayaking helmets as well. The counter argument is that the protrusion may protect your glasses (therefore eyes from bits of glasses) and nose in a face plant situation.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 10:50
  • @neves The tips are the best.
    – Vishnu N K
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 9:18

There is actually some misinformation here. It is true that both cheap and expensive helmets must conform with CE-certifications and EU-regulations etc. but the Swedish insurance company Folksam did a more comprehensive test of bicycle helmets. While the best helmet was a relatively cheap one (if you don't consider the airbag helmet), there was a large difference between the amount of protection they each offered.

Here is a link to the test, but unfortunately it is in Swedish. Google translate was not to keen to parse the link either.

  • 2
    The reason for these differences is that the CE test is not so much more than dropping a melon in a helmet on the ground from 1m height, which is not too realistic compared to real bicycle crashes.
    – arne
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 9:23
  • Agreeing - greater cost does not necessarily mean greater protection but some helmets are better protection than others. The Virginia Tech study is helpful helmet.beam.vt.edu/bicycle-helmet-ratings.html
    – David D
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 19:29


Of course the manufacturers trade on that, but would you trust a helmet that cost a meagre amount?

The more expensive helmets are generally sculpted and designed to have more ventilation, be lighter, be more adjustable, be more comfortable, but ultimately, do you trust them to do the job.

I wear a helmet because when I race I have to and when I commute I'm under personal pressure to wear one. (To be fair I did recently have a crash and my forehead would have looked worse had I not been wearing one - it at least protected me from a longer cut.)

Personally I spent more money because I wanted light and comfortable, but I also figure that something that costs the same as a big lunch cannot have been designed, tested and built properly.

  • 7
    Personally, yes, I'd trust a helmet that cost a meagre amount; they're all tested against the same standard (CPSC in the US).
    – freiheit
    Commented Nov 24, 2010 at 18:47
  • 1
    @freiheit - yes, for the first few time you wear it; but after sustained use, for hours a day, days a week, weeks a year? The old cliché "you get what you pay for" isn't always true, but more often than not. If you're going to wear a helmet (see elsewhere for values of 'if') it just doesn't seem right to me to just spend a minimum amount without thinking about why it's so cheap.
    – Unsliced
    Commented Nov 25, 2010 at 10:33
  • 1
    Adjustability is a big point here. If it isn't adjustable, it won't sit properly on your head, and won't protect you as well.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 20:28
  • 1
    @kibbee - A fully adjustable helmet will fit more people properly - true. If you are lucky enough that a less adjustable helment fits well, then theres no benefit spending more money on a more adjustable one.
    – mattnz
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 20:42

From the same manufacturer (or similar reputable) the safety is the same.

This years model costs more, mostly to make up for selling last years model at half price! The top end ranges do have better ventilation, more comfortable or more adjustable padding and straps and have a logo on the box that says they were endorsed by this years Tour de France winner (unless they have just been caught taking drugs)

Personally I buy last year's model from a reputable maker when the LBS has them on sale.

Since helmets need to be replaced every few years (the plastic degrades) I don't worry about how long a better quality helmet will last. For me the padding and straps become horribly degraded from sweat long before the impact foam chemically degrades.

I also buy two helmets for summer use and alternate them so they at least have a chance to dry out. Older ones get relegated to winter use with the padding removed when I wear a hat.

  • A study was done (Can't find reference now, but I know we have answers on this site referring to it) tested used old helmet up to 30 years old. It that showed helmets with no visible signs of damage pass the safety standards they were made- age has no impact.
    – mattnz
    Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 9:20

As long as it meets EU/US minimums, price does not make much of a difference safety-wise; a cheap helmet will do a fine job of protecting you:


More money gives better ventilation, aerodynamics and comfort but you should question whether a shaped bit of plastic foam can justify a £200 price-tag or if you're just paying for the brand.

  • As I understand it, the Australian standards are the toughest, so perhaps one should pay more attention to those. Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 13:04

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