Snell vs. DOT, only choose the best?

One thing that confuses many riders in this day and age is the various motorcycle helmet standards. Snell and DOT are two popular firms, but what criteria do they use to test their Helmets? Well, your safety comes first, and that is why you need to understand the helmet’s standards. That way, you can decide which one is the best for you while on the road. This article seeks to give you an overview of Snell vs. DOT to help you understand better. Read on!

Between Snell and DOT, which one is better?

How do they set their standards?

According to DOT, they set their minimum standards that all motorcycle helmets for street use need to meet. That is why the Federal Motorcycle Safety Standards are commonly known as DOT standards for the helmets. On the other hand, Snell is a private firm and does not run for profit-making. Unlike DOT, they set the standards for the helmets independently. They also set standards for other protective gear.  

Testing procedures


DOT approved standards are approved by the US government as well as most states. Their standards aim at 90% protection of the skull during an impact. The helmets range from low to average impacts and favor shock-absorbent helmets. Their interest in shock absorption in the helmets indicates how safe the helmets can get. For a helmet to pass DOT standards, they must pass the following tests:

  • They drop the helmet into a round anvil on a 1.83m height
  • The helmet is plunged in a flat anvil on a height of 1.83m
  • A pointed picket is released on the helmet
  • They apply the weight of up to 300 pounds for about 120 seconds to the helmets retention system


As we said earlier, Snell is a non-profit organization named after William Snell, the racing legend. William died after a crash, and the helmet could not protect him. To honor his memories, they strive to maintain the right helmet standards. Snell updates their standards every five years, and so they have several Standards of helmets. Their helmets support shock absorption to keep you fully protected. AMA approves snell helmets for professional racing. For a helmet to pass Snell standards and get certified, it must pass the following Snell tests:

  • Snell uses five anvils with different shapes instead of two
  • Unlike DOT, they drop the helmets from different heights, even greater heights than DOT’s
  • They test the helmet’s chin bar and the dome
  • They also test the visor by shooting with soft pallets of lead in multiple locations on the visor

Administrative differences

Other than standards differences, Snell and DOT have administrative differences. For the helmet to be Snell certified, their technicians must test the products in their lab. This is to make sure they meet Snell standards. Moreover, Snell buys samples of all Snell-certified helmets for follow-up testing, which is a condition upon certification. That is to make sure that the companies will never alter the quality even after certification.

On the other hand, DOT certification, unlike Snell, is done according to the honor system. The manufacturer is the one that decides whether the helmet meets its standards. He then goes to claim the Certification. The government does some spot-check testing at private or commercial labs, but not so often.   

Helmets are tested and certified to offer enough protection to the head in case of an accident. However, it is up to you to buy the one that you are sure will keep you safe. Besides, it’s your responsibility to keep your head safe when riding. That is why you need always to get a certified helmet since that is for your good.

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