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Whether you’re riding a motorcycle, a bike, an electric scooter, or an ATV, the inevitable fact is this: you need a helmet every time you ride.

But let’s be honest – looking for the perfect helmet can be quite tricky. Aside from all the features and specs, you should also consider whether it’s a DOT helmet or a novelty one. The difference between these two categories can be confusing, especially if you’re a beginner.

Well, we’re here to finally put an end to this confusion. In this article, we will discuss novelty helmets vs. DOT helmets to help you understand the key differences between each type. By the end of this article, you will already have an idea about each one, and already determine which one you need.

novelty vs dot helmets

Novelty Helmet | What Is It?

Before digging into the differences between novelty helmets vs. DOT, let’s first discuss them individually. We’ll start with novelty helmets.

novelty helmet

A novelty helmet is a helmet that did not comply with the standards set by the Department of Transportation. As such, it usually has thinner padding and is more lightweight, making it more comfortable and low-profile when worn.

As to performance, a novelty helmet usually comes with an outer shell that can easily shatter upon impact. Some novelty helmets may offer decent shock absorption, but it may not be enough to protect users in case of a serious accident.

With that said, novelty helmets are usually more affordable than DOT helmets. Because of their construction and safety features, you should use them with caution. It is not recommended using them during long rides and dangerous stunts.

DOT Helmet | What Is It?

Now that you know what a novelty helmet is, let’s now proceed to discuss the DOT helmet.

In this context, DOT stands for the Department of Transportation. This means that helmets falling under this category complied with the safety standards set by the Department of Transportation, or more particularly, the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or FMVSS.

Under these standards, a helmet should meet several criteria to be considered safe enough for use while riding motor vehicles.

One of the biggest factors that help you determine if the helmet is DOT-approved is the quality of its outer shell. Usually, it is made of durable material that effectively reduces the blow of the impact. It usually has a second layer of high-density EPS liner that absorbs and distributes the shock so that the user won’t receive the full force of it.

dot helmet

Another factor is the inner liner. DOT helmets have very thick liners to cushion the head in case of a crash or fall. This is something you can easily tell because most novelty helmets merely have a thin yet soft liner – but won’t do much to cushion your fall.

You can also tell a DOT helmet from a novelty helmet based on the weight. Like we previously mentioned, most novelty helmets are lightweight. In contrast, most DOT helmets can be bulky with a little more weight. This is owing to the sturdier outer shell and thicker inner padding. Nevertheless, some manufacturers are coming up with ways to produce lightweight DOT helmets to make them more comfortable.

Another feature you should look into are the chin straps. To make sure that you’re fully protected, the helmet must fit securely on your head. This makes sure that the vital areas won’t suffer from serious injuries. That’s why DOT helmets have thick and durable straps that won’t easily budge. This is opposed to the novelty’s thinner straps that are mainly for aesthetic purposes.

With all these in mind, you can already tell that DOT helmets are far superior to novelty helmets in terms of safety features and quality. That also means that DOT helmets come with bigger price tags.

So how do you determine if a helmet is, in fact, DOT-approved? If a helmet seems to have all the qualities we’ve listed above, but you’re still quite unsure, then you should check the helmet for a DOT sticker. Manufacturers put this sticker on DOT helmets to easily set them apart from the novelty items. They are usually located at the back of the helmet, so you might want to check that out before you buy.

Read our blog about mountain bike vs dirt bike here.

Novelty vs DOT Helmets: Which One Should I Get?

At this point, you’re now familiar with both novelty helmets vs. DOT. Now the question is: which one should you get?

For safety reasons, the obvious choice is the DOT helmets. Because they have complied with the safety standards set for the industry, you can have full confidence in knowing that you will be spared in case of an accident. While DOT helmets can be quite pricey, the fact that they can save your life is more than what you’re paying for.

But this doesn’t mean that novelty helmets are completely useless. If you’re planning to use a helmet for riding a non-motorized vehicle – especially if it’s merely for riding within your neighborhood where there’s a lesser chance for vehicular accidents – then a novelty helmet will be a more practical choice.

Also, novelty helmets are known for their creative designs. Most DOT helmets have very minimalist looks because it’s not safe to have a lot of decorations on a helmet that’s traveling at significant speeds. So if you want to show off a cool helmet when you’re not riding a motorcycle, a novelty helmet will do the trick.

Thus, if you’re planning to use the helmet to keep you safe during your trip, then a DOT helmet is the best choice. Otherwise, if it’s merely for show or for riding non-motorized vehicles, then you can be fine with a novelty helmet.


Are novelty helmets safe?

Novelty helmets can have some protective features, but only in case of minor accidents like slipping and falling. However, because of the thinner padding and lightweight shell, it may not offer decent protection in case of a high-impact accident.

What does DOT stand for in helmets?

The DOT that’s often associated with helmets stands for Department of Transportation. When a helmet is DOT-approved, it means that its design and overall features meet or exceed the standards set by the DOT.

Are DOT helmets comfortable?

Yes. While DOT helmets are generally heavier than novelty helmets, they can still be quite comfortable. They usually come with vents to help improve the airflow to keep your head cool as you ride. Also, most of today’s helmet manufacturers now make their paddings and shells lightweight, so it won’t leave a strain on your neck.

Wrap Up

In this novelty helmets vs. DOT helmets discussion, we are leaning towards the latter because we value your safety. So, if you’re planning to use the helmet for riding your motorized vehicle on the road, always check if it is DOT certified. It may be pricey, but it will be an investment that could potentially save your life.

Always remember that helmets are required by law for a reason — to protect you from harm. While it may be tempting to go for the more affordable novelty ones, remind yourself that these helmets may not offer the protection you need to withstand road accidents. Thus, and we can’t stress this enough: always use novelty helmets with caution.

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One Comment

  1. If you don’t mind dying or like the idea of being in a coma then by all means wear a novelty helmet. Hell my ex had a novelty helmet that cost more than my DOT. I don’t always wear a helmet, but when I do I strap on a DOT. And my current girlfriend is only allowed to wear a DOT on my bike.

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