Without a shadow of a doubt, go-karting is the most affordable and accessible motorsport out there. Even so, it’s easy to spend a fortune on gear, so it’s important to know the best bargain buys you can nab; especially when it comes to helmets!
So, what is the best cheap karting helmet? My choice rests with the Conquer SA2015 Full Face Racing Helmet due its perfect blend of comfort, absolute safety and affordability. The lightweight fiberglass composition only seals the deal for me.
But it wouldn’t be an ultimate list without… you know, a collection of different helmets, right? Through my wealth of karting experience and first-hand knowledge, I’ll be reviewing kart helmets and also offering advice as to what you should look for in each one.
What To Look For In A Good Helmet
As with any bit of safety gear for go-karting, you should never be choosing something for its looks and appearance alone. The primary purpose of a helmet is to protect your head from trauma should the worst happen in a collision, and as such, there’s a collection of things you need to look for above all else.
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While you can afford to get second-hand race suits and boots, you should never buy a second-hand kart helmet. This is for a variety of reasons, but first and foremost, you can never guarantee the integrity of the helmet material if it’s pre-owned. It’s also rather bad hygienically, if the worry about material integrity isn’t enough!
When purchasing a helmet, always look for a gold sticker that will be located somewhere on the side or the rear of the headpiece. The sticker isn’t always gold, per se, but it will have a section of it which reads ‘SNELL Memorial Foundation’ if it’s present. This confirms that the helmet meets SNELL regulations of safety for karting and without that sticker, you won’t be able to race.
Every SNELL sticker meets a different year of regulations and will have expiry dates. That’s right, you won’t be able to always buy a helmet that’ll last for years upon years at a time! My biggest and most important tip is to check the letter followed by the year on the SNELL approved sticker.
For example, if you find a helmet whose sticker reads K2010, it will remain legal and viable for 11 years from that printed date, meaning it will expire in 2021. That helmet might have been cheap in 2018, but the helmet would only have lasted for 3 years if you bought it then. Always try to get a helmet with a long time until expiry as you’ll get more value for money!
You should also always look for full-face helmets. Some clubs might allow the cut-away varieties for club meets and such, but for racing, these will be a huge no-no. Full-face helmets are the only ones which will receive SNELL approval anyway, so always remember to look for that sticker first and foremost.
Above all else, I spent some time to line up kart brands that I’ve come to trust. In my experience, the best helmet manufacturers out there without a shadow of a doubt are Bell, ZAMP and Conquer. At some time or other I’ve had helmets from these manufacturers and they haven’t let me down.
Familiarity with brands is very important in karting, because it’s a hobby built on trust and reliability. You don’t want to take a chance on an outlier brand whose helmets don’t even last the season!
I’d also suggest not to get too hung-up on your budget as a solid, unshifting figure. Sometimes, an extra $5 or $10 can get you something way better in terms of quality and longevity, so it becomes worth that extra spend at the time.
The 4 Best Cheap Karting Helmets
After scouring the market, I’ve come up with the 4 best karting helmets that won’t break the bank. Of course, helmets are pivotal bits of kit so you can expect to spend more on them than any other part of your gear, so keep that in mind.
So, here are the 4 best cheap karting helmets:
- Conquer SA2015 Full Face Racing Helmet
- ZAMP Racing FSA-3 SA2015 Helmet
- ZAMP Racing FS-9 M2020 Racing Helmet
- RaceQuip PRO15 SA2015 Full Face Helmet
1. Conquer SA2015 Full Face Racing Helmet
First, let’s look at my pick for the best cheap karting helmet around; the Conquer SA2015! As one of the most reputable brands that specializes in making kart/racing helmets, Conquer consistently make safe, competitively-priced gear that has revolutionized the motorsport. Helmets aren’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but with Conquer varieties being easier on the wallet, they’re a real game-changer.
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The biggest and most notable thing about this helmet specifically is the very up-to-date SNELL certification that it comes with. As I mentioned earlier in this article, it’s of paramount importance to get a helmet that complies with these regulations. Otherwise, you won’t be permitted to race!
It may just seem like some letters and numbers, but what SA2015 in the title means is that this helmet will be considered valid to race until 2026. That’s a lot of racing life!
Aside from the top-quality safety standards, the Conquer helmet looks pretty sleek and will set you apart as a real kart driver. You have a choice between white, black and silvery gray when purchasing the helmet from Conquer’s website.
Now, as for the main reasons why I couldn’t help but rate this helmet so highly!
The visor you get as standard when purchasing is a 3mm thick, anti-scratch, flame resistant shield. Let me tell you that it’s exceedingly easy to scratch normal helmet visors, and I’ve had to replace many throughout my racing career!
As for what it’s made of, the shell is put together with fiberglass; a material that’s not only strong, but immensely lightweight. You don’t want a helmet that feels heavy and cumbersome to support on your neck, after all, and having a weighty one can result in bad whiplash if you crash the kart.
Another boon of having a lightweight helmet comes down to sheer racing edge! Any racing team will tell you that they’re always looking for ways to keep the driver safe, with as little added weight as humanly possible. In karting, weight is a huge factor to remember when it comes to racing against the competition.
The interior of the helmet is comfortable and has removable cheek pads to properly mold to your facial structure. Not only that, but all of the material on the inside is fire resistant just in case the worst happens.
With a Kevlar chin strap and even a drawstring helmet bag included in the purchase, you’ll be getting a lot for your money. Even with all of its features, the Conquer helmet is actually quite affordable! You’ll be snagging a bargain that’ll keep you safe race after race.
- Lightweight yet sturdy fiberglass shell
- Removal face inserts for the best, most comfortable fit
- Ventilation isn’t quite as good as some others on the list
- Doesn’t come with an extra visor
2. ZAMP Racing FSA-3 SA2015 Helmet
Another huge name in kart helmet manufacturing, ZAMP also designs and makes safety gear for motorcycles; as do a lot on this list, in actual fact. They’ve accrued a really good reputation over the years for high-quality helmets, and have recently been investing in the development of helmets that are more affordable for racers on a budget.
One such model is the FSA-3 with a SA2015 SNELL safety rating!
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The biggest difficulty with finding reasonably-priced helmets is finding those coveted letters, SA. Those represent the highest quality and safety rating that SNELL gives, and it covers all motor racing as opposed to certain kinds. As an example, M rated helmets are primarily used for competitive motorcycle racing and aren’t accepted for higher caliber kart racing.
On their website, ZAMP outline their goals for making this helmet and it all comes down to wanting to produce something competitive and safe that is still affordable. As they rightly state, a lot of the features and the SNELL rating on this helmet are typically seen on models twice the cost of this one!
It is made with a fiberglass shell, the perfect combination of lightweight composition and hardness. The interior is flame retardant and plush, which gives the wearer the ultimate levels in comfort and safety.
Ventilation on this helmet is very good, with the typical chin exhaust areas coupled with some small scalp vents, and even some in the rear. The last thing you want as a driver is a helmet that fogs your visor all the time, after all!
The FSA-3 also comes with inserts that are designed for usage with head and neck restraints, something you don’t often see in cheaper helmets. Wearing a neck restraint / protection cuff is something that a lot of drivers like to do, especially in endurance races, but it becomes uncomfortable when their helmet doesn’t fasten onto it.
It comes with a choice of one color, snowy white, which isn’t a huge problem when you look at all of the other fantastic features of the helmet!
For its price, you’ll be getting something that feels as if it belongs with more premium helmets on the market. Between how light and comfortable the helmet is, the very advanced ventilation technology located in many spots to prevent visor fogging, and the high-rated SNELL certification, you really can’t go wrong.
- Good ventilation all over the helmet reduces visor fogging
- Can attach head and neck restraints to the helmet for long, tiring races
- Slightly more expensive than the Conquer with a lot of very similar features
- Scalp vents have a tendency to let water in when it rains
3. ZAMP Racing FS-9 M2020 Racing Helmet
Another ZAMP helmet? That’s right! A company that designs helmets for all levels of racing is worth its weight in gold, so I absolutely had to include another of ZAMP’s products. This time, it’s the FS-9 M2020 model! Sleek, cool and at the peak of latest SNELL safety… what could be better?
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Now, I’ve already gone over how SA-rated helmets are far more preferable compared to M-rated helmets before. The latter is best for competitive motorcycle racing (hence the M), but it is still accepted in a lot of entry-level and club-level kart races.
So, although the FS-9 carries the M instead of the SA, it’s considerably cheaper than the rest of the helmets on this list, making it more accessible to brand-new kart racers. When I was first racing as an adult driver, I had an M-rated helmet because at the time, I didn’t have the money for SA helmets!
I’d definitely consider M helmets to be more of a stop-gap or low-level competitive helmet. They’re great for practicing and are still immensely safe; especially since the FS-9 has an M2020 rating, making it valid until 2031!
With all of that said, this helmet is made of strong yet lightweight fiberglass much like the others I’ve talked about. It also has a fully adjustable chin strap for comfortably securing it, and its interior is not only plush, but it can all be removed in order to be washed (trust me, it needs washing more than you’d think!).
It has scalp vents which can be put into open or closed positions, to properly adjust how much ventilation you need. Couple that with a chin vent which you’ll see on most helmets, and the risk of your visor fogging is pretty slim.
When purchasing, you can also choose whether you’d like an extra shield for the helmet at only a small addition price. You can pick between Dark Smoke (tinted visor), Silver Mirror (mirrored visor) or Iridium Shield (tough, anti-scratch visor).
For a respectable price, you’ll get a very safe, competitive helmet with a lot of handy features that aren’t typically seen on lower-priced helmets. The only thing holding it back regarding its position on the list is the M SNELL rating, but that doesn’t detract from making is a great beginner’s helmet!
- Cheapest helmet of the bunch
- Removable, plush interior; easy to wash without damaging the helmet
- M safety certification only makes it valid for club-level or entry-level kart racing
- Chin strap materials are lower quality than the rest
4. RaceQuip PRO15 SA2015 Full Face Helmet
Last, but certainly not least, is the PRO15 SA2015 helmet made by RaceQuip, a kart gear manufacturing brand that prides itself on making affordable, high safety-rated products as standard. They design and produce a large collection of helmets, but I chose their best-seller for a number of reasons. Let’s get into it, shall we?
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We’re back to the gold standard in helmet safety with this SA-rated helmet, meaning that you’ll have a helmet that is recognized and accepted by all kart racing authorities until 2026. Of course, it makes the product more expensive due to the rigorous testing and high-quality materials required to reach this level of safety, but the extra cost is more than worth it when you consider the longevity.
Unlike the other helmets on this list, the PRO15 is made with a fiber-reinforced polymer in its shell. It has very similar properties to fiberglass, like its lightweight composition, but has an extra layer of protective hardness due to the properties of the polymer.
Within the shell you’ll find HANS and HNR inserts which are ‘mated’ to the fiber-reinforced polymer, adding to the outer sturdiness tenfold.
It also means that you can attach whatever desired head and neck restraints/protections you wish, due to the varied M6 threaded inserts that make the process easy.
The interior is made with a material that is considered to be RaceQuip’s trademark: Nomex, a plush material that is highly flame retardant and meets all of the strictest SFI ratings out there.
As for the visor that comes as standard, it’s protected against distortion and is attached to an aluminum pivot kit which has an adjustable friction kit locking mechanism. The long and short of that is that the visor is made of tough stuff, and the pivots which are used to move it up and down give a lot of freedom for personalized settings.
RaceQuip have also developed an aerodynamic helmet shell, complete with plenty of vents surrounding it to reduce the risk of a fogging visor.
All of this is a good deal, but it is at the higher end of the budget range. At the end of the day, the PRO15 has a lot of the same features as those of the Conquer helmet and even ZAMP’s FSA-3 model, with the main distinguishing feature being the Nomex interior material.
That’s the main reason why I’ve placed it at the bottom, but it’s still a stunning helmet that has everything you’ll need and more when it comes to kart racing!
- SA-certified and race ready for all karting
- Aerodynamic, lightweight design
- Interior isn’t removable (neither the lining nor the face inserts)
- More expensive without truly distinguishing features
So, there we have it, readers! A collection of solid picks for cheap yet not budget (at least in performance) helmets that’ll be great additions to your gear. And even if these helmets aren’t for you, I hope that my insight into what makes one good / worth buying will help in your search going forward!