Buying a new karting helmet can be daunting process, as there are so many options out there on the market to choose from. Whether you’re a beginner or a more advanced kart racer, it helps to check out a list of the best cheap karting helmets.
The 4 best cheap karting helmets are:
- Conquer SA2020 Full Face Racing Helmet
- ZAMP Racing FSA-3 SA2015 Helmet
- ZAMP Racing FS-9 M2020 Racing Helmet
- RaceQuip PRO20 SA2020 Full Face Helmet
Below, using my wealth of karting experience and first-hand knowledge, I’ll be reviewing these kart helmets in more detail, and also offering advice as to what you should look for when buying a cheap karting helmet.
What To Look For In A Good Karting 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.
Never Buy Second Hand
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, but it will have a section that reads ‘SNELL Memorial Foundation.’ 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. So, you won’t be able to always buy a helmet that’ll last for years upon years at a time (if you don’t pay attention to the dates that is). 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 with a sticker that reads K2010, it will remain legal and viable for 11 years from that printed date, meaning it expired in 2021 (too late!). 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!
Full Face Only
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 that will receive SNELL approval anyway, so always remember to look for that sticker first and foremost.
I also spend some time lining up kart brands that I’ve come to trust. In my experience, the best karting 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.
The 4 Best Cheap Karting Helmets
1. Conquer SA2020 Full Face Racing Helmet
First, let’s look at my pick for the best cheap karting helmet around; the Conquer SA2020! 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 as a whole. Helmets aren’t exactly cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but with Conquer varieties being easier on the wallet, they’re a real game-changer.
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, it’s of paramount importance to get a helmet that complies with these regulations. Otherwise, you won’t be permitted to race!
Aside from the top-quality safety standards, the Conquer helmet looks pretty sleek and will set you apart as a kart driver. You have a choice between white, black and silvery gray with this one.
The visor you get as standard when purchasing is a 3 mm 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, 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 possible. In karting, weight is a huge factor to remember when it comes to racing against 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 does happen.
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
- Removable face inserts for the 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 some of the others on this list. 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.
The Safety Rating
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!
Note: As this is an SA2015 helmet, it may not be usable after the 2023 season - be sure to check with your racing series before you buy one!
Safe & Comfortable
It is made with a fiberglass shell, offering the perfect combination of lightweight composition and protection. 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 too, 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, and that’s not a problem with the FSA-3.
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 only 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 (although almost outdated) SNELL certification, you really can’t go wrong with this one!
- 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
- Almost outdated
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?
M vs SA Rating
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 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!
Not For High-Level Racing
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 for years to come.
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 that can be put into open or closed positions, to properly adjust how much ventilation you need. Couple that with a chin vent that you’ll see on most helmets, and the risk of your visor fogging is pretty slim. 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 this list is the M SNELL rating, but that doesn’t detract from making it a great beginner’s helmet!
- Cheapest helmet of the bunch
- Removable, plush interior is easy to wash
- M safety certification only makes it valid for club-level or entry-level kart racing
- Chin strap materials are lower quality than some others
4. RaceQuip PRO20 SA2020 Full Face Helmet
Last, but certainly not least, is the PRO20 SA2020 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.
High Safety Rating
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 for years to come. 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 PRO20 is made with a fiber-reinforced polymer in its shell. It has very similar properties to fiberglass, like its lightweight composition, but it also 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. 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 one of RaceQuip’s trademark materials: 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 that 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 PRO20 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 I’ve placed it at the bottom of this list, 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
- Lightweight, aerodynamic design
- Interior isn’t removable (neither is the lining or the face inserts)
- More expensive without many distinguishing features
Choosing a cheap karting helmet isn’t always easy, but as long as you pay attention to safety ratings and never buy second hand, you won’t go far wrong. The cheapest choice is the FS-9 from ZAMP, but the best cheap karting helmet overall is the SA2020 full face helmet from Conquer.