Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Portland, OR, USA
DOT approval is certainly not much of an assurance of quality or safety. For example, the lowest priced Bilt helmet at <$30 at Cycle-Gear is DOT approved. Only novelty helmets are not.
Snell approval is expensive. That cost must be defrayed with helmet pricing. Most helmets fail and require design modifications to get certified. However, a manufacturer may make an exceptional helmet and choose not to seek Snell approval if the intended market will never be track days or race use. Many of the helmets that are mentioned in the posts above are expensive helmets without Snell approval.
As such, for an off-track helmet. without the Snell approval, the buyer has nothing to go on other than reviews, your personal opinion and the fit of the helmet. Realistically, finding a helmet that fits well and is comfortable will be harder if a Snell approval is required. What you need to wear for a 20 minute session and for a 4 hour ride may be altogether different. Multiple helmet ownership may be your norm. That can be expensive because helmets have a limited material life. Snell and many manufacturers say 3-5 years. If you have $1500 worth of helmets, that's $3-500 a year for the ol' brain bucket.
2001 Monster S4