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Can I Buy a Used Helmet at a Yard Sale?

Summary: You probably should not buy a used helmet at a yard sale or thrift shop. Damage may not be evident. Cheap helmets are available new. But if you really can't afford one, a used helmet is better than nothing.

Buying a used helmet at a yard sale is tempting when the price may only be a dollar or two. But it is difficult to assess the condition of the helmet and the standards it may or may not meet.

At a minimum, a yard sale helmet must be uncrashed and have a sticker inside saying it meets the CPSC bicycle helmet standard. (Some older ones did not.)

That sounds simple, but bear in mind that:

  • Crash damage may not be visible. It may be crushed foam inside, or the shell may pop back out and hide the cavity where the foam is crushed.

  • The seller may have forgotten the crash, or been unaware that they even hit their head. Or it may have occurred when the helmet was on somebody else's head.

  • The standards sticker inside may be worn off or otherwise be unreadable.

  • If there is a pre-CPSC sticker for the ANSI, Snell or ASTM standard it means the helmet was made before 1999. It may or may not meet the current standard, but you know for sure that it is old.

  • There might possibly be head lice nits in the helmet from either the former wearer or someone else who just tried the helmet on at the yard sale or thrift shop.

Brand-new decent helmets meeting the CPSC standard are available at Target and Wal-Mart for $10, their everyday price. (We have a page up on inexpensive helmets for promotion programs. Some of those companies will deal with consumers too.) The yard sale price should be lower, but you have to inspect the helmet very carefully, and you may want to put it aside for two weeks in a plastic bag to be sure that any lice eggs are no longer viable. If you can't afford the $10 helmet, a carefully inspected yard sale purchase is certainly a lot better than riding without one.

If you are checking this page because you want to get rid of an old helmet, you might want to see our page on recycling helmets.

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This page was revised on: October 29, 2020. BHSI logo