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No, No, NO! Don't buy a second hand one!! As Andy Smith has said, you'll never be able to tell whether it has been dropped at all. One of the things that I have learnt from 3 years on a motorbike, is how to buy a helmet. Here are a few tips...
Fit: The fit should be tight, as tight as it can be without being painful. There should be fairly even pressure all over, from the padding. There should be no pressure points or overly tight spots that are caused be the polystyrene shell pressing on your head. The tight fit will be uncomfortable when you first wear the helmet, but the padding does compress down with wear - choose your size with this in mind, you still want a good fit when the helmet has aged a little.
Age: Manufacturers recommend throwing your fibreglass helmet away 5 years after it was made. Polycarbonate ones last for about 3. You can tell a fibreglass helmet from a P/Carbonate one because a) The fibreglass is heavier b) The Polycarbonate ones are made in two halves that are bonded together. There will be a join running down the centre. When you buy a helmet it will have a label inside that has the date of manufacture printed on it. If the helmet is old, but is still on display in the shop as if it were new, get the salesperson to adjust the price accordingly. Failing that, insist that they order you a new one from their suppliers.
Money Saving: Helmets sold abroad cost a lot less than UK ones. The UK insists that all road legal helmets have to have a BS kitemark, and so the manufacturers have to pay for their helmets to be tested. This cost gets passed on to the consumer. Helmets on the continent do not have to have to pass the BS standard, but instead have to be approved by a European standards agency, which is easier for the manufacturers and cheaper. If you buy a helmet via the internet there are big savings to be made, but the helmet may not be ACU approved. Some track day organisers insist on only ACU standard helmets. I would say that if you bought a well-known quality helmet, checked which foreign approvals it has and then talked nicely to the organisers, they would probably let you off. (providing the UK equivalent was ACU approved.) I think that the EU standard is soon to be made legal in the UK soon.
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