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Those new to playing football learn pretty quickly that the sport is like hockey in a significant way: the game comes with a lot of accessories and padding, including the most-important thing atop the head. Since the helmet protects the brain and skull, people often ask about the cost range, in case they want to invest more for extra safety details.
A game-ready, new football helmet can cost anywhere from over $100 for a basic youth football helmet, up to $1,500 for a custom-made high-quality model for professional players. Basic new football helmets on average cost somewhere between $150 and $400.
Used football helmets can be found for as little as $25, but buyer beware. Understand that football helmets last 10 years only; and old, used helmets must be recertified for safety at least every other year, because it is required by the rules of most leagues.
Prices for individual new helmets can be reduced by manufacturers when purchased in bulk.
Note: Some new helmets do not come with a face mask. When purchasing a football helmet, be sure to know what is included. Also, pay attention to whether or not the interior pads are removable, which helps with cleaning after use.
Only about 30 helmet models are approved for use in National Football League games ~ and 4 of those are worn way more than any of the others. Let’s break down new-helmet costs of the most-popular brands, Riddell and Schutt:
Riddell NFL (per the company’s website) helmets: $226.75 to $699.99
Schutt: $287 (Adult) to over $600 (F7 VTD)
The most popular helmet series is the Riddell SpeedFlex, which costs around $400 depending on which version.
How much do NFL teams pay for a helmet?
National Football League players do not pay for any of their equipment, helmet included. Each authenticated helmet for NFL players cost about $950, covered by each player’s club.
Players can change helmets mid-season, by the way, as long as they let the equipment manager know, and get the new helmet authorized by the league.
Riddell varsity helmets retail prices run from $279 to over $400 depending on the vendor. The company’s website has its helmets listed for from $213.50 to $359.99, by the way.
College football players also do not pay for their helmets, as universities and colleges must purchase them. These schools usually work out deals with single manufacturers to buy helmets in bulk, significantly reducing the per-unit price.
In the end, college football players do not get to keep their helmets, just like high school players must return them to the school. This is because the helmets purchased by the university in the end belong to the university.
Understand that new football helmets could come totally no-frills, like with a flat matte finish, and maybe even without a face mask. Getting gloss on the outside, or special colors, or a wide range of many other options can add to the cost of the final helmet ready for gridiron action. Some potential adds:
- Helmet painting. $35 to $75 per helmet
- Visor (thin protective sheet over the eyes inside the face mask): $20 to $80
- Customized facemask: $35 to $65
- Special chin strap: $2 to $25
- Stickers or decals: $5 to $30
Reconditioning of a used helmet, which typically is required every year or every other year, costs about $20 to $30 per helmet.
Players, coaches or parents looking into purchasing a football helmet should always make absolutely sure that the model they are looking at is indeed ready for game play.
There are a lot of different types of football helmets out there, both online and in memorabilia and sporting goods stores, that are collectibles or decorative-only. Among them:
- Replica football helmet. These are full-sized, and even crafted of plastic to look like real helmets by Riddell or other manufacturers. The best have permission from colleges or the NFL to use real logos. Prices typically start about the same as a new youth helmet, or about $125, and can reach over $200 depending on the team.
- Mini replica football helmet. These are for the shelves in offices or homes, or on desks. They are actually pretty cool to have, and cost about $30 to $40. Some might be signed, increasing their value deep into three digits.
- Game–used helmets. Real helmets used by pro players in games, then “retired” away from the field, are priced from $150 and up depending on the player and team. Add a signature and a game-used helmet can run up to $1,400 or more.
- Speed mini football helmet. Also called Micro- or pocket-sized football helmets, these are very small (2-inch by 2.5-inch) collectibles.
- Costume football helmet. These are helmets worn for special events, or for fashion at sporting events. Some may look just like real NFL helmets, but unlike the “replica” helmets noted above, costume helmets can be worn on the heads of people. They just do not provide protection and are definitely unfit for football game or practice play. Some costume helmets can be fashioned to represent a team mascot, like viking horns protruding off the sides; or big fake ram horns over the top. Some fans like to wear these sorts of things in the stands to show support for the team and maybe help rally other fans.
- Vintage football helmet. Today you can still buy an old-style leather version of a football helmet. Don’t wear this in games or practice, though!
On the last item, there are also “soft” style helmets made for use in rugby, flag football, and even soccer. Often this headgear is worn only by players with an existing injury, or those who are vulnerable in certain ways to hard contact.
These “soft shell” or “padded helmets” run from about $25 to $50.
All football helmets should be stamped with a logo from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (on helmets usually abbreviated in logo form to NOCSAE), indicating it has been inspected and meets all safety requirements. The independent, nonprofit NOCSAE organization sets standards for sports equipment.
We mentioned four companies, of the 31 approved to make helmets for NFL players, dominate the market at the game’s highest level. Besides long-time helmet maker Riddell, and growing sporting goods manufacturer Schutt, also catching the eyes of NFL players are VICIS, and Xenith.
In 2021 it was announced that Schutt and VICIS merged, but pro players can still choose to go with VICIS-branded models. And they do.
The main reason is the VICIS and Xenith helmets rate very well for safety. Still, the highest-ranking helmet for safety is the Riddell SpeedFlex Precision Diamond.
Compared with other pieces of athletic equipment, the price of football helmets is rather high, regardless of the make or model. It’s just the number of unique components, the cost of materials needed, and requirement for safety that drive up the prices.
Of the parts, first of course is the exterior shell ~ the big round egg-shaped thing on players’ heads that are usually the first thing that catches the eyes of fans. These shells are made of molded hard plastics, which by themselves are not cheap.
There are 3 classifications of football helmets[LINK https://sportsscouters.com/how-many-types-of-football-helmets-are-there/ ]: Youth, varsity, and professional.
Varsity, or adult, and professional-class helmets are made of the very hard molded polycarbonate. Youth football helmets, for players up to age 14, are made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, known as ABA, because it is lighter and easier on younger players’ necks and muscles.
While polycarbonate is the harder of the pair, ABA plastic is plenty hard to protect young skulls.
After that, add interior padding, which for some models can be rather exquisite, from modern foams to air-filled pockets; a facemask made of titanium; a chinstrap; and little accessories where needed.
The price goes up if players customize a helmet, such as adding some of the items included in the Extra Costs for Football Helmets section above.
Question: Can replica football helmets be snuck into games?
Answer: Not without the threat of getting called for a penalty, or having the helmet removed from the game (and the player finding a legal one). Plus, replicas are not stamped with the logo of safety standards usually required for game play. Basically, referees will notice.
Q.: What’s the most expensive new football helmet for game play?
A.: The Schutt F7 UR1 is listed at $1,499 on the company’s website. This is a custom-fit helmet, which requires working with the manufacturer in advance before the process to construct it starts.
Q.: Can used football helmets be painted?
A.: Yes, of course, and they often are because football helmets get scratched, dented, and dinged up pretty good during play, especially for those players close to the line. Linebackers, in particular, can be brutal on the front forehead part of a helmet because that’s what they “stick” onto ball carriers during tackles. It is best to seek professional help to repaint a football helmet. If not, find instructions online and follow them carefully. It’s not just a matter of spray painting, that’s for sure!