The best car horns don’t necessarily have to be air horns, some of the standard electrical horns can make some significant noise, but if you really want your vehicle sound something like a train, then air power is the way forward.
Whatever the reason you’re looking to replace your standard horn, there’s a wide variety of different horns available, ranging from around $25 right up to hundreds of dollars, but all you really want to know is “will it wake the dead?” and “will it last?”
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Before we get too involved in the products, I think it worth pointing out that some replacement horns will need a significant upgrade to the electrics also. This is for two reasons.
The first reason is that to make some serious noise, some horns use quite a lot of electrical power, regardless if they’re air horns or not; if the existing electrical wiring and set up isn’t up to the job, it could seriously impede the amount of noise the horn(s) will make. So a 130dB horn may only be making something like 110dB.
Secondly, loading up electrical circuits beyond their safe limit leads to overheating wires, which in turn could lead to an electrical fire … you don’t want to burn your car out just for the sake of a poorly fitted horn.
The Best Car Horns
I’ve selected six different horns, all make a better noise, a louder noise, and in the case of one or two of them, could be mistaken for a train … certainly loud enough to wake up the sleepiest of drivers when they’re in your way.
In no particular order, we have:
1. Stebel 11690019 Compact Mini Air Horn Black
Although Stebel say that it’s a ‘unique, one piece design’, I’m not entirely sure just how correct that is (there are a few similar horns on the market). It uses a harmonized twin tone, one at 530Hz, the other at 680Hz, so the tone is quite high pitched. If you want something deep and booming, this isn’t for you.
As for volume … when fitted correctly with the appropriate wiring, it pumps out a massive 139dB of noise, even with the compact size (4.5” x 3.5” x 4.5”). It will work on any 12v system, but does draw 18A, so it’s likely that you’ll need to sort the wiring as part of installation (it does come with a 12v relay in the kit).
The water resistant compressor and smaller size make it an ideal fit for a bike, so when that car driver does pull out on you, you can definitely give him what for with a blast from this. It’s not the loudest horn here, but it’s not far off, and the size (and price) give it a good edge … definitely one of the best compact horns available.
2. HELLA 003399801 Twin Horn Kit
These horns are much bigger than you might think, which A) is surprising, and B) makes you really have to think about where you’ll fit them – 4.25” each horn. There’s two in the kit to give a high and low tone – 500Hz & 300Hz, rated at 118dB. Added to the size complication (for fitment) is that the horns are directional, so they really need to be facing forward for maximum effect.
They have a fancy bright red protective grill on them, which considering most people won’t be able to see them seems a bit … superfluous, but on the off chance that they’re mounted somewhere noticeable, people really will notice them.
The noise itself is still like a regular high pitched ‘beep’ noise rather than anything else, it’s not a pleasant noise, but I guess that’s half the fun … being able to really blast someone with something that hurts your ears!
The HELLA horn kit comes with 2 x horns, 1 x 12v relay, 2 x mounting brackets and detailed installation instructions.
3. MARCO Compact Air Horn
A 12v horn for use on pretty much any vehicle, including bikes. It’s pretty small but packs a powerful punch – the manufacturers say it has a rating of 150dB, which is about the same as a jet take-off at 25 meters … WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY?
It uses two harmonized tones for that perfectly annoying pitch, and every horn is tested in the factory before being shipped, so you’re guaranteed to not have a problem with it on delivery.
It comes with great install details, a 12v relay, and of course, the horn itself.
4. Wolo 419 Bad Boy Air Horn
This is a patented one piece design that uses no hoses or external parts – it’s all built in to the horn, which helps to make it an easy install. Wolo say that it’s twice as loud as anything that’s standard fitment on regular cars.
It’s another dual tone horn, but unfortunately there’s no specifics. I don’t know the decibel level or the frequency of the tones.
The compact size makes it ideal for use on a bike, but truthfully, it would be a great upgrade for any vehicle that uses a 12v power supply. A 12v relay is included in the kit, and the compressor is a maintenance-free heavy duty affair … should last for a number of years without any problems at all.
5. PIAA 85115 Superior Bass Horn
A 330Hz & 400Hz twin tone horn – resembling good old fashioned car horns from the years gone-by. It’s rated at 112dB (about the same as a live rock concert) and PIAA say that it will fit straight to the vehicle without any need for extra wiring or relays – literally plug and play.
It’s a bit more expensive than some of the competition, but PIAA are well known in the automotive industry for offering quality products that last – this should be no different.
If you’re looking for something a bit deeper than a standard horn ‘beep’, this should be on your list of best car horns.
6. MPC B1 (0419) 4 Trumpet Train Air Horn Kit
I’ve saved this til last because it’s more than a plug in horn, more than an air horn, in fact it’s just more than everything.
Yes, it’s five or six times the price of the competition listed here, but this is the daddy, the ‘I’m going to deafen you’ setup that needs a vehicle with a bit of space and presence to carry it. Unlike the competition, this kit comes with everything (bar tools) needed for the install: 4 chrome trumpets, all in one air system with a 110psi compressor, 3 liter air reservoir, 12ft of air line, 12ft of 10 gauge power wire, 15ft of 20 gauge power wire, 20A fuse with holder, assorted crimps & wire connectors and zip ties.
They say it fits any vehicle, and while in theory that may be true, the reality is that you need space to mount the trumpets (there’s four of them) and a separate space (dry) to mount the compressor and tank – the tank itself measures up at 15.75” x 5.25” x 6.0” so it’s not like it can fit in the glovebox.
As for the noise … the description says ‘Train Air Horn’ and that’s pretty much what you’re getting, right down to the tone (perhaps it’s slightly higher in pitch) – this setup is pure noise at the push of a button.
Unfortunately, it won’t fit a bike or I’d be ordering one up as we speak.