Boats are large vehicles and as such, they require appropriate means of creating audible signals to alert other vessels to their presence. For that matter having the best boat horns for your boat is tantamount to having a sense of safety and security. It can help you avoid danger while also being capable of warning others to potential dangers as well.
Bells and whistles also fall under the category of audible signals. However due to their non-directional nature, their range of sound is severely on the low side compared to an actual horn.
That said, the best boat horn out there ought to be a really loud boat horn right? While that may be true for the most part, not all horns are made equal and there are a ton of things to consider before purchasing one. We will go through each and every single one of these factors in the guide.
Our 7 Best Boat Horns
For starters here is a list of the boat horns that many boating experts consider being the best.
This electric marine horn is well suited for boats and fits well with modern-day boat designs. It is made of stainless steel and includes an external grill made of the same material and measures 5” in diameter.
The 5190512 electric horn is powered by 12V of DC voltage and outputs a frequency of 405 Hz. Saltwater corrosion resistance shows that it can withstand salt sprays greater than 480 hours, and continuous operation for more than three minutes at 112dBa at 1 meter.
These are horns manufactured in the USA and made of high-quality materials paired with skilled workmanship ensuring that you get to use this horn hassle-free for the years to come.
All marine horns from FIAMM meet and even exceed requirements for NMMA, ABYC, and Coast Guard specifications ensuring that not only is it legal, but also highly visible.
Here we have another electric horn with a trumpet design. Made of 304 non-magnetic stainless steel ensuring that it will be rust-free even in a marine environment and powered by 12V this horn can output 125dB.
Great if you’d like a trumpet design aesthetic for your horn where it will be placed visibly while at the same time not having to deal with the inconveniences that an air horn setup will give you.
Unfortunately, this model doesn’t have any official certification, but the solid build quality should more than compensate for this downside.
3. Viking Horns
Like a Viking raiding party announcing their arrival, these horns suit their namesake. These are powerful 149 decibels 4 trumpet combination air horns and comes included with a ¼” air hose and a heavy-duty 12V air valve solenoid with mounting hardware.
These horns are made of chrome-plated metal which can offer appropriate corrosion resistance in a marine environment but you should still try to be careful and not scratch the coating off.
As these Viking horns make it on the list of the best boat air horns, take note that this is a horn, hose, and solenoid valve assembly. An onboard air system is still required for this to operate and is sold separately.
Marinco gives you a plethora of horn designs to choose from at this link. Made of 304 stainless steel and with a 12V 6A rating these electric horns boast a 109 dBa rating at 1 meter.
The horn frequency comes at around 440Hz or 490 Hz and is a completely sealed unit ensuring water spray and corrosion resistance. Although this is not that far away from the best electric boat horns out there in terms of quality and power output, the Marinco Compact Electric Horns shine in their small form factor and simplicity of installation yet packing the punch that you need in a boat horn.
An air horn offering from Zento Deals that comes as a set unlike most air horns listed here gives it a really good bang for your buck value. The single horn is powerful and loud enough to emit sound as high as 150 dB ensuring that every single vessel in your immediate area is alerted to your presence.
Made of high-quality material for durability and strength it is said to be sturdy enough to handle most types of weather and even under cold conditions.
The setup uses 12 volts DC for the compressor but does require a lot of current, so be sure the check if your current setup can handle powering this monster.
The Vixen Horns are a set combination of two stainless steel trumpets hence the word ‘dual’ written on the listing.
This is by far hands down one of the best electric boat horns out there being specially designed for large vehicles like trucks and yachts. Its stainless steel build along with the chrome finish on the trumpets ensures a waterproof housing for the diaphragm which will give you tens of thousands of cycles on its usage.
It is practically maintenance-free and comes included with mounting options and rubber gaskets to prevent any unwanted vibration and ensuring that all power fed to it is converted to the appropriate sound of a horn.
Like all other electric boat horns, this one also uses 12 volts with a current of no more than 10A and has no need for any onboard air system.
Now, this is a unique air horn since it is not meant to be a permanent installation and is easily replaceable. A disposable air horn might suit your needs provided your boat is on the smaller side and you rarely go on prolonged boating trips.
Capable of blasting noise at 127 dB although you have to do it manually, it is made of plastic and aluminum which are materials waterproof enough for its intended use.
The main advantage of a horn like this is its portability and ridiculously low price after all it is meant to be disposable.
Why You Need a Boat Horn
Should you even bother with all this, why not just shout or use signal lights at other boats?
Well if you ask the American Boating Association, according to their latest edition of navigation rules, vessels greater than 65.6 ft are required to have some form of sound-producing device to be used for signaling.
Recreational boats in particular are meant to have a horn or whistle capable of being heard at least half a mile away.
Legally speaking for most boats, you’re going to need a boat horn.
Not only is it a means of making other vessels become aware of your presence, but certain sets of short and long bursts of your horn can even allow you to inform them of the kind of maneuver that you are undertaking.
Since it also goes both ways, boats that have audible horns help you navigate around them and result in an overall safer and more efficient use of waterways.
Different Types of Boat Horns
To begin with, horns used on land vehicles such as trucks or cars may be used on boats. However, they may have limited range and the humidity will significantly decrease their expected lifetime.
Thus for the purposes of this guide, we’ll only be focusing on marine boat horns solely because this is aimed towards marine vessels, and so marine grade boat horns will be what you will encounter in this guide.
Presently there are two main types of boat horns that you can find available on the market. Each has its own sets of advantages and disadvantages and we will try to highlight them here for your convenience in comparing them.
As the name suggests, air horns use compressed air as their power source and force this air through the horn making a sound.
Electric boat horns, on the other hand, act just like the speaker on your smartphone or home theater system, it uses electricity to move a diaphragm and this movement produces sound.
Which One You Should Buy Based on Boat Size
Common suggested types of horns based on boat size will be decided on which category the boat’s size falls into.
There are three main categories:
Small-sized Boats with Lengths Less Than 39.4ft
For this category of boat, they must have either a bell, air horn, or whistle on board for signaling other vessels. A larger horn is acceptable as well, although do consider the increased cost such a horn setup will cost you.
With a vessel as small as these chances are you are going to be grouped up with similarly sized vessels and these audio signaling devices should suffice for most use case scenarios.
Medium-sized Boats with Lengths Between 39.4ft and 65.6ft
Now moving on to slightly larger boats, they should still be equipped with a whistle loud enough to be audible for at least ½ of a nautical mile and a bell with at least 7.87 inches in diameter.
Given these specifications, your horn should roughly be around as loud as these if you want to be able to signal other vessels within your vicinity and the loudness of which would be relatively proportional to the size of the vessel.
Large-sized Boats with Lengths Beyond 65.6ft
Unless these are very specialized boats, chances are these vessels would probably be regarded as ships and will have their own set of rules and regulations well beyond the scope of this article.
With all this said we would still recommend that you consult with your local authorities and regulations as these requirements may vary depending on your location.
What to Consider and Look For When Buying a Boat Horn
Since now you have a general idea of what you would like in a boat horn whether it be air or electric, and approximate size, what other factors should be taken into account when shopping for one?
This is a bit of a difficult question to answer but choose the loudest one that you can afford for your budget. Do expect that a larger vessel will require a louder horn.
Your choices are plastic, aluminum, stainless steel, and chrome finished metals. If possible choose stainless steel followed by aluminum, as these are the most corrosion-resistant materials and are quite durable.
Usually, it should be installed in the front of the vessel, but ideally, it should have no problem being heard in all directions. Thus you shouldn’t place it in a location where it might end up being obstructed.
Ease of Installation
Some may not come included with mounting solutions, and others can just be screwed on the roof of your boat. Also, electric horns tend to be easier to install since they only need wires and a switch.
Again consult your local regulations for compliance when choosing an appropriately sized horn for your boat. Regardless of regulations, you will always need some form of the audible signal.
This is an especially important consideration when it comes to electric horns as not supplying enough power will make it sound weak and inaudible at distance.
As for air horns, take note of the compressor’s power consumption as this will eat up the bulk of your power.
Once you’ve complied with any and all specifications and regulations required of your boat horn, let us not forget one of the more noticeable factors that really add some personality to your boat.
Some prefer a stealthy and hidden aesthetic on their boat horns, noticeable only once it does its thing, and others prefer the shiny chrome-finished multiple trumpet design that looks like a squad of angels descending on your boat signaling your presence towards all nearby vessels.
Regardless of which aesthetic you go with, that is up to you and is purely personal preference, we suggest you pick the one that catches your fancy the most.
In summary, always consult your local regulations and be informed of what is needed in your boat horn for it to be legal.
Marine boat horns are your only choice and pick whichever is more convenient for you in terms of installation between air and electric, and that is how you choose the best boat horns you need for your boat.