Reviews

Best Trailer Brake Controllers: Make Towing Easier

Keep your trailer secure and tracking true with our picks for the best trailer brake controllers

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BY Seyth Miersma / LAST UPDATED ON October 6, 2021

Want to make towing a little easier and more secure? Then you’ve got to equip yourself with a quality trailer brake controller. Designed to apply your trailer’s brakes to increase your safety as you navigate the road, installing a trailer brake controller can make your journeys a lot less stressful. You’ll be able to keep trailers small and large under control and at just the right speed, and your entire towing process can become more manageable right from the driver’s seat. These devices are simple to install and come with plenty of features — so which one will you choose? We’ve rounded up some of the best trailer brake controllers you can buy online right here.

Best Overall
Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Control
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Summary
Summary

It controls up to four axles and features an easy-to-read LCD display. The device includes a boost feature, integrated plug-and-play port, and a snap-in mounting clip for removal and storage.

Pros
Pros
  • Easy to install and adjust
  • One-button switch adds boost in seconds
  • Clear display alerts you to potential problems
Cons
Cons
  • Buttons can stick
  • No on/off switch
  • Expensive
Best Overall
Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Control
Best Value
Draw-Tite I-Stop IQ Electronic Brake Control
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Summary
Summary

This device is for one- to three-axle trailers. It has a boost feature, LED display, a plug-and-play port, and a snap-in mounting bracket that allows you to remove and store the device.

Pros
Pros
  • Boost feature offers great value
  • Easy to program with simple, straightforward controls
  • Reliable performance
Cons
Cons
  • Can lock up tires on gravel
  • Can also lock up in certain settings or modes 
  • Must be disconnected to be turned off
Best Value
Draw-Tite I-Stop IQ Electronic Brake Control
Honorable Mention
Redarc Tow-Pro Elite V2 Electric Brake Controller
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Summary
Summary

This trailer brake controller puts the power in your hands with more options and settings so you can completely customize your towing experience and your trailer’s braking.

Pros
Pros
  • Offers two types of braking for better versatility
  • User-controlled settings can add more braking power
  • Doesn't over- or underpower the brakes
Cons
Cons
  • Best for smaller trailers
  • Installation can be a bit involved
Honorable Mention
Redarc Tow-Pro Elite V2 Electric Brake Controller
A man's hand setting a trailer brake controller in a car
Deposit Photos

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Best Trailer Brake Controller Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall
Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Control

It’s hard to beat all of the features available on the Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Control. This small device doesn’t just help manage your braking power while you’re towing a trailer — it allows you to see vital vehicle information while you’re on the road and can alert you to potential problems. With a clear LCD display, multiple screen color choices, and three different languages, this device lets you check output current, battery, brakes, output voltage, and any warning alerts (including No Trailer Brake situations). And it even lets you customize your braking effort with a boost feature that offers both hydraulic and electric braking modes. You can store your preferences and get the trailer brake controller up and running easily with its plug-and-play design.


While it’s hard to imagine this brake controller getting any better, there are a few areas in which it could be improved. Buttons can stick on the device, which can get frustrating. And there is no on/off switch. 

Specs:
  • LCD display screen
  • Three available languages
  • Offers diagnostics for output current, battery, brake, and voltage
  • Boost feature offers customized braking
  • Plug-N-Play port for two-plug adapters
  • Snap-in mounting clip

Pros:

  • LCD display offers a wealth of critical towing information
  • Boost feature allows for braking customization
  • Mounts at any angle and can be adjusted

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • No on/off switch means device never shuts off
  • Buttons can stick for some users
Best Value
Draw-Tite I-Stop IQ Electronic Brake Control

You can get a good trailer brake controller without making a huge investment, and the Draw-Tite I-Stop IQ Electronic Brake Control is proof. This device, which works for trailers with one to three axles, puts both power and control in your hands with an awesome boost feature. When you use the boost, it works proportionally in drive and in reverse, giving you the ability to apply more initial braking for heavier trailers. This is handy when you’re trying to back into a tight, tough spot. Plus, you’ll love the illuminated LED readout that displays diagnostic data when issues occur so you can solve problems ASAP. Installation, programming, and setup are simple, and you’ll be able to remove and store your controller when you aren’t on the road, thanks to the snap-in mounting clip.


However, there are a few potential drawbacks to this affordably-priced device. It can be problematic on gravel roads, where it’s prone to locking up the wheels when using specific settings. Additionally, there is no on/off switch, which means you’ve got to unplug it to shut it off.

Specs:
  • Suitable for one- to three-axle trailers
  • LED display includes self-diagnostic data
  • Boost feature applies more power for heavier trailers
  • Plug-N-Play port for two-plug adapters
  • Snap-in mounting clip

Pros:

  • Easy installation with plug-and-play plugs
  • Boost mode works in reverse, which is especially handy for parking
  • Works with a range of trailers in various sizes

Cons:

  • No on/off switch
  • Can lock up on gravel roads
  • Can also lock up when some settings are turned on
Best Versatile
Redarc Tow-Pro Elite V2 Electric Brake Controller

If you want to truly be prepared for everything, you’ve got to check out the Redarc Tow-Pro Elite V2 Electric Brake Controller. This trailer brake controller device offers an impressive amount of versatility, and it puts control in your hands with some great customization options. You can start by choosing between proportional or user-controlled trailer braking force. And if you want the most versatility and customization, user-controlled braking allows you to adjust and change settings based on the roads you encounter, the terrain conditions, your vehicle type, or simply your personal preferences. In addition, the controller offers Active Calibration to constantly monitor your direction, and it can calibrate from any mounting orientation or even if you don’t have your trailer attached.


For some, however, the size and shape of the device itself can be a bit bulky or not perfectly match your OEM accessories (though it’s a matter of personal preference). And installation, while not complicated, can take time and require removing some of the trim pieces in your vehicle interior (again, the added bulk of the device is a factor here). 

Specs:
  • Electric brake controller
  • Can choose proportional or user-controlled braking
  • Works with electric and electric/hydraulic trailer brakes
  • Active Calibration feature monitors travel and adapts
  • Dash mounting

Pros:

  • Offers customizable braking settings
  • Adapts directionally and to different terrain or vehicle types
  • Works with both 12-volt and 24-volt vehicle systems

Cons:

  • May not match your existing OEM accessories
  • Can be a bit bulky for some personal preferences
  • Extensive installation process
Best for Large Trailers
Reese Towpower Brake Control

If you’re towing a trailer that features more than one or two axles, you need a trailer brake controller that can support the extra length and weight, and that is the Reese Towpower Brake Control. This compact device is suitable for use with trailers with up to four axles, giving you more options. And it performs quite reliably. You’ll enjoy reverse battery protection and plenty of diagnostic features displayed right on the easy-to-read LED screen. Plus, the included boost mode offers more force for initial trailer braking to give you a safer stopping distance and power. With advanced proportional braking, this controller will help apply brake pressure to match your deceleration rate, a detail that’s especially key when you’re hauling a heavier load. With regular use, it may help extend the lifespan of your vehicle’s brakes.


When it comes to potential disadvantages of this brake controller, keep in mind that it sometimes comes with an incorrect harness. And while the product description mentions a universal connector that’s included, it actually has to be purchased separately. 

Specs:
  • Works with trailers that have up to four axles
  • Large, clear LED display
  • Offers reverse battery protection
  • Boost feature applies more initial braking power

Pros:

  • Great for heavier, larger trailers
  • Can help maintain your vehicle’s brakes over years of use
  • Helps offer better control over braking power and speed

Cons:

  • Doesn’t include all mounting accessories or necessary equipment
  • Have to purchase critical accessories separately
Best Digital
Hopkins Insight Brake Control

If you’re looking for a smart trailer brake controller, the Hopkins Insight Brake Control is a great digital option. This electronic device, which works on trailers with either electric or hydraulic brakes, utilizes advanced brake technology that mirrors the braking of whatever vehicle is handling the towing. It delivers smooth, safe stops for better control. And with its digital power, you’ll have seven different sensitivity settings to choose from — including an intuitive vertical manual slide. Designed to mount within your reach, it’s always easy to see and use on your dash (and thanks to its Flex-Mount versatility, it installs with separate components). No tools are required for installation, and you can stay in control with seven different sensitivity settings.


Backed by a lifetime warranty, this trailer brake controller offers solid reliability. But the multi-part design can be a potential drawback. With three individual, separate items to install, it can be a challenge to actually get installed — and the instructions are quite vague and limited.

Specs:
  • Mirrors tow vehicle braking
  • Works with electric and hydraulic brakes
  • Digital power
  • Seven sensitivity settings
  • Works with up to eight trailer brakes

Pros:

  • Offers multiple sensitivity settings for customization
  • No-tool installation method
  • Mirrors your vehicle’s braking

Cons:

  • Three separate components complicate installation
  • Difficult installation process
  • Instructions are unclear
Best for Power
CURT Venturer Electric Trailer Brake Controller

The Curt Venturer Electric Trailer Brake Controller is a fantastic option if you both want more power and want to stay in control of that power. This device allows for reliable safety and long-term reliability, as it increases the braking pressure for your trailer each time you actually step on the brakes. And it stops smoothly. You can monitor everything via the easy-to-read LED display, which includes no moving internal parts to keep functionality simple. Want more? You can enable powerful brake operation with the manual brake slider button, adjustable toggle, and adjustable ramp time. It’ll work with any trailer that has one to three axles (or two to six brakes) and is compatible with cruise control, anti-lock brakes, low-voltage systems, and PWM systems. Plus, it easily (and quickly) plugs right into place.


However, this trailer brake controller isn’t without its flaws. It’s highly sensitive, which makes even the slightest touch to the buttons significant. And it doesn’t actually include the right bolts you need for installation.

Specs:
  • LED display screen allows you to monitor braking
  • No internal moving parts
  • Includes adjustable mounting bracket
  • Vehicle-specific quick plug harness is sold separately, but required

Pros:

  • Fast installation process
  • LED display screen shows critical operations and problem-solving data
  • Works with a variety of different trailer brakes and braking systems

Cons:

  • Highly sensitive buttons and controls
  • Doesn’t include the right bolts needed
  • Installation can stall without the right bolts

How We Selected Trailer Brake Controllers 

In order to narrow down our list of the best trailer brake controllers, we sought out products that came from reputable brands and offered reliable performance that ensure you can tow your trailer safely without worrying about its brakes. We considered and compared each brake controller’s feature set, ease of use and installation, any available real-life experiences, and price. From there, we assessed how helpful each could be to those towing trailers small and large.

Our product selections, rankings, and awards for this story are based on research. While we haven’t conducted real-world testing on all of these products yet, we’ve looked at consumer testimonials and data, tutorials, and general discussions on social media and in forums. We also consider price and specification in the context of the segment. And, of course, we rely on our institutional knowledge of the automotive landscape to weed out weak products.

Buying Guide/What to Look For 

Picking out the perfect trailer brake controller for your towing needs can be a bit of a complicated process. You need to think about the features of your trailer as well as what kinds of features are must-haves in your brake controller. But we’re here to help, and we’ve got all of the advice you need to find just the right device.

What to Consider When Buying a Trailer Brake Controller

Types of Trailer Brake Controllers

Proportional

A proportional trailer brake controller uses internal, inertia-based sensors to determine when and how your vehicle brakes. When your tow vehicle decelerates, the sensor reacts and commands the controller to send power to the brakes. The best proportional trailer brake controller provides uniform, smooth braking without any push-pull movements.

Time Delay

With a time delay trailer brake controller, you’ll have a bit of a delay when you first apply the brakes. A signal is sent to the brake controller, which sends voltage to the trailer brakes. The delay can be adjusted; you can change it in the sync setting, along with additional settings like the braking power and rate of application. A time-delayed controller can be mounted at any angle because it doesn't have internal parts that sense the tow vehicle's braking motions. These controllers are simpler to install and cheaper but not recommended for larger trailers. 

Trailer Brake Controller Key Features

Voltage

Voltage is one of the top factors when it comes to finding the best-rated brake controller. A tow brake controller consists of either 12 or 24 volts. The vehicle's power source must be compatible with the trailer's brakes. If the two units don't match, the braking controller may malfunction, increasing the risk of an accident.

Brake System

Trailers with electric brakes are governed by a brake controller, while hydraulic brakes require a special coupler. A towing vehicle does not control this braking element. Certain trailers have both electric and hydraulic components. The best aftermarket trailer brake controller should have the ability to operate both types.

Trailer Brake Controller Tips and Tricks

As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and trailer brake controllers. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • A trailer brake controller will not work with older-style trailers that don’t have electronic control; these devices only operate on trailers with electric or electrically-controlled hydraulic brakes.
  • If you're not technologically savvy, consider having a professional help install the brake controller on your vehicle who can advise you on the best type to suit your needs.
  • Some states require trailer brakes for heavy loads. For example, in Arizona, independent brake systems are required when the gross vehicle weight is 3,000 pounds or more. In California, every trailer coach or camp trailer with a GVWR of 1,500 pounds or more must have brakes on at least two wheels.
  • Before you travel with a trailer, make sure all the electronic connections and hitch are secure. Periodically check the system by tapping the brakes to make sure it's working properly and your brake lights are functional. 
  • In addition to checking your connections, don’t forget to frequently look at the display monitor too. This will help you to ensure the system is functioning as required before setting out onto the road.

FAQs

Q: What’s better: a timed or proportional brake controller?

In most cases, a proportional trailer brake controller is the better pick, especially if you tow regularly or tow heavy trailers. Proportional braking is superior during emergency braking scenarios. A timed brake controller is fine if you only occasionally tow smaller trailers.

Q: Can I tow a trailer with electric brakes without a brake controller?

No, you’ll absolutely need a trailer brake controller. Trailers with electric brakes must have one of these devices — otherwise, the trailer’s brakes won’t work.

Q: Are all trailer brake controllers the same?

Like we discussed above, there are two different types of trailer brake controllers: proportional or time delay. While both activate a trailer’s brakes and apply pressure to slow you down, one does come with a delay — and one is typically better for larger trailers.

Final Thoughts

Our pick for the best trailer brake controller is the Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Control. It smoothly applies the brakes, controls up to four axles, and has an LCD display and one-button boost switch. It is also quick and easy to adjust, mounts at any angle, and auto adjusts to any angle.