5 Best Trailer Brake Controller [Buying Guide]

Best Trailer Brake Controller

Table of Contents

Before you set out on the wide open road with your truck and trailer you need to know that you can stop quickly and safely. For that you will need a trailer brake controller.

A trailer brake controller is an essential bit of kit if you are towing a trailer, as it controls the brakes on your trailer.

Our favorite is the Hopkins 47297 INSIGHT Plug-in Simple Brake Control it’s an affordable proportional brake controller that’s easy to set up and effective.

Make sure that you get the right trailer brake controller for your setup with this article.

Trailer Brake Controller Top Picks

Best for Tech

Curt Echo Mobile Trailer Brake Controller

4.6/5

If you are using different towing vehicles then the CURT Echo brake controller is a fantastic option. It has a wireless portable design that allows you to easily transfer it from one vehicle to another.

Best Overall

Hopkins INSIGHT Plug-in Simple Brake Control

4.8/5

It’s really easy to install and comes with a mount that can be put anywhere and doesn’t need screwing so there’s no damage to your dash.

Best for Heavy Loads

Tekonsha Electronic Brake Control

4.3/5

The Tekonsha P3 is a great proportional brake controller, especially if you have a heavy trailer with up to four axles.

Trailer Brake Controller Reviews

Trailer Brake ControllerTypePriceBest For
Hopkins INSIGHT Simple Brake Control Proportional$$Overall
Curt Echo Mobile Trailer Brake Controller Proportional$$$$$Tech
Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Control Proportional$$$Heavy Loads
REDARC Tow-Pro Liberty Electric Brake Controller Proportional$$$  Everyday Use
REESE Towpower Brakeman IV Digital Brake Control Time delayed$Light Use and Price

Hopkins INSIGHT Simple Brake Control – Best Overall

The Hopkins Insight brake control is a fantastic all rounder, it’s easy to install, adjust and is really effective. It’s also a  great option for if you have multiple trailers especially if they are a combination of electric and hydraulic brakes as this will work with both.

It’s really easy to install and comes with a mount that can be put anywhere and doesn’t need screwing so there’s no damage to your dash.

It is a proportional brake controller so mirrors the braking of the tow vehicle for a safe, smooth stop.

It can be used for up to 8 trailer brakes (4 axles) so is ideal if you have different trailers to tow. The settings can be easily changed with the slider and the display screen can be placed anywhere.

Just be aware that the red light that signals the tow vehicle is connected to the trailer can’t be turned off so it can be irritating if you have it in a prominent place in the dash.

Curt Echo Mobile Trailer Brake Controller – Best for Tech

If you are using different towing vehicles then the CURT Echo brake controller is a fantastic option. It has a wireless portable design that allows you to easily transfer it from one vehicle to another.

It also has a bluetooth connection so you can adjust all the brake settings easily from your smartphone. You will also be able to monitor your brake activity and get status updates from the app on your smartphone.

There is also automatic calibration so setting up different trailers or vehicles is no work at all. It uses BetterWeigh to show the real-time vehicle and trailer weights and sends a live readout of all weights related to towing and hauling, including the gross weight of your vehicle and trailer, cargo, payload, tongue weight, pin weight and weight distribution to your phone. 

This is really easy to install, it simply plugs into the standard 7-way RV blade socket at the rear of your vehicle and provides a socket to plug in the trailer harness. It also Ts into the connection, going between the vehicle and trailer plugs, making it completely non-invasive. 

Because of all this technology and calibration, you will get a great driving experience and braking is no issue, you might even forget that you have a trailer on the back 🙂

Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Control – Best for Heavy Loads

The Tekonsha P3 is a great proportional brake controller, especially if you have a heavy trailer with up to four axles.

It has an easy to read LED display that can show a number of things including diagnostics, battery, voltage and warning alerts. There are also various language options and colors to pick from.

It’s really easy to install, and includes a snap on mounting clip so you can easily remove and stor the display panel when not in use. It has an integrated plug and play port so the installation is a breeze.

The only downside to this brake controller is that it can be sensitive, and so bumps to the system can alter the settings. It is easy enough to recalibrate, it just needs a few minutes without the brakes being pressed to do so, so you might want to pull over.

Make sure that you mount this system where it won’t get accidently knocked and you should be fine.

REDARC Tow-Pro Liberty Electric Brake Controller – Best for Everyday Use

The REDARC Tow-Pro Liberty is a great proportional brake controller that’s perfect for hauling day to day or towing on highway conditions.

This proportional brake controller measures the vehicle braking force and applies the trailer brakes to match, ensuring a smooth braking application and no push or pull on the vehicle when braking.

It even self-calibrates, making for easy setup and install and is compatible with both electric and electric-over-hydraulic brakes. 

The main unit can be installed in any position or orientation discreetly, meaning no clumsy knee-knocking of your brake controller in your vehicle dash.

The only downside is that it only works for up to 2 axles, so it might limit the trailers you can use this with.

REESE Towpower Brakeman IV Digital Brake Control – Best for Light Use and Price

The Reese towpower brake control, is a great budget option for a time delayed brake controller. 

That being said this budget option doesn’t compromise on quality, this is a fantastic trailer brake controller.

This is pre wired so installation is just plug and play, it can connect to one, two, three or four axels.

The buttons, slider and display make entering the settings really easy, you can easily change the configuration for different loads.

It’s also pretty durable and has advanced internal circuit protection to help prevent damage. 

It also includes a sensing device that determines the voltage power being delivered to the towing vehicle’s brakes and assists in accurately adjusting the trailer brakes for city or highway driving, making for a smoother drive. 

There are better options out there for heavy loads, as you might struggle with this controller if you have a heavy trailer.

What is a trailer brake controller?

A trailer brake controller is a device which allows you to control the brakes on your trailer. This makes towing a trailer much safer and easier.

When you apply the brakes in your vehicle the trailer brake controller will automatically apply the brakes to your trailer.

It will reduce your stopping distance dramatically when towing, and save your vehicle’s brakes from taking all the strain of stopping the car and the camper or trailer.

A trailer brake controller makes the towing process easier and more enjoyable resulting in a safer and more pleasurable towing experience.

Do I need a trailer brake controller?

If you are towing a small lightweight trailer then a brake controller may not be necessary, for example if you are towing a small lightweight tow trailer on the back of your truck or RV.

For a general rule of thumb if you are towing something under 750Kg (1,650lbs) then a brake controller isn’t necessary.

However if you are towing a larger trailer or anything over 750Kgs (1,650lbs)  then a brake controller should be installed.

If the camper or trailer that you’re towing has electric brakes then a brake controller is needed for the brakes to work.

If you have a newer truck that you’re using to tow then check to see if it has brake controllers already installed, some newer models have this as standard. If your truck already has trailer brake controllers then you won’t need to buy a separate one.

The main reason to get trailer brake controllers are:

  • Improves safety – Trailer brake controllers ensure that the trailer or camper you are towing doesn’t push the vehicle forward when you brake. Therefore decreasing the stopping speed when towing, it also helps to prevent jackknifing or losing control.
  • Affordable – Good brake controllers are not too expensive, especially considering what an important job they do. 
  • Protect your brake pads – A trailer brake controller will spread the braking across the trailer and your vehicle. Therefore protecting one from doing all the work and wearing down quicker. This alone will save you hundreds of dollars.
  • Overview of towing system – Some of the higher end trailer brake controllers will let you see the performance of the whole towing vehicle system. They can even show you diagnostics and the performance of the trailer’s braking and how the load affects it.

Best Trailer brake controllers

How to buy the best trailer brake controller for you – Buying Guide

Buying the right trailer brake controller doesn’t need to be complicated, here are the most important factors to consider.

Size and Weight of Your Towable

The size and weight of your trailer, camper or whatever you are towing will determine whether you’ll need to use trailer brake controllers. Anything over 3,000lbs is going to need a trailer brake controller. 

This is a requirement in most states, so if you’re travelling across borders then it will be necessary by law.

Capability of Your Vehicle

The capability and make of your vehicle also plays a factor in which trailer brake controller to choose. You will have to make sure the trailer brake controller is compatible with your vehicle.

If you have a newer truck then you may have a trailer brake controller built in, if that’s the case then you won’t need to buy one.

Easy to Use

You will want to make sure that the tow brake controller is easy to set up and use. Most of the trailer brake controllers nowadays come with the mounting brackets, fittings and clear instructions.

Make sure that you check the installation kit is included, or that you know what screws and fittings are needed so you can be prepared.

Voltage

Trailer brake controllers come in either 12 or 24 volts, make sure that your vehicle’s power will be compatible with the power of the tow brake controller.

This is really important because if they don’t match then the trailer brakes could malfunction which is dangerous.

Number of Axles

Different models of trailer brake controllers have different axle capabilities. You’ll need to know the number of axles on your trailer and make sure that the brake controller you purchase will be compatible.

Trailer brake controllers usually can control up to eight wheels across four axles, but they can come in the ranges of six wheels across three axles or four wheels across two axles.

Settings

You should be able to change various settings on your tow brake controller. The brake controller should allow you to control the pressure used on the trailer’s brakes. 

Make sure that the brake controller has a digital display that you can put on your dashboard. The display should show you the battery, output current and most importantly the brake pad force. 

The display will make it easier to control and diagnose any problems.

Size 

You’ll also need to be aware of the size of the brake controller as it will be installed on your dashboard. Make sure that it will fit and not take up too much space.

Electric and Hydraulic braking

Electric brakes are quite common on trailers, if you have a higher end trailer then it may have hydraulic brakes.

Make sure that you know the braking mechanism of your trailer before you buy a brake controller to make sure they are compatible.

As most trailers have electric brakes, most brake controllers are compatible. If you do have hydraulic brakes on your trailer make sure that the brake controller is also compatible.

Trailer brake controller

Types of trailer brake controllers

There are two types of trailer brake controllers that you need to be aware of, they are proportional and time delay brake controllers. Let’s delve into the details:

Proportional Brake Controller

A proportional brake controller uses internal sensors that are able to tell when and how hard you’re braking. From that it knows how much pressure to add to the brakes on the trailer.

Setting up the proportional controller is fairly simple and it will automatically detect your brake pressures and relay them to the trailer.

The result will be a smooth braking process without any push or pull from the trailer or camper, as the brakes are applied at exactly the right time.

Time Delay Brake Controller

Time delay brake controllers are usually cheaper than the proportional ones. 

These work by setting an amount of pressure that you want to be applied to your trailer brakes whenever you brake on your towing vehicle. You will need to adjust this depending on the weight of your trailer, the road conditions and other driving factors.

As the name suggests there is a time delay from when you brake and when the trailer brakes, you can usually set the delay time.

As you can imagine, a time delay brake controller is more difficult to set up, and you’ll need to regularly change the settings according to the trailer load and other conditions.

Best Trailer brake controller

Trailer Brake Controller FAQs

How much does it cost to install a trailer brake controller?

Most trailer brake controllers will come with a mounting kit that will attach to your dashboard easily.
You can install it on the dash or underneath if you want to keep your dashboard free.
The brake controller should also come with the wiring needed to set it up, this is the most difficult part of the installation. There will be full instructions on how to do this.
If you want to pay a professional to install your trailer brake controller then this can cost anywhere between $60 to $350 depending on where you go.
It’s important to install the brake controller correctly.

How do I adjust my brake controller?

If you have a proportional controller then you probably won’t need to adjust it as it will all be automatic.
A time delayed controller will need to be adjusted. Most models now will have standard settings that are already calibrated for the most trailers on the road, so you just need to select the correct pre-set configuration on the dash.

How Does A Controller Know If A Trailer Is Connected?

Electric brakes on a trailer will have a magnet inside, when the brake controller is connected then a small amount of voltage will be sent to the controller.

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

In a nutshell – No.
If your trailer has electric brakes then the brakes will not work without a brake controller.
If your trailer has hydraulic brakes then you don’t necessarily need a brake controller, as the trailer uses its own momentum to apply its own brakes.

Trailer Brake Controllers Recap

Hopkins INSIGHT Simple Brake Control – Best Overall

Curt Echo Mobile Trailer Brake Controller – Best for Tech

Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Control – Best for Heavy Loads

REDARC Tow-Pro Liberty Electric Brake Controller – Best for Everyday Use

REESE Towpower Brakeman IV Digital Brake Control – Best for Light Use and Price

Final Thoughts

Hopefully you now know what a trailer brake controller is and how vital they are for towing safely.

Our best overall is the Hopkins 47297 INSIGHT Plug-in Simple Brake Control, as it’s one of the most affordable models and a good all rounder.

When you have your trailer brake controller hooked up, there should be nothing stopping you from hitting the road.

Heather

Heather is an avid camper and RV enthusiast! Her aim is to cut through the jargon and help you make the right decisions, to have THE BEST RVing trip EVER.
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