Best Trailer Brake Controller in 2021 (Reviews and Comparison)

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Planning on a long road trip? If you tow along a trailer that has brakes, you’ll need to be able to stop it. You’ll need a trailer brake controller.

When selecting a trailer brake controller, there are certain features you should be aware of.

We’ll look at each one and share what we think, pros and cons, and then we’ll make our recommendation for the overall best trailer brake controller. But first, so that you’ll have a better understanding of the why and how’s of trailer brake controllers, we’ll provide you with a brief introduction on what they are and why they’re so important.

COMPARISON CHART

Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control

Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control
  • Easy to install
  • Can customize breaking
  • Up to 4 axles
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Draw-Tite 20191 I-Stop IQ Electronic Brake Control , Silver

Draw-Tite 20191
  • Boost feature
  • Up to 3 axles
  • Self-diagnostics feature will illuminate LED readout
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Hopkins 47297 INSIGHT Plug-in Simple Brake Control

Hopkins 47297 INSIGHT Plug-in Simple Brake Control
  • Digital power and sensitivity settings
  • Increased user control
  • Short proof protection for up to 8 trailer brakes
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CURT 51140 TriFlex Electric Trailer Brake Controller, Proportional

CURT 51140 TriFlex Electric Trailer Brake Controller
  • Intelligent braking
  • Easy adjustment
  • Compact design
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Reese Towpower 8508211 Brake Control (Proportional BRAKE-EVN)

Reese Towpower 8508211 Brake Control
  • Includes a boost feature
  • Large LED display
  • Plugin installation
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Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control

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Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control

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Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control

Specification

TypeProportional
Axle CapacityUp to 4
Boost FeatureYes
DisplayEasy-to-read; Multiple screens in 3 languages

Features

  • Easy to install
  • Self-diagnostics provides a readout if there are issues
  • Works proportionally, even in reverse
  • Can customize breaking 
  • Up to 4 axles
  • Large screen
  • Easy-to-read display
  • Multiple-screen color options
  • Displays in three different languages
  • Powerful
  • Integrated plug n’ play port

The Tekonsha braking controller weighs 1 pound; product dimensions 4.5 X 3 X 10.63 inches.

WHAT WE LIKE

This is a good, quality brake controller that’s affordable. And it comes with everything you need to hit the road, including the mounting hardware and wiring harness. It’s easy to install and use with a plug n’ play port. The self-diagnostics provide a readout when there are issues. It works proportionally, even in reverse.  Should make backing up the trailer much easier.

PROS

  • Easy to install; easy to use
  • Buttons you can use while wearing gloves
  • Customizable braking levels
  • Wide range of diagnostic outputs

CONS

  • Slightly more costly
  • T-connector sold separately
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Draw-Tite 20191 I-Stop IQ Electronic Brake Control , Silver

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Draw-Tite 20191 I-Stop IQ Electronic Brake Control , Silver

CHECK PRICE

Draw-Tite 20191 I-Stop IQ Electronic Brake Control , Silver

Specification

TypeProportional
Axle CapacityUp to 3
Boost FeatureYes
DisplayWill illuminate LED readout

Features

  • Boost feature
  • Up to 3 axles
  • Self-diagnostics feature will illuminate LED readout
  • Plug n’ play port
  • Works proportionally in reverse

The Draw-Tite brake controller weighs 1 pound; dimensions 4.38 X 2.63 X 8.5 inches.

WHAT WE LIKE

Provides proportional braking and is great for cross-country trips that require covering hilly terrain. The boost feature allows for higher initial trailer braking when needed. Requires no leveling adjustment. Includes a snap-in dash mounting clip and removable electrical connector to allow the unit to be quickly stored when not in use. Comes with all the hardware you need to install it.

PROS

  • Self-leveling
  • Well designed installation cradle
  • Boost is useful for heavy loads

CONS

  • Struggles on gravel
  • Basic design
  • Diagnostic readouts can be difficult to understand
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Hopkins 47297 INSIGHT Plug-in Simple Brake Control

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Hopkins 47297 INSIGHT Plug-in Simple Brake Control

CHECK PRICE

Hopkins 47297 INSIGHT Plug-in Simple Brake Control

Specification

TypeProportional
Axle CapacityUp to 4 axles
Boost FeatureNo
DisplayDigital

Features

  • Separate components mount where you want them
  • Digital power and sensitivity settings
  • Increased user control
  • Short proof protection for up to 8 trailer brakes
  • Works on trailers with electric or electric/hydraulic brakes

Hopkins brake controller weighs 12 ounces; dimensions 6.3 X 5.7 X 3.1 inches.

WHAT WE LIKE

Proportional braking designed for ultimate convenience and safety. Offers many towing solutions, like wiring kits, adapters, vehicle and trailer connectors and breakaway systems. No drilling is required.

PROS

  • No tools required

CONS

  • When the vehicle is not moving, the brake control will not automatically apply the trailer brakes. In this event, the manual brake must be depressed to actuate the brakes.
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CURT 51140 TriFlex Electric Trailer Brake Controller, Proportional

CHECK PRICE

CURT 51140 TriFlex Electric Trailer Brake Controller, Proportional

CHECK PRICE

CURT 51140 TriFlex Electric Trailer Brake Controller, Proportional

Specification

TypeTime-Delay
Axle CapacityUp to 4 axles
Boost FeatureNo
DisplayCompact, digital

Features

  • Intelligent braking
  • Easy adjustment
  • Compact design
  • Versatile
  • Simple set up
  • Manage up to 8 brakes at one time
  • Multiple styles

Curt brake controller weighs 8.8 ounces; dimensions are 7 X 5 X 2.63 inches.

WHAT WE LIKE

A time-delay brake controller that works with any vehicle once plugged in. It lets you control settings. Detects every motion of your vehicle and trailer with exact precision. Automatically adjusts brake output. Comes with a mounting bracket and hardware and can be mounted at various angles on your vehicle’s dashboard.

PROS

  • With no moving parts, less likely to break
  • Good for lighter loads
  • Cost-efficient

CONS

  • Have to buy the wiring harness separately
  • Not a good choice for heavy loads
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Reese Towpower 8508211 Brake Control (Proportional BRAKE-EVN)

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Reese Towpower 8508211 Brake Control (Proportional BRAKE-EVN)

CHECK PRICE

Reese Towpower 8508211 Brake Control (Proportional BRAKE-EVN)

Specification

TypeProportional
Axle CapacityUp to 4
Boost FeatureYes
DisplayLarge LED Display

Features

  • Boost feature
  • Up to 3 axles
  • Self-diagnostics feature will illuminate LED readout
  • Plug n’ play port
  • Works proportionally in reverse

The Reese brake controller weighs 7.7 ounces.

WHAT WE LIKE

This is a proportional brake controller that operates up to four axles. The boost feature provides more safety for heavy loads by the initial trailer braking. This controller can be used in multiple vehicles by adding an additional pigtail wiring harness.

PROS

  • Simple to use
  • Simple to install

CONS

  • Need to purchase additional harness
  • Quite short installation wires
  • Limited voltage use

What Is a Brake Controller?

A brake controller regulates the trailer brakes to keep you safe when you’re towing your trailer. The driver is able to activate and monitor the brakes of the trailer from inside their vehicle. The controller knows when brakes have been applied, and automatically engage the brakes on the trailer or camper. This way the trailer can begin to slow down on its own and not have to rely on the vehicle that’s towing.

How Do Brake Controllers Work?

There are two different types of brake controllers – proportional controller and time-delayed controller, and they both work differently:

Proportional Controller

A proportional controller uses an accelerometer. This senses changes in momentum. It can sense when brakes are being applied and how hard and applies a proportional amount according to the vehicle’s momentum. This is a smooth and efficient process and is most notable when on a hill.

Time-Delayed Controller

A time-delay controller is another, simpler option. This method also senses when the vehicle is braking, but the controllers are pre-set. The setting is specific to the trailer, so it is not a one-set setting for all controllers. 

Before purchasing a brake controller, it’s important to know what type of brakes your trailer has. Most trailers have electric brakes, but some use a hydraulic braking system. 

Who Needs a Trailer Brake Controller?

There are different reasons why you might need a trailer brake controller. 

  • If your trailer or camper has electric or hydraulic brakes, they won’t work without a brake controller. 
  • Any trailer weighing over 3,000 pounds loaded or is more than 40% of the weight of the vehicle that’s doing the towing, the law in your state may require a brake controller.
  • Many of the newer model vehicles designed to tow trailers already come with brake controllers installed by the manufacturer. But, If your vehicle does not have one, you will need a brake controller.

Why Use a Trailer Brake Controller?

There are two reasons why you should have a trailer brake controller if you plan on hauling your trailer. The first reason is for safety. It’s not easy towing a trailer, especially since it affects your vehicle’s brakes as you’re driving. When you pump the brakes, a brake controller adds that much-needed additional braking power. It does this by activating the brakes on the trailer. That makes it that much easier for all vehicles in motion to stop when needed, and it makes it safe.

The other reason is to protect vehicle brakes. Without a controller, all the braking power is supplied by your vehicle. This is dangerous because of the weight of the vehicles you’re towing, and it puts an enormous strain on your vehicle’s brakes. So, it only makes sense to use a trailer brake controller. Using it will spread the braking power around, thereby putting less pressure on the vehicle that’s doing the towing.

What To Look For in a Trailer Brake Controller?

Trailer brake controllers share limited features:

  1. Type: We’ve talked about the two types: proportional or time-based. This is one of the biggest decisions you will have to make about your trailer brake controller.
  2. Brake Boost: This is found mostly on proportional-style brake controllers. A boost is applied to the braking power if the device senses heavy breaking is happening.
  3. Number of Axles: Most controllers handle two or three, but some handle up to four. You can know the number of axles by counting the number of wheels on the trailer and dividing that number by two.
  4. Built in Screen: Many controllers don’t have screens, but it is easier to set up with a screen and useful to have the diagnostics displayed on a nice, bright, easy-to-read screen.

Conclusion

We’re confident any one of these five trailer brake controllers will exceed your expectations and be a good buy.  However, our overall recommendation:

We rank Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control as the best choice. It packs the most into such a small box. It’s simple to install and use, and has so many great features. 

Hopefully, this review has been helpful and has prepared you to get the trailer brake controller that works best for you.

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