Installing the best trailer brake controller is essential to safe towing, preventing accidents, and making sure that you remain in full control of your tow vehicle and RV trailer.
If you don’t already own a trailer brake controller or are looking to upgrade an old model, make sure you check out our guide to finding the best trailer brake controller. We’ve selected, analyzed, and reviewed the most popular models on the market to enable you to make your purchase with confidence.
What is a Trailer Brake Controller?
Trailer brake controllers are compact electronic devices that allow you to set up and control how and when your trailer brakes from inside your tow vehicle.
Units are usually dash mounted and have various features to enable you to adjust your brake settings to suit your driving style and trailer’s size and weight.
Do I Need a Trailer Brake Controller?
Without a trailer brake controller, your electric trailer brakes simply will not work. Most states require a brake controller to be fitted when towing a trailer over 3,000 pounds or one that weighs over 40% of your tow vehicle.
Even if you have a lightweight RV travel trailer, installing a trailer brake controller will ensure that your journey is safer and give you greater control over your driving. Using a trailer brake controller will also help to give you greater peace of mind when heading off on vacation down unfamiliar roads and on major highways.
Best Trailer Brake Controller
Looking for the best trailer brake controller for your travel trailer? We’ve handpicked and reviewed the very best models on the market, so you’re sure to find the best brake controller for your RV trailer right here.
Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control
The P3 Trailer Brake Controller by Tekonsha is our best overall choice, tried, tested, and approved of by RVers up and down the country. With its true proportional braking system, this unit provides trailer brake control for up to four braking axles with a choice of electric over hydraulic or electric trailer brake mode.
This highly popular trailer brake controller features an easy to read LCD with up-front controls to access and display all of P3’s features, including: output voltage, battery, output current, and brake. A red flashing alert is displayed in case of no trailer brakes and the boost feature allows you to set different levels of customized braking to suit your trailer, tow vehicle, and terrain. It also boasts two Plug-N-Play Ports.
With five storable settings for different driver or trailer braking preferences, the P3 is easy to set up, while the snap-in-mounting allows you to easily remove and store your unit outside of your vehicle when it won’t be in use. The only disadvantage with this excellent trailer brake controller is that instructions on where and how to best place it inside your vehicle could be improved.
All in all, if you are looking for a highly reliable, practical trailer brake controller that is technologically advanced, yet easy to use, and reasonably priced, the P3 is going to be the best overall trailer brake controller on the market for you.
CURT 51180 Echo Mobile Electric Trailer Brake Controller
The 51180 Echo Mobile Electric Trailer Brake Controller by towing specialists Curt allows you to control all of your trailer brake settings directly from your smartphone – ideal if you frequently change vehicles or just don’t want to have to install a unit inside of your tow truck.
No tools are required, thanks to this model’s plug-and-play installation. The triple axis, motion-sensing accelerometer connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. In the unit’s app, you are able to create multiple driver and trailer profiles for exceptional ease of use. If for some reason Bluetooth becomes unavailable, your trailer brakes revert to using the most recently programmed setting so your brakes remain fully operational.
Electric over hydraulic brake compatible, this smart trailer brake controller can also be used with ABS and cruise control activated. Easy to use and transfer from one vehicle to another, the main flaw in this otherwise exceptional trailer brake controller is that the rubber strap connecting the accelerometer to your vehicle is not infallible and may result in your controller falling from your vehicle and your trailer braking system rendered inactive.
Zip ties and duct tape can help provide extra security, although for the price of the unit, a more professional, permanent solution should be available.
Tekonsha 90160 Primus IQ Electronic Brake Control
If you usually haul the same trailer or ones with similar weights, save yourself some money on the more expensive versions and opt for our value choice – the 90160 Primus IQ by Tekonsha. The proportional trailer brake controller works with trailers with one to three axles and is completely self-leveling, unlike older versions.
Thanks to its new Boost feature, you have the option to increase your trailer’s braking when towing heavier RV trailers. When backing into tough spots, you can benefit from this unit working proportionally in reverse for complete security. The digital LED readout displays a self-diagnostic gesture should an issue occur, so you’ll be immediately alerted.
Complete with a Plug-N-Play port for two-plug adapters and a snap-in dash mourning clip for easy removal when not in use, this model gives you all the essential features you really need for safely towing your travel trailer at a much lower price than the competition.
The only slight drawback is that it can be a little tricky to finely tune the recessed adjustment wheel, however, this is not a major issue by any means. All in all, a great value for money choice.
Reese Towpower 8508211 Brake Control
Looking for the best trailer brake controller on a budget? The Brake-Evn Trailer Brake Controller by Reece Towpower is an excellent, highly affordable option that works well with both heavy and light travel trailers.
Its advanced proportional braking system matches the pressure you apply to your tow truck brakes, for smoother, secure stopping that can even help to extend the life of your tow vehicle brakes.
This controller can handle up to four axles and comes with a handy Boost feature to increase your stopping power – ideal when towing heavy fifth wheels. Installation is very simple provided you pick up the correct factory harness for your vehicle to get a simple plug-in install. Aside from its low purchase price, one of the main advantages of this unit is its compact, non-obtrusive design and clear LED diagnostics.
Simply press the unit’s buttons to make easy braking adjustments. Just note that the location of the controller’s buttons on the top of the unit will limit your placement options inside your vehicle, although no leveling is required.
On the whole, you’ll struggle to find a better trailer brake controller at such a low price, making the Brake-Evn model by Reese Towpower an excellent model for any RVers on a tight budget.
Redarc Tow-Pro Elite V2 Electric Brake Controller
Don’t want to mess up your vehicle’s dash with an unsightly boxy unit that stands out like a sore thumb? The Redarc Tow-Pro Elite V2 has been specially designed to be installed with the main unit out of sight, leaving you with a discreet control knob that blends seamlessly into almost every dash.
The Tow-Pro V2 provides you with the choice of two types of braking – proportional to match your tow truck on the highway or user-controlled mode to allow you to set your braking level, a preferred choice if you are off-roading. Choose between the two modes to suit your vehicle and terrain for a safer drive towing your RV.
Thanks to its three-axis accelerometer, you are free to mount the main unit in any orientation with accurate brake level sensing. Unfortunately, there is no mounting hardware included with the V2, although you won’t have to spend a lot extra, it is an inconvenience having to go out and shop for appropriate screws.
Suitable for use with electric and electric over hydraulic trailer braking systems, the Tow-Pro Elite V2 provides secure, reliable RV trailer braking without requiring you to install a bulky controller up front.
CURT 51110 Venturer Electric Trailer Brake Controller
The Venturer electric trailer brake controller is a basic unit that uses a time-delay braking system for safe stopping, increasing your trailer’s brake pressure as you depress your tow vehicle’s brake pedal. This makes it a good purchase for lightweight single or double axle camping trailers, although it has the capacity to support models with up to three axles.
Easy to use, the Venturer has a simple ramp-up LED brake monitoring system. Compatible with cruise control, anti-lock brakes, and low voltage systems, it’s suitable for use with just about any standard travel trailer.
The manual brake slider button allows you to adjust your braking intensity, with an adjustable power toggle and ramp time. However, the controls are very sensitive which can make for difficult fine-tuning and you may have to spend a considerable amount of time before you’re happy with the results.
Versatile, you can mount it in your ride at any angle and it comes complete with an adjustable mounting bracket. Purchase Curt’s quick-plug harness that matches your vehicle’s configuration for a quick and easy setup with no leveling required.
On the whole, a good basic time delay trailer brake controller that is well worth the money.
CURT 51170 Spectrum Original Integrated Electric Trailer Brake Controller
The Curt Spectrum Original Electric Trailer Brake Controller is a popular choice with RVers looking for an integrated trailer brake controller. Thanks to its one to four axle capacity, it is capable of operating between two to eight trailer brakes simultaneously, making it suitable for pretty much all RV trailer types.
With the main unit installed out of sight, you have the option of either drill or surface adhesive mounting the OEM-style rotary user interface. With its 10 tri-color LEDs, you can control all of your trailer brake settings at the twist of a knob and touch of a button. It also benefits from low-voltage and trailer disconnect indicators for extra safety, plus an easily accessible manual override which is really useful should your braking conditions change.
The triple-axis motion-sensing accelerometer ensures highly responsive, yet smooth stops. Compatible with ABS, cruise control, and electric over hydraulic, this trailer brake controller boasts high compatibility and stylish good looks.
While you can get plug-and-play installation by investing in a Curt vehicle-specific harness, the tiny wire connections are very fragile, so make sure that you are armed with plenty of patience before you attempt to install.
Compare the Best Trailer Brake Controllers
|Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control||
|Buy on Amazon|
|CURT 51180 Echo Mobile Electric Trailer Brake Controller||
|Buy on Amazon|
|Tekonsha 90160 Primus IQ Electronic Brake Control||
|Buy on Amazon|
|Reese Towpower 8508211 Brake Control||
|Buy on Amazon|
|Redarc Tow-Pro Elite V2 Electric Brake Controller||
|Buy on Amazon|
|CURT 51110 Venturer Electric Trailer Brake Controller||
|Buy on Amazon|
|CURT 51170 Spectrum Original Integrated Electric Trailer Brake Controller||
|Buy on Amazon|
Buyer’s Guide to Buying the Best Trailer Brake Controller
To make sure that you choose the best trailer brake controller for your rig, check out our comprehensive buyer’s guide and find out just what you need to keep an eye out for.
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Trailer brake controllers are generally fairly inexpensive. Low cost trailer brake controllers can be purchased for under $75 and are often time-delay models or basic proportional versions. Expect to spend between $100-$250 to pick up a premium model with extra features, such as a Boost mode and self-leveling main units.
Spending more generally equates to a better looking unit that is less obstructive on your dash. In terms of performance, there is not really that much difference between mid-range and high-priced models, however, you may find that more expensive versions are easier to adjust and provide enhanced usability.
Size and Weight of Your Towable
The larger and heavier your towable, the more reactive your trailer brake controller will need to be. For large trailers make sure that your brake controller has enough capacity to operate all of your trailer brakes simultaneously.
While small, lightweight trailers can get by with basic time-delay brake controllers, for large RV trailers, you’ll want a proportional trailer brake controller that is easy to adjust with a boost function for downhill sections and changes in the weather.
The Capability of Your Vehicle
It is important that your vehicle has sufficient capacity to tow your trailer, regardless of the installation of a trailer brake controller. Exceeding your vehicle’s maximum tow capacity is extremely dangerous, so make sure that you know your vehicle’s limits.
If your trailer weighs over 40% of your tow vehicle’s weight, you will definitely need to ensure that you have a brake controller fitted to prevent your trailer from swerving and extending your breaking time and distances, potentially causing a major accident.
Easy to Use
While most trailer brake controllers take a little while for you to perfect your setting and get used to the user interface it’s important that your trailer brake controller is easy to use. If you suddenly need to boost your braking power in an emergency situation, you’ll want to be able to do so at the touch of a button.
While some RVers find the traditional push-button models with a small LCD to be the easiest to use, others prefer connected versions they can adjust on their smartphone. It all comes down to your personal preferences and what you find to be the most useful.
As your trailer brake controller uses electricity from your tow vehicle to apply power to your trailer brakes, it is important that your unit’s voltage matches that of your vehicle, or else your brake controller may not work correctly. Most units are either 12V or 24V, with some models able to run on either voltage. Make sure you verify before purchasing.
Number of Axles
Your trailer brake controller will have a maximum number of brakes that it can simultaneously operate. This can be given as the individual number of brakes or, more commonly, the number of axles.
Most models have a capacity between one and three axles or one and four axles which equates to between two to six or two to eight brakes. It goes without saying that your controller should have sufficient capacity to operate all of your trailer’s brakes.
Most displays involve LEDs of some kind, either figures to display your braking power and error codes, or different colored LEDs to adjust intensity. Much like ease of use, it all depends on your personal preferences which type of display you go for.
A minimalist colored LED display suits some users, whereas other RVers prefer a more traditional display or no display at all and to use their connected smartphone to access all of their trailer braking information and settings.
Your trailer brake controller will allow you to adjust various settings including braking intensity. It may or may not have a boost feature to quickly override your settings for a more forceful brake. Other settings may include the following:
- Braking type – proportional or user-controlled.
- Electric or electric over hydraulic settings.
- Adjustable ramp time.
- Self-diagnostic settings.
- Adjustable braking intensity.
Unless you are thinking of purchasing a connected trailer brake controller to use via your smartphone, you’ll need to consider what size controller you want to fit on your dashboard.
Basic, older units are more bulky and may require you to drill holes into your dashboard. Newer, slimline models often have a larger main unit that is installed out of sight with a small, integrated control knob that sits on your dashboard.
Smaller models give you more placement options, although some RVers prefer more traditional-sized models with a display and push buttons.
Electric and Hydraulic Braking
Check what type of braking system your trailer has before choosing your controller. The best trailer brake controllers are able to operate both electric braking systems and electric and hydraulic ones. You will be able to switch over from one type of braking to the other in your model’s settings.
Make sure that you take time to experiment with your new trailer brake controller to find the optimum settings for your tow truck and RV trailer.
Test your brakes and set the maximum braking power, then try it out in a safe space. Then test out your sensitivity levels until you are happy with your trailer brake reaction to when you hit your tow vehicle’s brakes.
Taking the time to optimize your trailer controller setting will improve your trailer’s tire safety, for smooth stops rather than jerky, sudden movements that when applied repeatedly could damage your tires.
Different Types of Trailer Brake Controller
When choosing the best trailer brake controller for your RV you’ll have to decide whether you want a proportional controller or a time-delayed controller. Here’s what you need to know.
Proportional controllers are considered to be the best type of trailer brake controller as they provide smoother stops and more efficient braking. They do, however, cost more than time-delay models.
Proportional controllers use accelerometers to sense changes to your vehicle’s speed. When you hit your brakes, the controller applies a similar amount of power to your trailer’s brakes in proportion to your vehicle’s momentum.
For example, if you brake on an incline, your controller will apply less power to your trailer brakes as you’ll be going slower, than it would on a decline where you would be moving more quickly.
Less precise and not as smooth as proportional controllers, time-delayed versions are more basic in their operation.
When you press on your tow truck brake pedal your controller immediately activates your trailer’s brakes applying an increasing amount of pressure. This amount can be adjusted in your controller’s settings to better suit your trailer and driving style.
Choosing the best trailer brake controller is no mean feat with so many excellent models to choose from.
Our advice, first of all focus on your trailer’s specifics, then choose an interface and mounting style that suits your preferences and tow vehicle. Whatever style of trailer brake controller you are looking for, you’re sure to find the best controller for your trailer brakes in our top-rated selection.
If simplicity combined with high performance are your main priorities, you should definitely take a closer look at our overall favorite – the Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electric Trailer Brake Control.
A hugely popular model, the P3 has enough capacity for up to four axles and has five storable settings for different trailers or driver preferences. With its easy-to-read LCD and “No Trailer Brakes” warning alert, this reliable brake controller is one of the very best on the market.
Alternatively, if you are more technology orientated, the Curt Echo makes an excellent choice allowing you to control your trailer braking preferences via an application on your smartphone not only does this make personalizing your braking system much easier, it also means you won’t have to clutter up your dash with an extra box or dial.
If you are on a tight budget, you may want to get yourself one of Reece Towpower’s highly affordable Brake-Evn Trailer Brake Controllers. Thanks to its compact, unobtrusive design with LED diagnostics and push button controls for easy adjustments, the Brake-Evn with its proportional braking system makes an excellent buy.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is a Trailer Brake Controller?
- 2 Do I Need a Trailer Brake Controller?
- 3 Best Trailer Brake Controller
- 3.1 Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control
- 3.2 CURT 51180 Echo Mobile Electric Trailer Brake Controller
- 3.3 Tekonsha 90160 Primus IQ Electronic Brake Control
- 3.4 Reese Towpower 8508211 Brake Control
- 3.5 Redarc Tow-Pro Elite V2 Electric Brake Controller
- 3.6 CURT 51110 Venturer Electric Trailer Brake Controller
- 3.7 CURT 51170 Spectrum Original Integrated Electric Trailer Brake Controller
- 4 Compare the Best Trailer Brake Controllers
- 5 Buyer’s Guide to Buying the Best Trailer Brake Controller
- 6 Different Types of Trailer Brake Controller
- 7 Final Thoughts