Towing an RV or heavy trailer requires the right accessories. Your goal is to ensure that you, your trailer, and your vehicle make it to the designated location safely and securely. Trailer brake controllers are essential accessories for providing you peace of mind when towing your trailer.
It can be tedious to scroll through endless listings of trailer brake controllers claiming they’re “the best.” I’ve researched the best trailer brake controllers that offer the most versatility, value, and multi-function use.
Tow Safely With These Trailer Brake Controllers
|Best Trailer Brake Controllers||Best For:|
|Curt TriFlex Brake Controller||Versatility|
|Draw-Tite I-Stop IQ||Overall Value|
|Tekonsha P3||Heavy Trailers|
|Reese TowPower Brakeman||Affordability|
|Hopkins INSIGHT||Multifunction Controller|
|Reese Towpower Pod||Smaller Vehicles|
Reviews of My Top Recommendations
Ready? Let’s get into all of the details for each of my top picks, including what I liked and didn’t like about each one.
Curt TriFlex Brake Controller
The Curt TriFlex Brake Controller is a proportional brake controller with a triple-axis accelerometer, meaning that it can detect motion on three planes, helping it slow down and stop accordingly whether up or downhill. The controller is highly versatile and can be used on nearly every car, truck, or SUV. It’s versatility and simple controls also allow it to be used on all types of trailers, including heavier loads between 1 and 4 axles.
Despite its easy set-up and versatility, the Curt TriFlex Brake Controller is prone to drawing power even when the vehicle engine is off. Taking the controller off when not in use can resolve this issue, but for those of us who may be in a hurry or who are not willing to remove and replace the controller repeatedly, it can be slightly inconvenient.
- INTELLIGENT BRAKING. This trailer brake controller operates with an integrated circuit called a...
- EASY ADJUSTMENT. The TriFlex brake controller is highly adjustable to accommodate different...
- Works on nearly all vehicle types
- Can be used on nearly all types of trailers, including heavier loads between 1 and 4 axles
- Simple to use with a digital display to help drivers know the degree the controller is adjusted to
- Easy and quick installation that does not require much time
- Includes a triple-axis accelerometer to help it detect motion on three planes
- Older vehicles may not be as compatible with this controller
- It is prone to drawing power when the vehicle engine is off, thus draining the battery
- Does not include a vehicle-specific quick plug harness, so you will have to purchase that separately
Draw-Tite I-Stop IQ
The Draw-Tite I-Stop IQ is one of the more affordable trailer brake controllers without sacrificing any crucial needs. It is a proportional controller that works best on trailers with 1 to 3 axles. It includes a simple to use LED readout to help drivers remain aware of any potential issues. Additionally, it’s snap-on mounting clip makes for easy removal and storage when it is not in use. We like the space-saving design, which measures 4” by 5”.
The only drawback with this controller would be its potential inconsistency. At times, the controller can “lock-up” and encourage braking on the trailer when it is unnecessary.
- I-STOP IQ Proportional Electronic Brake Control; for 1 to 3 Axle Trailers
- Self-diagnostics features will illuminate LED readout when issues occur
- It is a proportional controller that can work with trailers between 1 and 3 axles, offering a bit of versatility
- Installation is simple and easy to use
- The controller comes with a snap-on mounting clip for easy removal and storage when not in use
- The controller is compact
- There is the potential for the controller to “lock-up” causing the trailer brakes to work inconsistently
- The controller tends to drain power when the engine is off when not removed
- It does not come with a vehicle-specific harness
Best for Heavy Trailers
The Tekonsha P3 trailer brake controller is one of the heavier duty controllers on the market. It comes with an easy to read LCD that showcases diagnostics, battery, voltage, and alerts when necessary. It is a compact controller with the ability to work well with any trailer up to 4 axles. The Tekonsha P3 comes with an easy to use snap-on mount to make removal and storage efficient and stress-free. We love that it includes features for customized breaking to making going around turns, uphill, and downhill easier to navigate. It also has a brake boost feature to provide you with additional braking power when you need it.
On the flip side, this controller can be quite sensitive. Small bumps in the road or a knock by your knee could jostle the system, which is highly inconvenient. Recalibrating is not difficult, but it requires pulling off the road to fix the issue.
- A distinct, easy-to-read LCD display with multiple screen color options, displays in English, French...
- Diagnostics show output current, battery, brake, and output voltage and warning system alerts to No...
- Is suitable for heavier loads including trailers up to 4 axles
- Comes with an easy to read LCD screen that displays diagnostics, battery, voltage, and alerts
- Has a simple to use snap-on mount for easy removal and storage
- Includes the ability to be translated into English, French, or Spanish
- The mounts are not as secure as they could be which makes the controller prone to being jostled around
- If bumped, the controller can shut off and require recalibration
- Buttons on the control panel can start to stick, making it difficult to change the settings
Reese TowPower Brakeman
The Reese TowPower Brakeman is one of the most affordable trailer brake controllers on the market. Its low price makes it a fantastic choice if you’re on a budget. The controller is easy to install and comes with a simple slide adjustment to help calibrate the system to your needs. This product works great for trailers with 2 to 4 axles, making it perfect for vehicles and trailers of various types.
The controller does not include a display screen, which is nice if you don’t want flashy lights or unnecessary display features, but it does come with a simple red light indicator. If you are looking for a more in-depth display, this may not be the controller for you. The controller is simple and requires little to no effort for installation, but due to its simplicity, it does not include all of the bells and whistles of other brands.
- Completely compatible with anti-lock braking systems
- Slide adjustment
- Quick and straightforward installation with easy removal when not in use
- Includes a simple layout with a red indicator light indicating output.
- Works with various trailers and vehicles between 2 and 4 axles
- Budget-friendly without compromising quality
- It is compatible with nearly all anti-lock braking systems
- Due to its simple design, it does not feature specific readouts or diagnostics
- It is a time-delayed controller with only two adjustment features: time-delay and severity brake
- The controller itself does not include all of the vehicle-specific or necessary hookups
Best Multifunction Controller
The Hopkins INSIGHT trailer controller brings a new meaning to multifunctional. This controller can work on both electric and hydraulic braking systems, making it versatile for almost every vehicle. It includes a simple installation and seven different sensitivity settings.
It is suitable for up to 8 trailer brakes, making it one of the most multi-use controllers. One of the most useful features is that the remote display screen is separate from the controller, making changing settings on the road safe and easy.
The Hopkins INSIGHT is made of a cheaper plastic material which can deter some users. It is not as sleek and appealing as other models. However, it provides several functions that differentiate it from the competition. Sadly, the red light on the device is perpetual and can be quite irritating after driving for long periods.
- Advanced brake technology that mirrors the braking of the tow vehicle for safe, smooth stops
- Works on trailers with electric or hydraulic brakes
- Multifunctional and can work on both electric and hydraulic brakes
- Includes seven different sensitivity settings to help suit your needs
- The controller works with trailers with up to 8 axles, making it unique in the industry
- The display is separate from the controller itself making the settings easier to read and offering the ability to change settings without worry while on the road
- It has a simple and easy installation process
- The red light can be distracting when on the road
- The casing of the controller is flimsy and made of plastic making it prone to damage
- It is a proportional controller which only includes one time-delay setting
Best for Smaller Vehicles
Reese Towpower Pod
The Reese Towpower Pod is one of the best trailer brake controllers for smaller vehicles. It is set at an affordable price, making it appealing to most recreational haulers. Some of this controller’s highlights are that it includes an easy-to-read LED display for a tow-vehicle to trailer connection. The controller also comes with a five-year warranty, which offers peace of mind for buyers.
While the Reese Towpower Pod includes many handy features and easy installation, screws are not included with the mounting device. Additionally, the controller does not work with every vehicle type, so be sure to read the descriptions to see if your vehicle will be compatible with the device. As with all trailer brake controllers, it’s important to double-check your connection to prevent controller issues.
- Power-on LED for a Positive tow vehicle to trailer connection
- Smooth and simple installation
- Perfect for smaller vehicles that are not carrying heavy loads
- It comes at an affordable price making it great for recreational users
- Easy-to-read LED display
- Simple to install and can even be used upside down if necessary
- The controller comes with a five-year warranty
- Screws are not included with the device
- The controller does not work for every vehicle type
- The controller tends to cut out if not installed correctly
Recap: The Best Trailer Brake Controllers
- Curt TriFlex Brake Controller – Most Versatile
- Draw-Tite I-Stop IQ – Best Value
- Tekonsha P3 – Best for Heavy Trailers
- Reese TowPower Brakeman – Most Affordable
- Hopkins INSIGHT – Best Multifunction Controller
- Reese Towpower Pod – Best for Smaller Vehicles
Buying a New Trailer Brake Controller: What to Look For
When it comes to choosing the right trailer brake controller, we recommend considering the following factors.
The Size and Weight of Your Trailer and Load
Your trailer and load’s size and weight can determine whether or not you require more durable trailer brake controllers. Sturdy controllers will be more expensive but will also come with greater capabilities when tugging heavy loads.
The Size and Capability of Your Vehicle
The size and capability of your vehicle will also play a key role in determining which controller is best for you. If you own a smaller vehicle, make sure that you find a hookup compatible with your car’s make and model. Larger vehicles can invest in more advanced controllers but must be aware of their compatibility with the axle.
Do You Need a Proportional or Time-Delayed Brake Controllers?
Another critical thing to consider is whether or not a proportional or time-delayed controller is right for you. Proportional controllers are the most common and work best with electric brakes. If your trailer brakes are hydraulic, you’ll likely have to look into time-delayed controllers. Electric brakes are the most common trailer brakes these days, but make sure to check your trailer first to figure out the right option for you. We are partial to proportional brake controllers anyways – they have a sensor on them that detects your rate of deceleration and mimics it on the trailer brakes. Timed brake controllers slowly apply more brake pressure as the vehicle slows to a stop, which might be out of sync with your progressive braking pressure. Timed brake controllers should still do the trick for smaller trailers.
Easy to Set Up
One last thing to consider is the simplicity of the trailer brake controller’s setup. While many controllers come with simple mounting brackets and clear instructions, it’s important to know that not all systems are the same. The Reese Towpower Pod, for example, does not include screws for its installation.
Finding the right trailer brake controller doesn’t have to be complicated. Just be sure to know your vehicle and trailer’s strength and durability, the type of controller you are interested in, and be aware of what may or may not be included with your purchase. Then you’re well on your way to finding a trailer brake controller that is compatible with your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Trailer Brake Controllers Universal?
Most trailer brake controllers are not vehicle specific. They can be used on just about any type of vehicle, and some even have built in mechanisms that just have to be connected to the controller itself. So while the trailer brake controllers are often pretty universal, the hardware that you may need to install it for your specific vehicle may not be universal.
What Should My Trailer Brake Controller Be Set To?
This largely depends on the size trailer you are pulling and where the weight is in the trailer. If the weight is further forward this might change how you set your braking, and same if the weight is farther back. Larger trailers will require more gain than smaller trailers so talk to your dealer or mechanic about the exact setting for your specific model.
How Does A Controller Know If A Trailer Is Connected?
Most trailer brakes are electric and have a magnet in them. When the brakes are connected to the controller, a small amount of voltage is sent to the controller to let that controller know there is a trailer connected. This is generally a small blue wire.