This article may contain affiliate links. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
If you are planning to get a trailer, then there are some things you are going to need. These include a hitch ball mount and a receiver and also need some towing mirrors so you can see what is coming from behind.
One thing that should be high on your priority list is finding one of the Best Trailer Brake Controllers on the market. A system that will automatically apply the brakes on the trailer when you apply them in the vehicle.
There are two different types of systems. Time-delayed controllers and Proportional controllers.
The latter is a much more complex system. It relies on a sensor that will be aware of the amount of deceleration that the towing vehicle is making at any given time. Then determines how much braking to apply to slow the trailer at the same speed.
A controller that uses the time-delayed system is a much simpler operation. These controllers recognize when the towing vehicle is braking, and then a signal is sent to put on the brakes on your trailer.
You can initiate some settings to ensure it works safely. These include being able to set the force of the braking, and having a time delay based on the weight of your trailer and road conditions. An important piece of equipment to have for your and others’ safety.
So, let’s have a look at was is currently available and find the best brake controller for your trailer…
- Top 9 Best Trailer Brake Controllers You Should Buy In 2021 Reviews
- 1 Tekonsha 90160 Primus IQ Electronic Brake Control – Best Affordable Trailer Brake Controller
- 2 Curt 51140 TriFlex Electric Trailer Brake Controller, Proportional – Best Value for the Money Brake Controller
- 3 Hopkins 47297 INSIGHT Plug-in Simple Brake Control – Best Four Axle Trailer Brake Controller
- 4 Curt 51110 Venturer Electric Trailer Brake Controller, Time-Delay – Best Low Cost Trailer Brake Controller
- 5 Draw-Tite 5504 Activator IV Electronic Brake Control – Best Budget Trailer Brake Controller
- 6 Draw-Tite 20191 I-Stop IQ Electronic Brake Control – Best Three Axle Trailer Brake Controller
- 7 Reese Towpower (74642) Brakeman Timed Compact Brake Control – Best Light Load Trailer Brake Controller
- 8 Hopkins 47284 Reliance Plug-in Simple Brake Control – Easiest Trailer Brake Controller to Install
- 9 Tekonsha 9030 Voyager Electronic Brake Control – Most Versatile Trailer Brake Controller
- Best Trailer Brake Controllers Buying Guide
- Looking for Something Else?
- So, what are the Best Trailer Brake Controllers?
Top 9 Best Trailer Brake Controllers You Should Buy In 2021 Reviews
1 Tekonsha 90160 Primus IQ Electronic Brake Control – Best Affordable Trailer Brake Controller
The Primus Electronic Brake controller from Tekonsha is a proportional brake controller that has a very attractive price point. It carries some nice features, some of which you find on more expensive controllers.
Automatic adjustments and diagnostics…
It has a boost function and an accelerometer that has automatic-leveling. It also has an LED screen that will give information on self-diagnostics. If any issues happen to occur while in use, the screen informs you, a useful additional feature.
It has connections for two plugins and use adapters. The system will give you proportional performance when you are in reverse.
Only for three axles and six brakes…
As mentioned, this is a less expensive controller than some. The reason for this is that it will only operate with six brakes across three axles. Most of the higher-level controllers will work with four axles and eight brakes.
Although, that is the only major difference. It is a strong system that is well-built.
Good for casual towing…
It is probably best suited to people who may be new to towing trailers, as well as those who don’t pull their trailers too often. It is probably not suited to those who pull larger loads and use their trailers frequently.
Additionally, it is easy to install with a dashboard mounting clip. All the hardware you will need is included.
It is an easy to use proportional system that has a very attractive price point.
- A cost-effective option.
- Easy to use and install.
- Only works with three axles as against the four of many controllers.
2 Curt 51140 TriFlex Electric Trailer Brake Controller, Proportional – Best Value for the Money Brake Controller
Curt is well-known for its brake controllers and produces a wide range to choose from. The TriFlex is a good example and should be considered as one of the best options currently available.
This particular model has some very good advanced features. It has nine braking sensitivity levels, and it will operate over four axles. Therefore it is suitable for different sizes of trailers and loads.
It has something called “intelligent braking” that works with a system known as the triple-axis accelerometer. This built-in system will detect the motion of the trailer on three separate planes.
The system adjusts the necessary braking power. This will operate going uphill or downhill. Also, it comes with a selectable power output and an activation system for the trailer’s brake lights.
Neat and tidy…
A feature that many people like is that the control unit has a very sleek and compact design. It measures just 3¼ inches by 4 inches by ⅞ inches. Therefore, it isn’t going to clutter up or dominate your dashboard in the towing vehicle.
As we said, this system will operate with vehicles with up to four axles or eight brakes. As well as being able to accommodate anti-lock braking systems, cruise control settings, and PWM systems.
What’s the catch?
If there is a downside to this controller, it is that it needs an adapter cable. Given that the controller will not work without it, we are surprised this isn’t supplied. You will have to purchase one separately.
Another potential downside is that there is no switch to turn it off, which could cause the system to drain your battery.
Excellent value for the money…
The adapter could also be an annoying issue for some people, but the system works very well once it is installed. It is a good system at a sensible price that is lower than many competitors with similar features.
- Some very good braking control features built-in.
- Set at a competitive price.
- The lack of an off switch could cause problems for your battery.
3 Hopkins 47297 INSIGHT Plug-in Simple Brake Control – Best Four Axle Trailer Brake Controller
This system from Hopkins will recognize the amount of power that is being applied to the tow vehicle. It will then give you the necessary stopping power required for the trailer.
Furthermore, it operates on vehicles with up to four axles or eight brakes and will work with electric or hydraulic brakes. Easily one of the Best Trailer Brake Controllers on the market.
Choose your settings…
The system has been developed with short proof protection for all of the connected brakes. It has seven settings where you can adjust the sensitivity and power of the braking action. This is operated easily on a sliding control on the unit.
So, let’s look at the unit itself as it is slightly different from other similar controllers. It is actually three separate units, two of which need to be visible and close at hand. The other can be hidden away.
Make adjustments on the move…
The first unit is a relatively small LED screen that gives you the current status of the system. And also keeps you informed of the current-voltage. Additionally, there is a brake application control unit with a slider mechanism. This allows you to make instant adjustments if necessary. The third is a control box.
The control box can be installed almost anywhere. However, that is not the case for the other two parts of the controller. The LED screen will have to be placed in the eye line of the driver. If not, it becomes a pointless exercise. The unit with the slider needs to be within easy reach to make it usable.
A little impractical…
Whilst we can see the potential benefits, it is going to take up room that some people don’t have. You can put them wherever you want, of course. But, we feel for practical purposes, the positions are affected by the functions which do reduce the options.
That, for many, will be a downside, plus the wiring that will be necessary. This system is going to take up quite a bit of room. It will also take a bit of time to install. Although it is a good brake controller, the practicalities of it will put some people off.
- The slider control offers an easy way to adjust brakes easily and quickly.
- Works with up to four axles and eight brakes.
- Being in three separate units, it takes up room and will take quite a bit of wiring up.
4 Curt 51110 Venturer Electric Trailer Brake Controller, Time-Delay – Best Low Cost Trailer Brake Controller
Back to Curt again for another controller. This time for one that is a Time-Delay system and a very cost-effective option.
The Venturer brake controller offers an alternative system that is quite safe and reliable. It is a controller that works on the amount of brake pressure you apply from the towing vehicle.
A straightforward system…
As a system, it is easy to use. No leveling is required as there are no moving parts, and there is an easy to read LED display. This provides information to give you visual information about brake operations. Likewise, the controls are easy to use and feature a toggle for adjusting braking power and a manual slider. It also has an adjustable ramp time.
You can use it on trailers that have from one to three axles or two to six brakes. Additionally, it is compatible with vehicles with anti-lock brakes and cruise control, and PWM systems.
Missing an essential…
As with the previous Curt controller, to operate, it requires a Curt plug harness. This is a product made by Curt and essential to this controller’s operation. Curt, though, has decided not to include it. Unfortunately, this means you have to purchase it separately. Add that on to the cost of the unit when you consider the cost-effectiveness of this controller.
It is an easy unit to install and to use. Although it will take some time to do so. The bright LED is a good feature. It is an affordable controller, but as we said, remember to add on the price of the plug harness.
- Has some nice operative features.
- An efficient LED display.
- No plug harness included and only works with one to three axles.
- It is going to take some setup time.
5 Draw-Tite 5504 Activator IV Electronic Brake Control – Best Budget Trailer Brake Controller
This controller is a Time-delayed system from Draw-Tite. This operates by the system sending signals from your vehicle to the brakes of your trailer. It will work with trailers that have between one to four axles and two to eight brakes.
There are several brake settings built-in to suit individual circumstances. It includes all the features you need for safety. Moreover, it is durable and reliable. If you are looking for a good brake controller at a cost-effective price, this one fits the bill.
As a system that has all the necessary features, it should be considered one of the Best Trailer Brake Controllers.
Quick and easy…
This controller features a nice compact design and measures just 4.00 by 2.25 by 6.75 inches. It has a very visible and clear LED screen and push-button controls. These are placed on the top of the unit for ease of use.
Installation is easy for this plug-in-and-play system, and it comes with a manual to assist you.
All the hardware for fitting is included. It can control the braking for four axles. Meaning it can operate eight brakes if required. It has some nice features, but it is also priced very competitively. A good value for your money brake controller.
- Controls the braking for up to four axles or eight wheels.
- Very attractive price point.
- Some may prefer proportional controllers.
6 Draw-Tite 20191 I-Stop IQ Electronic Brake Control – Best Three Axle Trailer Brake Controller
We stay with Draw-Tite for another brake controller. But this time one from their range of Proportional units. It has some impressive features which we shall look at but also a bit of a downside.
Before we get on with the plus points, this brake controller will only work trailers of up to three axles. That is going to be a negative for some people. But if that suits you, there is plenty to be impressed with. There are also some other issues to discuss that might affect a potential purchase, but more on this later.
Compact control unit…
There is a nicely designed control unit that measures only 4.38 x 2.63 x 8.5 inches. It has a clip for mounting underneath the dashboard if you choose. It is a clip-in design, so when you leave the vehicle, it is easy to take with you if you need to.
The display has an easy to read LED screen. Additionally, the controller has built-in self-diagnostics. Any such issues it discovers will be displayed on the LED screen.
Furthermore, there is a brake booster should you need it for braking in an emergency. It will operate proportionately if the vehicle is in reverse.
What could be better?
Considering all the useful features, you get this controller has a very attractive price. It sits in between an entry-level controller and an expensive model.
As we said, there are a few potential downsides to look at. It is supplied with an installation kit but doesn’t come with a wiring harness. Of course, this is common with many controllers.
Therefore, you have to buy an extra item that is specific to your vehicle. Also, it does not have an off switch. This means you will have to disconnect it from its adapter to turn it off. That could be a bit of a nuisance. Although, despite these issues, it is still a decent and affordable system.
- It is easy to use with some nice features.
- A very attractive price point.
- Doesn’t have an off switch.
7 Reese Towpower (74642) Brakeman Timed Compact Brake Control – Best Light Load Trailer Brake Controller
Some people do prefer a proportional brake controller rather than the Time-Delayed option. This is understandable as there are some safety benefits in some circumstances for proportional controllers.
However, if the requirements you have for towing your trailer fit what this controller offers, it will make a great buy. It is certainly one of the most cost-effective options that has some good features.
Compact unit, no leveling required…
It is a reasonably compact control unit measuring 1.9 x 4 x 8.95 inches. So it won’t take up too much room in the vehicle. As it is not a proportional controller, it has no moving parts, so that eliminates the need for any leveling.
All the features you need…
It operates with a one or two-axle trailer, which means two or four wheels. It is compatible with all anti-lock brake systems. The synchronization of this system is adjusted using the slider mechanism. That makes any adjustments necessary easy, and quick.
There is a warning light on the front panel that indicates any problems with the system. It comes with all the requirements you need for easy installation, including brackets and the hardware for mounting.
This is a very basic controller and might be called an entry-level system. It is probably not for those that pull a very heavy load or who use their trailer often.
However, for the occasional user, it works well and has an attractive price point. It will not give you the same linear feeling when braking as a Proportional controller. But as we said, for the occasional user, a very good option.
- It is easy to use and install.
- Comes at a very competitive price.
- Doesn’t have some of the benefits of a Proportional controller.
8 Hopkins 47284 Reliance Plug-in Simple Brake Control – Easiest Trailer Brake Controller to Install
If you are looking for a very easy to use, easy to install system, then this may be the brake controller for you. It is a Time-Delay system that might be considered basic but still has some good features.
As we said, it is easy to install with its plug-in-and-play connections. No splicing or cutting is required. It can be installed at any angle that is comfortable for the user.
Setting the amount of braking power is very easy with its sliding control. The relevant braking power you set is visible in the LED digital display. This visual itself is a decent size, so it is easy to read.
The unit itself is a compact 5.20 by 3.60 by 3.30 inches, so isn’t going to take up too much room.
Four brakes max…
It will only work on a trailer with up to two axles or a four brake maximum capacity. Therefore it is best for the occasional user and not for someone who pulls heavy loads regularly. An entry-level system, if you want to call it that. Albeit a very efficient one.
All the settings are digital and can be read on the screen. It features a built-in system to protect against shorting out. It also has a warning system built-in against brake failure.
A superb choice if you need something basic…
A nice little cost-effective system with large buttons that make it easy to use. In the right environment, this is going to be an attractive option.
- Simple to use system with an easy to read LED screen.
- Very easy installation at an attractive price.
- It is time-delayed, and some may require a more robust proportional system.
9 Tekonsha 9030 Voyager Electronic Brake Control – Most Versatile Trailer Brake Controller
For our final item, we go back to Tekonsha. They are known to be one of the industry leaders in electronic trailer braking systems. They were established in 1964 and now offer a wide range of products.
Voyager comes from the middle-range of Tekonsha’s proportional braking systems. It is a system that will fit neatly and unobtrusively in your vehicle. At just 6.00 x 2.00 x 5.00 inches, it is a very compact system.
It is also easy to use, and its plug and play design give you a quick installation. Furthermore, it will work with trailers up to four axles or eight brakes. It is a system that you can install and then forget all about unless you need to make some changes. Additionally, it features synchronization settings. It comes with all you need to fit it to your dashboard.
The electrics built-in are quite advanced and can control any false braking. This will give you a smooth and untroubled ride if the brakes need to be used gently.
The controller has some good visual features. As you brake the LED lights will change from green to red. This will tell you the relative braking power.
The settings are quite sensitive to any changes you decide to take. And the braking results can be quite dramatic. So bear this in mind when making any adjustments.
A neat and compact, and efficient system from an established manufacturer. It is set at an attractive price point and should be considered as one of the best brake controllers you can buy.
- Good design for use in the vehicle with easy fitting.
- Some good features at a cost-effective price.
- Settings are very sensitive to any adjustments.
Best Trailer Brake Controllers Buying Guide
It is important to know what you should choose and why. Safety is the number one reason. Just towing a trailer will change the way the brakes on your vehicle work. If you haven’t got one, the brakes on your vehicle are doing all the work.
Furthermore, you have no stopping control over what is coming behind you. A brake controller will add stopping options to all, or very nearly all, of the wheels.
You are not only making the towing action safer. You are also reducing wear and tear on the brakes of your vehicle.
Some systems have a brake boost. This is mostly found in proportional systems. The basic idea of a brake boost is simple. If the system senses that you have applied heavy braking, maybe an emergency stop, it will boost the braking capacity.
Not a bad idea that one. You can check with manufacturers to see if that system is included. It could be important.
How many axles?
The number of axles and, therefore, brakes is also important to consider. How many axles does your trailer have? Count them and multiply by two. That will give you the number of brakes and wheels you need to control.
Likewise, a screen on the unit in your vehicle is always a good idea. Most relay important information. Some even have self-diagnostics and display any malfunctions.
Proportional or Time-based?
Of course, this is the big question. We have already mentioned it, but Proportional is going to be safer and more secure. However, it will depend on the amount of usage and what it is you are towing to a certain extent.
If you are a casual user with a relatively light load, Time-based will be okay. Time-based are cheaper to buy and easier to fit. So they have some advantages.
However, for the people who use trailers all the time and are pulling larger weights, proportional is going to be better and safer.
Looking for Something Else?
Are you going to be towing vehicles and not just trailers? Then find what you need in our review of the Best Towed Vehicle Braking System currently on the market.
Worried about your trailer staying put? Please have a look at our reviews of the Best Trailer Hitch Locks currently available.
If you need to transport bikes or motorcycle, then check out our reviews of the Best 3-Bike Car Racks and the Best Motorcycle Hitch Carriers plus the Best 4 Bike Car Racks currently available in 2021.
So, what are the Best Trailer Brake Controllers?
Being a casual user with only four axles, we are going to pick a simple system. We are going for a proportional design, with a screen for readouts. So, we would pick the …
We found it to be easy to use and versatile enough for most practical purposes. Overall, the features and reliability, coupled with the fair price point, really sold us.
That’s all for now. Until next time, happy towing and happy travels.