10 Best Trailer Brake Controllers of 2023

Are you looking for the best trailer brake controller? Today, we review the top ten models and explain how to choose one that is suitable for your needs.

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Best Overall

Draw-Tite 5535

Draw-Tite 5535

The perfect brake controller with a great mix of affordability and quality.

Premium Choice

DirecLink

DirecLink

A high-performance brake controller with an OBD2 connector for diagnosis and installation.

Best Budget

Tekonsha 9030

Tekonsha 9030

A good and very affordable trailer brake controller if you have a tight budget.

If you’re going to tow something that weighs quite a bit for a longer stretch of time or at higher speeds, you’ll want to get a trailer brake controller to help make everything a bit safer.

But there are tons of trailer brake controllers out there, and getting the right one the first time is extremely important. You don’t want to spend a ton of money on something that doesn’t work and have to do it all over again, and you need to trust your trailer’s brakes!

It’s a dilemma we understand, and it’s why we took the time to highlight and review ten of the best trailer brake controllers on the market today.

Not only that, but our comprehensive buyer’s guide will highlight everything you need to know about trailer brake controllers from picking out the perfect one to installing it on your vehicle after you get it!

10 Best Trailer Brake Controllers

10 Best Trailer Brake Controllers

We know you’re busy and don’t want to scroll through a ton of text, which is why we wanted to put our reviews right here in the front for you. If you don’t know what you’re looking for you can skip to the buyer’s guide down below where we’ll break down everything you need to know about trailer brake controls.

But if you already have a basic understanding of what they are, when you want one, and how they work, the reviews are right here!

1. Draw-Tite 5535 – Best Trailer Brake Controller Overall

Draw-Tite 5535
  • Number of Axles: 1 to 4
  • Display Type: LED

If you’re looking for the best overall trailer brake control, look no further than the Draw-Tite 5535 Trailer Brake Controller. It’s an outstanding mix of price, quality, and features, vaulting it to the top of our list.

It’s quite possibly the easiest trailer brake controller to install, allowing you to put it in your vehicle and set it up in around 5 minutes. You don’t need to worry about installing it on a perfectly level surface, and the plug-and-play design is extremely easy to put into just about any vehicle.

The Draw-Tite 5535 Trailer Brake Control doesn’t have a ton of advanced features, but it does allow you to easily use access output and boost features with the click of a button.

Finally, it uses a proportional braking system that allows the trailer brakes to match the braking performance of the towing vehicle. It works for trailers with up to eight different brakes, meaning four different axles on a single trailer!

Pros

  • A great mix of price and features
  • Easy to access output and boost buttons
  • Requires no leveling
  • Plug-and-play design

Cons

  • No advanced features

2. Tekonsha 9030 Voyager Electronic Brake Control – Best Budget

Tekonsha 9030
  • Number of Axles: 1 to 4
  • Display Type: LED

If you’re on a tighter budget the Tekonsha 9030 Voyager Electronic Brake Control is the way to go. It’s one of the most affordable trailer brake controllers on the market today, and it still delivers reliable performance mile after mile.

It’s a proportional controller that allows the trailer brakes to accurately match the performance of the tow vehicle. But if you’re worried that it’s not going to match up this trailer brake controller allows you to step in for manual braking too.

It’s another plug-and-play option too, making it extremely easy to install on a wide range of vehicles. It’s an extremely versatile controller which is even more impressive considering the affordable price tag.

However, while it’s a pretty great all-around option, there are two things that keep it from climbing to the top of our list. First, it doesn’t have a ton of advanced features. But more importantly, it’s not the most durable option.

So, while it does an excellent job for a while, eventually you’ll need to replace it. Because of this it can’t make it to our top spot, but it’s an outstanding option to hold you over.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Proportional controller
  • Manual braking available
  • Extremely versatile design
  • Plug-and-play option

Cons

  • Not the most durable
  • No advanced features

3. DirecLink Brake Controller – Premium Choice

Direclink Brake Controller
  • Number of Axles: 1 to 4
  • Display Type: LED

The DirecLink Brake Controller is easily the most expensive option on our list, but if you have the extra money to spend, we think it’s well worth every extra penny. It uses a standard OBD-II connection for easy installation and has tons of trailer brake diagnostics.

This allows you to see everything that’s going on at any point in time and if there are any problems you can quickly see what’s going on and fix the problem. And while you’re spending more on this trailer brake controller it also comes with a five-year limited warranty.

This means you’re spending a bit more upfront but since you don’t have to worry about replacing it anytime soon. It has easy-to-see, read, and use controls too, giving you a thorough understanding of everything that’s going on when you hit the brakes.

Whether it’s switching to a different sensitivity or something else entirely, the DirecLink Brake Controller makes it as easy as possible.

Pros

  • Extremely fast proportional braking
  • Uses the OBD-II connection
  • It has tons of trailer brake diagnostics
  • 5-year limited warranty

Cons

  • More expensive option

4. Tekonsha P3 Brake Controller

Tekonsha P3
  • Number of Axles: 1 to 4
  • Display Type: LED

The Tekonsha P3 Brake Controller is another outstanding trailer brake controller you can use on your next trip. It’s another trailer brake controller with an outstanding combination of price and features.

It has a brake boost feature that can bail you out in a tight situation, and it has a manual braking feature you can use too. The Tekonsha P3 Brake Controller comes with all the necessary wiring to use it, but keep in mind that it only works with a very select few makes and models.

In fact, that’s why despite all the great features the Tekonsha P3 Brake Controller offers it couldn’t crack our top three. Still, it does have a limited lifetime warranty so you don’t ever need to worry about something going wrong with it.

It’s a long shot that it’ll work for your vehicle, but if it does you won’t find a better option than this. Plus, it’s super easy to install on those vehicles so you can quickly install it and move on with your day!

Pros

  • A great mix of price and features
  • Manual braking available
  • It has a brake boost feature
  • It also comes with all the necessary wiring
  • It has a limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • It doesn’t work with a lot of vehicle types

5. Tow-Pro Elite Electric Brake Controller

Tow-Pro Elite Electric Brake Controller
  • Number of Axles: 1 to 4
  • Display Type: Analog

The Tow-Pro Elite Electric Brake Controller is another outstanding trailer brake controller you can get for your vehicle. It’s the first trailer brake controller on our list that doesn’t feature a digital readout for your current setting, but with the analog dial, it’s still extremely easy to see what’s going on.

It’s also extremely compact and easy to install, and the active calibration system ensures even braking performance day after day and mile after mile. And since it doesn’t have any of the advanced features and displays that many other trailer brake controllers come with, it’s relatively straightforward and easy to use.

However, if you are looking for a more advanced option, this isn’t it, and for what you’re paying for this controller we’d like it if it had a few more features. Still, it’s functional and simple, and if that’s what you’re looking for in a trailer brake controller, this is it.

Pros

  • It has proportional mode inertia sensing
  • Very compact design
  • Very easy to use
  • It has active calibration

Cons

  • No advanced display
  • Slightly more expensive for what you get

6. Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Controller

Tekonsha 90195
  • Number of Axles: 1 to 4
  • Display Type: LCD

This is another Tekonsha Trailer Brake Controller you can quickly put onto your vehicle. It has several advanced features you can easily access and use like a manual override and boost, and the proportional brakes even work when you’re traveling in reverse!

It’s compact and easy to install too, although you will need to get the proper harness and wiring adapter to put it on your vehicle. It does self-level though, so you don’t need to find a perfectly level place to complete the installation process.

Add in the multiple ways you can mount this and it’s not hard to see why it made our list. Still, it doesn’t have any of the most advanced features like Bluetooth, and it couldn’t make it any further up our list since you’ll still need to purchase additional adapters and harnesses to install it on your vehicle.

But with all the features it provides and the reliable performance it delivers, the Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control more than earns its spot on our list.

Pros

  • It has manual override and boost
  • Multiple ways to mount it
  • It works proportionally in reverse
  • It self levels

Cons

  • No Bluetooth features
  • You need more stuff to install it

7. Hopkins Towing Solutions 47297

Hopkins Towing Solutions
  • Number of Axles: 1 to 4
  • Display Type: LED

The Hopkins Towing Solutions 47297 is another outstanding combination of price and quality. This trailer brake controller is easy to mount and use and won’t require any additional tools or drilling for installation. It works with both electric and hydraulic trailer brakes, and it has several advanced safety features built right in.

Furthermore, it comes with a lifetime warranty so you don’t ever need to worry about replacing it, and there are seven different sensitivity levels you can switch between to match different trailer loads and driving conditions.

Overall, it’s an outstanding mix of price and quality, giving you everything you could want from a trailer brake controller without completely draining the bank. However, it doesn’t have the most advanced features out there, and Hopkins Towing Solutions makes it in China.

Neither of these things are dealbreakers on their own, but you should be aware of them before you purchase it and install it on your vehicle.

Pros

  • A great mix of price and quality
  • Seven sensitivity settings
  • Very easy to mount
  • It comes with a lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Made in China
  • Not a ton of advanced features

8. Curt 51140 TriFlex Electric Trailer Brake Controller

Curt 51140
  • Number of Axles: 1 to 4
  • Display Type: LED

If you have a fleet of vehicles you’re looking to outfit with trailer brake controllers, you’ll want to consider the Curt 511040 TriFlex Electric Trailer Brake Controller. Not only is it a great mix of price and quality, but you can purchase a six-pack that significantly lowers the cost per brake controller.

You’ll still need to purchase the necessary adapter to install it to your vehicle, but the controller is extremely affordable. This trailer brake controller is compatible with vehicles that have ABS and cruise control too so it’s versatile enough to fit on just about any vehicle you might have.

It’s also easy to install and use, and the LED display makes it easy to see exactly what’s happening all the time. Finally, there are nine different sensitivity levels for you to pick from, which gives you the ultimate control to match your load and driving conditions.

The only real drawback with this trailer brake controller is that it stays on even after you turn the vehicle off. It doesn’t draw a lot of power, but for prolonged stays in one place it can drain the vehicle’s battery.

Pros

  • A great mix of price and quality
  • Nine sensitivity levels
  • Compatible with ABS and cruise control
  • Easy to install and use
  • Easy to read and see display

Cons

  • You’ll need an adapter cable to use it
  • It stays on even after you turn your vehicle off

9. Draw-Tite 5504 Activator IV Electronic Brake Control

Draw-Tite 5504

Number of Axles: 1 to 4

Display Type: LED

The Draw-Tite 5504 Activator IV Electronic Brake Control is yet another extremely affordable trailer brake controller you can use on your vehicle. It works for any trailer with 2 to 8 brakes, translating to one to four axles.

It’s easy to install and the LED display makes it easy to see the results while you’re driving. Additionally, the compact design allows you to install it just about anywhere in your vehicle, and it comes with all the necessary mounting hardware.

It’s a great all-around trailer brake controller for basic applications, but there are two primary drawbacks. First, it doesn’t have any advanced features. Second, while it advertises a “Plug and Play” design, you might need an adapter depending on what you drive.

Still, at this price point it’s hard to complain too much, and it’s one you’ll want to look into if you only need a single trailer brake controller and you’re on a tight budget.

Pros

  • A great mix of price and quality
  • Easy-to-see illuminated display
  • Very easy to install
  • Extremely compact design

Cons

  • No advanced features
  • You might need adapters

10. CURT 51110 Venturer Electric Brake Controller

Curt 51110
  • Number of Axles: 1 to 3
  • Display Type: LED light bar

The CURT 51110 Venturer Electric Brake Controller is the last option on our list, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth checking out. It’s an extremely affordable trailer brake controller, and you don’t need to level anything out when you’re installing it.

It’s easy to set up and use, and the simple design ensures you have everything you need to operate it with one glance. However, while it’s a simple and easy-to-use trailer brake controller you can get for a great price, it did fall to the bottom of our list for a reason.

Leading the list of reasons is the fact that it can only handle up to six brakes, which is one full axle less than the other options that made our list. Next, while other trailer brake controllers use a digital display with a number readout for extremely accurate results, the CURT 51110 Venturer Electric Brake Controller uses a light bar design.

Finally, while it has everything you need in a trailer brake controller, it doesn’t have any advanced features. It’s not a big deal for everyday applications, but it’s not ideal for most professional jobs.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • You don’t need to level it
  • Very simple design
  • Easy to setup and use

Cons

  • It doesn’t work for four axles
  • It doesn’t have a number readout
  • Limited functionality

Trailer Brake Controller Buyer’s Guide

With so many outstanding trailer brake controllers out there, it can be challenging trying to narrow it down to just one. We understand the dilemma, and that’s why we came up with this buyer’s guide to walk you through everything you need to know.

Not only did we highlight when you need a trailer brake controller and how to install it, but we also took the time to break down the different types of trailer brake controllers you have to pick from.

When Do You Need a Trailer Brake Controller?

While you only need a trailer brake controller when you’re towing things over 3,000 pounds, it’s a good idea to have one anytime you’re towing a larger or heavier trailer. Trailer brake controllers provide braking power to the trailer you’re towing, giving you more control of everything while driving.

If you need to stop on a dime a trailer brake controller makes it a much safer task, and they’re relatively easy to purchase and install, and they don’t cost a ton either!

Boost and Manual Braking

Two features that you’ll find in a lot of trailer brake boosters are the “manual” braking and the “boost” braking. But if you don’t know what those mean, it doesn’t do much for you!

Let’s start with the manual braking button. Most, but not all, trailer brake controllers will come with a manual braking button you can press. When you press this button you’re manually activating the trailer brakes without activating the tow vehicle brakes.

Without a manual braking button, you can only activate the trailer brakes when you activate the tow vehicle brakes. The manual braking button changes this and gives you a little more control for different situations.

The other feature many trailer brake controllers have is the boost button or the boost feature. It depends on the system you go with exactly how to activate this feature, but it accomplishes the same goal no matter what.

The boost feature allows the trailer to temporarily boost the amount of braking force that’s applied to the trailer brakes. This is common when you’re towing a heavy load and you need to apply the brakes quickly.

For most smaller loads you won’t need a boost feature, but if your trailer weighs more than the tow vehicle, it’s a good idea to get a trailer brake controller with a boost feature. But for those heavier trailers, a trailer brake controller with a brake boost feature can be a lifesaver!

Trailer Brake Controller Sensitivity Levels

Another feature you’ll find in many trailer brake controllers is different sensitivity levels. This feature allows you to control how much braking force the trailer applies when you hit the brakes in the tow vehicle.

If you want more aggressive braking from the trailer you increase the sensitivity level, if you want less aggressive braking you decrease the sensitivity level. Sensitivity levels exist in both timed-delayed and proportional braking systems.

These features are nice since they’ll allow you to adjust for different road and driving conditions, and you can manually adjust the braking power for the trailer you’re towing. For heavier trailers, you might want a little more braking power, while for lighter ones, you might want a little less.

Adjust to your conditions and the only way you can do that is if you have a trailer brake controller with different sensitivity levels you can cycle through!

Types of Trailer Brake Controllers

When you’re picking out a trailer brake controller, there are two main types you need to be aware of. There is the more affordable time-delayed trailer brake controller and the more effective proportional brake controller.

We’ll break down the differences between the two types of brake controllers here so you can make an informed decision about what to get for your vehicle.

Time Delayed Trailer Brake Controller

A time-delayed trailer brake controller is a very simple concept. When you hit the brakes in the tow vehicle, it applies the brakes in the trailer at a set time afterward, and it applies the same amount of braking pressure each time.

Because of this time delayed trailer brake controllers give you very consistent results, but they won’t always match the braking force you need. Time-delayed trailer brake controllers are more affordable than proportional brake controllers, but they don’t provide the same level of results.

Today proportional brake controllers are far more affordable compared to years ago, and because of this we recommend going with a proportional brake controller every time. It might still cost a bit more, but when it comes to braking and safety, we don’t think you should take any chances.

Proportional Brake Controllers

Proportional brake controllers work by applying the same level of braking force to the trailer brakes at the same time as the brakes apply on the tow vehicle. This means if you need to hit the brakes hard and stop on a dime, the trailer brakes will do that, and if you need to gradually press the brakes for a longer controlled stop, they’ll do that too.

Proportional brake controllers allow the trailer brakes to match the braking power of the tow vehicle, which is a big deal in emergency braking situations. Instead of the trailer gradually pressing the brakes to slow it down, proportional brakes allow for the brakes to apply immediately.

Proportional brake controllers tend to cost a little more than a timed-brake controller, but today you can find plenty of lower-cost proportional brake controllers for your vehicle too!

Installing Your Trailer Brake Controller

Whether you go with a timed brake controller or a proportional brake controller once you get it you’ll need to install it on your vehicle. The good news is that installing a trailer brake controller on your vehicle is usually a pretty straightforward process, but we’ll walk you through everything you need to know here.

1. Disconnect the Battery

Before you work on any part of your vehicle’s electrical system, do yourself a favor and disconnect the battery. All it takes is one short while you’re plugging something in or unplugging it and you can accidentally fry an expensive component.

Taking the time to disconnect the negative terminal from the battery and letting it sit for about five minutes lets all the static electricity dissipate, ensures you won’t cross any lines, and keeps you and the various components in your vehicle safe.

2. Mount the Controller

The exact steps for this will vary depending on the option you go with, but most systems require you to drill small holes into the location where you’re connecting it. Ensure it’s in a location that you’ll have easy access to while you’re driving but won’t be in the way.

Not only that, but ensure the harness can reach the trailer plug that’s already in your vehicle. The last thing you want to do is install it only to realize it doesn’t reach the plug!

Finally, while you need to drill for most controller brackets, there are some that attach through other means. The brake controller you have should come with specific mounting instructions you need to follow.

3. Plug in the Harness

Once you mount the controller, all that’s left is for you to plug in the harness and then reconnect the battery! Everything should be ready to go now, and all that’s left is for you to connect the trailer brakes and get on with your trip!

When you’re shopping for a trailer brake controller, it’s perfectly normal to have a few questions. We understand and it’s why we decided to answer some of the most frequently asked questions for you here!

Are All Trailer Brake Controllers the Same?

Different trailer brake controllers will offer different features, specifications, and will come at different quality levels. However, generally speaking, there are two different types of trailer brake controllers, timed and proportional.

What Is the Difference Between a Timed and Proportional Brake Controller?

Proportional brake controllers immediately activate the trailer brakes at the same time and intensity as the tow vehicle brakes. Meanwhile, a timed brake controller activates the trailer brakes at a predetermined time and intensity after you activate the tow vehicle brakes.

Are Proportional Brake Controllers Better?

Proportional brake controllers are a superior choice compared to timed brake controllers. Proportional brake controllers provide more consistent braking power during emergency situations and even brake wear for the trailer and tow vehicle.

Can I Install My Own Trailer Brake Controller?

Yes! Most trailer brake controllers are relatively easy to install, especially if the tow vehicle already has the necessary connections. This is true for most conventional tow vehicles, but if your vehicle doesn’t have a tow package it can require a bit more work.

What Trailer Weight Requires a Brake Controller?

You should use a trailer brake controller anytime the loaded trailer weighs more than 3,000 pounds. You can use a trailer brake controller for smaller loads too, but it’s not completely necessary until you reach the 3,000-pound threshold.

Final Thoughts

Before you hook up your trailer for your next trip, do yourself a favor and get a trailer brake controller. You might not think you need it, but all it takes is one bad stretch of road or one stupid driver cutting you off and you’ll wish you had one.

And if you’re still a little unsure about which one to get after reading through everything, don’t overthink it! The Draw-Tite 5535 Trailer Brake Controller is our top choice for a reason. Of course if you are on a tighter budget, there’s nothing wrong with going with the Tekonsha 9030 Voyager Electronic Brake Control, it’s far better than not having one at all!

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