Top 5 Trailer Brake Controllers For Campers & RVs 2022

Why Do I Need A Trailer Brake Controller?

If you are the owner of a camper trailer like a travel trailer or 5th-wheel you are most likely going to need to get a trailer brake controller to power the electric brakes on the camper.

Electric trailer brakes are required in all states in the USA after the trailer’s gross weight reaches a certain limit. That weight can range anywhere from 1,500 lbs to 3,000 lbs depending on the state.

That means even a cargo trailer can require electric brakes and a trailer brake controller to be legally towed.

Being able to tow legally is one reason to have a trailer brake controller in your vehicle but it’s also for safety and to help keep the brakes on your vehicle from getting worn out.

See Also: The 5 Things You Must Do When A Trailer Starts To Sway

Without a trailer brake controller or trailer brakes, your vehicle will be the only thing stopping whatever you are towing. This puts a lot of strain on the brakes and will wear them out a lot faster.

It also increases your stopping distance which can be a safety issue if you need to stop fast on a downhill or in an emergency.

Another reason you need a brake controller is to help stop trailer sway.

Trailer sway can happen very easily with a large travel trailer and using the manual brake feature on a trailer brake controller is one of the first things you can do to stop dangerous sway.

Now that you know why you need one, here are my reviews of some of the best trailer brake controllers on the market today.

Best Overall
Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control , silver, Single
Reese Towpower 8508211 Brake Control (Proportional BRAKE-EVN)
Simplest
CURT 51110 Venturer Electric Trailer Brake Controller, Time-Delay, Black
Draw-Tite 5535 Trailer Brake Control (I-Command Electronic - Proportional)
Hopkins 47297 INSIGHT Plug-in Simple Brake Control
Brake Control Type
Proportional
Proportional
Proportional
Proportional
Proportional
Max Brakes It Can Controll
8
8
6
8
8
Axle Capacity
1 – 4
1 – 4
1 – 3
1 – 4
1 – 4
LCD Screen
Shows Numbers
Diagnostic Features
Works On Hydraulic Brakes

Best Overall

Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control , silver, Single
Brake Control Type
Proportional
Max Brakes It Can Controll
8
Axle Capacity
1 – 4
LCD Screen
Shows Numbers
Diagnostic Features
Works On Hydraulic Brakes
Reese Towpower 8508211 Brake Control (Proportional BRAKE-EVN)
Brake Control Type
Proportional
Max Brakes It Can Controll
8
Axle Capacity
1 – 4
LCD Screen
Shows Numbers
Diagnostic Features
Works On Hydraulic Brakes

Simplest

CURT 51110 Venturer Electric Trailer Brake Controller, Time-Delay, Black
Brake Control Type
Proportional
Max Brakes It Can Controll
6
Axle Capacity
1 – 3
LCD Screen
Shows Numbers
Diagnostic Features
Works On Hydraulic Brakes
Draw-Tite 5535 Trailer Brake Control (I-Command Electronic - Proportional)
Brake Control Type
Proportional
Max Brakes It Can Controll
8
Axle Capacity
1 – 4
LCD Screen
Shows Numbers
Diagnostic Features
Works On Hydraulic Brakes
Hopkins 47297 INSIGHT Plug-in Simple Brake Control
Brake Control Type
Proportional
Max Brakes It Can Controll
8
Axle Capacity
1 – 4
LCD Screen
Shows Numbers
Diagnostic Features
Works On Hydraulic Brakes

Best Trailer Brake Controller Reviews

1. Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Controller

Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control , silver, Single

Check Price at Amazon

If you’ve been researching trailer brake controllers odds are you’ve seen the Tekonsha P3 listed as the top choice or best trailer brake controller a lot.

I used the Tekonsha P3 in my truck when towing my 10,000 lbs travel trailer and I can say it performed amazing every time.

It’s my top pick as well but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best trailer brake controller for your towing needs.

It’s very advanced and has a ton of different settings and it even includes different language options (English, Spanish and French).

If you want something a little more simple there are other great options in this review but the Tekonsha P3 is the very best.

Here’s why.

It has all of the standard features like proportional braking, a manual brake control slide, different brake sensitivity levels, and an LCD screen that shows the current braking levels as well as a “no brake” warning.

Just those features alone make it fantastic but Tekonsha didn’t stop there.

It also has a very intelligent diagnostic feature you can access via the screen and buttons on the controller. It can tell you the output current of the controller, and the voltage of your vehicle’s battery, trailers brakes, and the controller’s output.

See Also: RV Truck & Trailer Towing Capacity – How Much Can I Tow?

All of these diagnostics come in handy if you experiencing problems with the brakes or are getting a brake override warning.

You can easily adjust the brake sensitivity depending on how heavy the trailer you’re towing is.

There is also a memory storage feature that allows you to save the settings for a specific trailer. If you tow multiple trailers you can save up to 5 different settings for each one.

There’s also a boost feature for different kinds of trailers and weights. You can change the boost for trailers that are lighter, similar in weight, or heavier than your tow vehicle.

I found this feature was great for my travel trailer that was a little heavier than my truck. It made it so I didn’t have to turn the trailer brake gain/power all the way up and I was still able to brake safely even with a heavy trailer.

The Tekonsha brake controller can control up to 8 brakes at a time (4 axles) and works for both electric and hydraulic brakes.

The manual brake lever is on the bottom of the unit. The lever is pretty big and easy to find when you’re not looking. I think having a big manual brake lever is important because you want to be able to use it quickly in case of an emergency.

The Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Controller has more features and settings than any other brake controller on the market today.

If you tow a lot and want to be able to adjust every setting for any kind of towing condition this is going to be the best option.

For car compatibility, there is an integrated plug-n-play port for different adapters. If your vehicle has a factory installed brake controller harness you can get the correct adapter according to the make and model.

PROS

  • Easy To See LCD Screen
  • Advanced Diagnostic Features
  • Can Save Setting For Different Trailers
  • Multiple Boost Settings
  • Works For Hydraulic Brakes
  • Shows Current Braking Levels

CONS

  • Can Be Hard To Understand Settings
  • Not Budget Friendly

2. Reese Towpower Brake Controller

Reese Towpower 8508211 Brake Control (Proportional BRAKE-EVN)

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The Reese Towpower proportional brake controller is the less complicated but still feature packed option for those who just want a brake controller that is easy to understand and safe to use when towing large trailers.

It has an 8 brake or 4 axle capacity and even has a boost option for heavy towing.

The LED screen displays the current braking intensity and can be used to set the max braking power and use the diagnostic features.

You can see different error codes if the controller senses problems with your trailer’s brakes or the controller.

The manual brake slide is on the front of the controller under the screen. I wish the slide was a little bigger because it’s important to be able to easily find it in an emergency but it’s still very accessible on the front of the unit.

See Also: Best 5th Wheel Hitches (Reese, B&W, Curt, Andersen, Blue Ox)

The gain and boost adjuster buttons are located on the top.

The connection harness is a simple plug-n-play that should be compatible with most tow kits or specific make and model adapters.

One thing Reese hasn’t made clear about this trailer brake controller is if it works for hydraulic brakes or not.

The Reese Towpower Brake Controller is simple but built with quality and dependability in mind.

You won’t have to worry about any of the inner parts wearing out and there are still some advanced features like brake boost and voltage diagnostics.

It’s also very easy to set up and understand.

PROS

  • Easy To See LCD Screen
  • Diagnostic Features
  • Boost Feature
  • Shows Current Braking Levels
  • Easy To Set Up

CONS

  • No Save Setting Modes For Different Trailers
  • Not Compatible With Hydraulic Brakes
  • Small Manual Brake Lever

3. Curt Venturer Electric Trailer Brake Controller

CURT 51110 Venturer Electric Trailer Brake Controller, Time-Delay, Black

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The Curt Venturer is one of the most affordable proportional trailer brake controllers out there. It’s simple, but it has everything you need for safe and smooth trailer braking.

Instead of showing a number value on the LCD screen, the Curt uses green bars to show how heavy the trailer is braking.

It’s very easy to see and may be a better option for those who prefer to see bars instead of numbers.

The manual brake lever is a small bar you press in on the left hand side. It’s easy to find quick and simple to use.

The gain or power is adjusted using a toggle on the top of the unit. The power is the only adjustment that can be made which might be a little simple for frequent or heavy towers but it works for weekend warriors who have smaller trailers that don’t require a boost feature.

See Also: Best Weight Distribution Hitches With Sway Control

Even though it’s simple and can only be used with up to 6 brakes (3 axles) the Curt Venturer is still compatible with all kinds of braking systems and hydraulic brakes.

The plug used is Curts own “quick plug” and you will need to get the proper adapter to fit the wiring in your tow vehicle.

There are no diagnostic features.

The Curt Venturer Electric Trailer Brake Controller is a fantastic option for small trailers and occasional towers who just need something that can get them to a nearby campsite on the weekends.

It’s not advanced, but it’s reliable, easy to set up, and very easy to understand.

PROS

  • Easy To See LCD Screen
  • Shows Current Braking Levels
  • Easy To Set Up
  • Affordable
  • Compatible With Hydraulic Brakes

CONS

  • No Save Setting Modes For Different Trailers
  • No Diagnostic Features
  • No Boost Mode

4. Draw-Tite Trailer Brake Controller

Draw-Tite 5535 Trailer Brake Control (I-Command Electronic - Proportional)

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The Draw-Tite is another great in between option much like the Reese brake controller.

It has a boost setting, it’s a proportional brake controller, and there are diagnostics.

It workes on up to 8 brakes (4 axles) but isn’t compatible with hydraulic brakes.

The manual brake lever is the same small slider that goes across the front of the unit. It could be bigger but it works.

See Also: The RV Guide To 5th-Wheel vs Gooseneck Campers & Hitches

Draw-Tite is another dependable towing brand that makes excellent RV and trailer products.

The Draw-Tite Trailer Brake Controller has everything you need to safely tow on the road and it’s really easy to set up and understand.

The boost mode is a must have for heavy trailers and the diagnostics for your trailer brakes can be nice to have so you will be alerted to any issues before they become unsafe.

PROS

  • Easy To See LCD Screen
  • Diagnostic Features
  • Boost Feature
  • Shows Current Braking Levels
  • Easy To Set Up

CONS

  • No Save Setting Modes For Different Trailers
  • Not Compatible With Hydraulic Brakes
  • Small Manual Brake Lever

5. Hopkins Insight Simple Brake Control

Hopkins 47297 INSIGHT Plug-in Simple Brake Control

Check Price at Amazon

The Hopkins Insight simple brake control is a little different than the rest.

Instead of being a unit that is placed somewhere under the steering wheel, it has two parts that are placed higher up and one that’s hidden away.

If you’ve ever seen in dash brake controllers (click to view on Amazon) it’s a lot like that, but there’s no difficult installation required.

Even though it looks a little different this is still a proportional electric brake controller with diagnostic features like brake failure notification and short protection.

It’s also compatible with hydraulic brakes and can control up to 8 brakes (4 axles).

There is no boost feature.

The way it works is you have what Hopkins calls a “smart box” that is installed somewhere under the dash. The small monitor and brake slider/control will be plugged into the smart box.

The monitor will be placed in an out of the way spot that’s clearly visible when driving. In the corner of the instrument panel or up on the dash near the windshield are both good locations.

The monitor will show you the current braking intensity and “no brake” warning. It’s actually pretty great to have all that info up front so you don’t have to look down to see what your trailer’s brakes are doing.

See Also: Towing Cars Behind RVs – The Flat Towing Guide

The manual brake part can be installed anywhere that’s easy to reach and out of the way. You can put it under the steering wheel or even on the center console using double sided tape.

It controls both the manual brake and has buttons that are used to adjust the gain/power.

The Hopkins Insight Simple Brake Control is a fantastic option for smaller tow vehicles that don’t give you a lot of leg room.

Sometimes trailer brake controllers can get in the way and this is option has parts that can be placed pretty much anywhere near the driver.

I especially like the monitor that can be placed up high. I know there have been a few times that I haven’t looked down at my Tekonsha brake controller and have missed that the no brake warning was on.

This keeps all of the information right at eye level so you’ll see it much easier.

PROS

  • Easy To See LCD Screen
  • Shows Current Braking Levels
  • Easy To Set Up
  • Monitor Can Be Placed Higher Up
  • Large Manual Brake Slide
  • Out Of The Way Design

CONS

  • No Save Setting Modes For Different Trailers
  • No Boost
  • Uses Lots Of Cables
  • Limited Diagnostics

towing on the freeway with a trailer brake controller
Trailer brake controllers with boost features can be good for towing on highways or freeways.

What To Look For In A Trailer Brake Controller

Proportional Braking

There are two main kinds of trailer brake controllers; proportional and time delayed.

You can read about the differences in the FAQ section below but in general, proportional braking controllers are the better way to go.

They are not only safer they are also better for your vehicles and trailer’s brakes.

Diagnostic Features

While it’s not necessarily a must-have, diagnostic features can come in handy if you tow a lot.

After a year of full-timing with our travel trailer, my Tekonsha P3 started alerting me that there was a problem with the brakes in my trailer.

Using the diagnostic feature we were able to see that the current coming from the trailer brakes was off and we were able to address the issue.

Boost

A properly set trailer brake controller is going to tell your trailer to brake with enough power to stop you no matter how fast you’re going.

But a boost feature can be nice to have when you’re traveling at high speeds like on a freeway while towing a trailer that’s heavier than your vehicle.

Dependability

A faulty trailer brake controller means no trailer brakes which means unsafe towing conditions.

Nothing is more important when driving than being able to brake fast.

If you’re towing a trailer that doesn’t have any electric brakes your car’s brakes might not be able to stop you in time if there’s an emergency situation.

Mounting Location

Most brake controllers are mounted below the steering wheel where they are mostly out of the way but still able to be seen by the driver.

This usually works fine in trucks and large SUVs but if you are an extra tall person or it’s a smaller car there may not be room for a brake controller down by your knees.

If there isn’t enough leg room, getting a controller like the Hopkins reviewed above may be a better option.


My Pick For Best Trailer Brake Controller

Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Controller

Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control , silver, Single

Check Price at Amazon

Of course, I had to go with the Tekonsha P3 as my pick for the best trailer brake controller.

It’s the brake controller that can do it all and you might as well go for the best even if you are only towing a small trailer.

It’s super adjustable, has the best diagnostic features of any controller on the market today, and it even has different language options.

I really like the feature where you can save the settings for different trailers and the different boost options are useful for different driving conditions.

The Tekonsha brake controller is the best overall for RV and trailer towing and a great way to keep you and others safe on the road.


motorhome towing a trailer using a trailer brake controller for the electric brakes
Even motorhomes need trailer brake controllers if the tow trailer is heavy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Trailer Brake Controllers

What happens if you don’t use a trailer brake controller?

If you don’t use an electric brake controller when towing a trailer, the trailer’s electric brakes just won’t work because there is nothing sending signals to them to tell them when to engage.

That means when you brake the only thing stopping your vehicle and the trailer is the brakes on your vehicle.

This is extremely hard on your tow vehicle’s brakes and very unsafe. It increases the braking distance and can cause your trailer to sway out of control when you need to brake hard.

In many state’s it’s illegal to tow trailers over a certain weight without electric brakes, usually 3,000 lbs gross weight (1,500 lbs in CA).

RV trailers like travel trailers and 5th-wheels pretty much always fall into the must-have electric brakes category.

There are lots of great electric trailer brake controller options. Many SUVs and Trucks come pre-wired for trailer brake controllers and all you need to do is get one and plug it in.

If your vehicle isn’t pre-wired for a trailer brake controller you can wire it yourself, have a professional do it, or look into wireless brake controllers.

What does a trailer brake controller do?

Camper trailers and cargo trailers over a certain weight are required to have electric brakes.

A trailer brake controller is the brain that tells the trailer’s brakes what to do. Without it, the brakes will not be engaged at all, even if the lights are working and the trailer is plugged into your vehicle.

The brake controller syncs up the brakes of your vehicle with the trailers brakes so both work at the same time.

There are different kinds of trailer brake controllers, some are more advanced than others.

One of the main things they can all do besides engaging the trailer brakes when your vehicle brakes is a manual trailer brake override.

If your trailer starts to sway one of the ways you can stop it is by engaging the trailer’s brakes manually via the brake controller. It’s one of the best emergency features of a trailer brake controller and a must-have for RV trailer owners.

How do I know if my truck is wired for trailer brakes?

If your truck came from the manufacturer with a hitch receiver and a 7-prong plug outlet, the odds are it does have all the necessary wiring for a trailer brake controller.

You can tell if the 7 prong trailer plug outlet on your truck came from the manufacturer if it has the brand name of the truck on the little cover for the outlet.

If it’s a different brand name it was most likely added after being purchased which means the likelihood of there being wiring for a trailer brake controller decreases.

Often the wiring for a trailer brake controller can be found somewhere under the steering wheel. It may just be a plug sticking out of the panel or it might be hidden by the panel.

If your truck has an integrated trailer brake controller it’s most likely on the right hand side, under the controls for 4 wheel drive.

A lot of times you can identify a brake controller by the slide bar, which is the manual trailer brake override. It usually also lights up when the vehicle is turned on and shows a number that indicates the trailer brake power.

Another way to tell if your truck is wired for a trailer brake controller is if there’s a bracket installed somewhere below the steering wheel. If there’s a bracket there’s probably a plug somewhere nearby you can use for the controller.

What is the difference between a proportional and time delayed trailer brake controller?

A proportional trailer brake controller has a sensor inside of it that measures how fast your tow vehicle is slowing down. It uses that information to tell your trailer how much it should be braking.

So instead of just braking the same amount every time, the trailer brakes will match your braking and start at a lower intensity that increases as your braking increases.

It allows for a smoother braking experience and stops any push-pull that can happen when your trailer brakes too much or too little.

A time delayed trailer brake controller isn’t as advanced. Instead of adjusting the brake levels to your vehicles it simply tells your trailer that the vehicle is braking and the trailer will brake at the intensity you have pre-set it to.

Proportional trailer brake controllers are a lot easier on your trailer brakes and also perform better overall in different towing and weather conditions.

Time delayed brake controllers are still ok to use but they are only recommended for the occasional trailer tower and not someone who is towing often and long distances.

How do I set up the power or gain on my trailer brake controller?

The level of intensity for your trailer brakes is going to be different depending on how heavy it is or the size of the trailer.

When you get a new trailer or electric brake controller the first thing you need to do is set it up.

Instructions on how to adjust the sensitivity for your trailer should come with the brake controllers manual but if you’ve lost it you can follow this general rule on how high you should set the gain/sensitivity.

While towing your trailer find a dry, level, and paved area you can do your tests in.

An empty, level parking lot is a good place for this since you will need enough pavement to start and stop on.

Starting with the power output/gain set to a low setting start driving to 15 mph. At 15 mph let go of the gas pedal and engage the manual brake lever on your brake controller.

You want the trailer brakes to be set high enough to be able to stop both itself and the tow vehicle.

If it’s unable to stop you the power needs to be set higher.

Do this test over and over again adjusting the power one level at a time. When the trailer brakes are able to stop you and your trailer using the manual brake lever they are now set high enough.

Note that you do not want your trailer wheels to lock up. If the trailer wheels lock the power is set too high.

You want to find the sweet spot where your trailer is braking enough to almost lock up the wheels but you want to make sure they aren’t locking when using the manual brake lever.

Have any more questions about trailer brake controllers for RVs, campers, and cargo trailers? Leave a comment below.

by Jenni
Jenni grew up in a small town in Idaho. With a family that loves camping, she has been towing trailers since a very young age.

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