How to Buy an Apache Camper

1975 Apache Royal

Here's a nice checklist (In MS Word) put together by Douglas Murrish that you can use when evaluating an Apache. Thanks Douglas!

So, you're thinking about buying an Apache (or some other used camper) . Maybe you've got your eye on one now but can't quite make up your mind. Or maybe a camper is still a dream in your head. Either way, there's a few things you can do to make sure you find just the right camper for you.

A good thorough check of all the mechanical components is a real good idea: All the electrical connections should be tested; hook up power and check everything, including the lights, outlets, vent fan (both speeds), refrigerator if it has one, furnace blower, etc.  Check all the plumbing; hook up water, run the sink, drain, etc. Turn on the propane and try out all the stove burners and the furnace if it has one.

Open and close all the windows. Do they all work smoothly? Check all the screens for rips or holes. Flip the cushions over and check for mold or mildew. Mustiness is normal - mold or mildew is not. Look underneath and check out the undercarriage closely. Is there any rot in the wood? Any rust on the axle or carriage? Any wires dangling loose? Check the tires. Are they in good shape? If they're worn , are they worn evenly? Check the corner jacks. Do they all work smoothly? If possible, it's a good idea to inspect the inside for leaks during or immediately after a heavy rain. Be sure it was up in the rain, and not in the closed position. (It's also a lot of fun to sit in a camper in the rain - especially a hard sided Apache!)

Another important thing to do is to put it up and take it down.  It's worth the time to do before you buy, but don't let the owner do all the work - you have to try it yourself!  Does it go up and down smoothly all around, or does a corner lag or stick? Cranking an Apache up takes a little effort, but going down should be a breeze. Gears can be replaced, but they run ~$150.00 each. Do the beds slide in and out easily, or are they a struggle? All of this checking will give you an indication of how much use the camper has seen, and how much work you may or may not have to put into it.

It is recommended that you try pulling the camper with your intended tow vehicle before purchasing it. Hook it up, try out all the lights and signals, then take it for a roll. Keep your windows open and listen for unusual noises. Does it drag at all? Does it ride smoothly? Take it on a highway. Does it sway at 65MPH? You're going to be towing this camper all over the place, so be sure it feels good in tow. After the drive, feel the tires. They'll be hot, but they shouldn't be scalding. If they're scalding, it could indicate the tires are ready to blow.

Allright - so far the obvious mechanical stuff has been covered, but there's something else that's important to do. Ask the owner if you can spend a little time to check it out without them around. Once they leave, stand back and look at it open from a slight distance. How does it look overall? Does it sit nicely, look like it's been taken care of, have some perkiness to it? Or does it sag, look weathered and beat, or not really cared for? Next, walk up to it, open the door, and step inside. Look around -  can you imagine this camper with your stuff in it? How does it feel? Sit in every seat. Imagine your family sitting around the table. Can you picture it and does it feel right? Lay down on each bed and make yourself comfortable. Can you imagine sleeping here with your family? Does it feel safe? Did people love this camper and really live in it and care for it, or was it just another thing that was abused and uncared for? This "look and feel" part is just as important as the mechanical part. This will be your home away from home. A camper should have the right look and feel in order for you to love it and use it and feel good about it. Don't worry if the camper is older and seemingly not the newest, hippest look. Apache's really have a classiness all their own. They even have a way of finding the right owners to take care of them and to take care of. If the camper you're checking out passes this test, then grab it! Even if it needs a little TLC, it will probably be worth the effort. If it needs a LOT of TLC, well, you have to decide just how much time and money you're willing to put into it.

Before you buy, get some stories from the previous owner. How often did they use the camper? Where did they camp the most? What's the farthest trip they took? Did they encounter any problems? Why are they selling it? Do they have any camper care advice that would be good to know? Stories can not only add invaluable information about the camper, but you'll be learning from another's experiences and maybe even be able to pass down the lore of the camper. Apaches last a long time, you know!

The longer someone owns a camper, the more camping-related stuff they accumulate. See if they'll throw any of those items in, like wheel chucks, leveling boards, a hitch lock, party lanterns, or whatever. More important, ask if there's anything else they can think of that goes with the camper that may have slipped their mind, like spare keys, an owner's manual, or even a piece of trim that fell off years ago. Get everything you can, because you never know what you're going to need. (The folks we purchased our first Apache from sent us an "A" in the mail from the side logo a month after we bought it. Great folks!)

Finally, remember that the original Apaches are no longer being made. As time goes by, the good ones are getting harder and harder to find. There are some real clunkers out there, but there's also some real gems. Follow this advice to help distinguish between the two. Remember - inspect carefully, and trust your intuition. Happy camping!


PS - Here's a nice checklist (In MS Word) put together by Douglas Murrish that you can use when evaluating an Apache.


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