"DO NOT BOOK WITH APOLLO"
There is nothing good I can say about Apollo. A 2 1/2 hour wait to pick up...
As an Aussie page born and bred, we reckon we know Apollo Motorhomes Australia pretty well. Check out what's going on with Australia's largest campervan and motorhome rental company...
The Vivid Camper....
Apollo's new family member is a compact 4 berth with a customised interior for kitchen, bag storage and sleeping whilst making day time driving just like being in a mini van. At night it folds out for 2 peeps to sleep inside and there's a nifty little roof tent to sleep 2 peeps up top. This way you get a car during the day and 4 beds at night.
This model has been adopted by the youthful purple and green of Jucy for some years and Apollo must feel it is worth splashing some design cash in to to get the youth market. Strangely enough, Apollo already have a youth/budget brand in Hippie Campers which does not have this model. One thing that sets this version apart from the Jucy model is the quality of the mini van that it is based on - Mercedes Benz as opposed to Jucy's Toyota range. In addition, Apollo have a policy not to run a vehicle beyond 3 years (or around 150,000km) where as the the little purple turtle is normally bought as a 2nd hand vehicle, converted, and run for a further 5 years.
So, if you are looking for super small, super fuel economy and willing to sacrifice some comforts for a smaller price, this little Vivid camper by Apollo might just be the ticket. But you have to be nimble.
Now, we resume normal transmission...
Whilst driving in Australia, you are probably going to see more Apollo branded vehicles on the roads than any other campervan rental company. Currently they have over 4000 vehicles with plans to add another 1500 vehicles to the fleet. Established in 1985 in Australia, they now also operate in New Zealand, USA and Canada. Whilst the Apollo brand is probably the most famous of the brands operated by this company, they also own Star RV, Cheapa Campa and Hippie Campers, which satisfy the higher, lower and youth priced segments of the market. Within the Apollo branded vehicles you will find Campervans, Motorhomes and 4wd campers.
Apollo wants us to know that they have the largest camper hire rental fleet in Australia. They are proud of being one of the largest privately owned leisure vehicle operators in the world.
Apollo hopes to have a vehicle for to suit every style of self drive holiday and is aimed at those travellers with just a little bit more money and more care for quality. Their cheapest camper is still of pretty good quality and is a Hi Top camper with all the modern conveniences. From there the vehicles just get bigger, better, nicer and pricier. They aim to impress with their selection of locations, vehicles and their caring staff.
Campervans and Motorhomes running under the Apollo brand in Australia are a maximum of 3 years old. After that, or at 150,000km, they sell them or pass them on to their cheaper family of campers under the brand of Cheapa Campa.
Like pretty much all the campervan hire companies, you are charged by calendar days used, not time of day picked up like car rental. So it pays to pick up early and drop off late as you are paying for whole day regardless.
If you rent a motorhome with a toilet you will have to get used to the idea of emptying the cassette as if you return it full, you will be paying a fee. Which begs the question - where is the nearest dump point to the location you are returning to. There are not many dump points inside major cities. Check out http://www.dumppoints.com
Just so you know which of the Apollo brands is best for you, here is how they stack up: Star RV is the brand used for campervans and motorhomes that are brand new to $60,000km (about 1 year). Apollo campervans are run from 60,000km to 150,000km (1 year old to approx. 3), Cheapa Campa then runs the camper from 150,000km to end of life which might be about 5 years. Hippie Camper has new and old vehicles that are aimed at the youth market so are generally smaller with fewer amenities and only a couple of different models.
This is the base model vehicle for Apollo keeping bells and whistles to a minimum. Whilst it could sleep 4, it can only seat 2 as the kitchenette is directly behind the driver, meaning other passengers would have to sit sideways on the bench seats and this is not allowed. All the necessities are there for driving, sleeping cooking eating and cleaning but that's about it. Remember though that Apollo set a higher bar than "budget" agencies in the market so the base model at Apollo will be equal to or better than the "deluxe" model at a cheap agency.
Same base model vehicle and most the same attributes of the HiTop except for a different layout in the back to accommodate 2 extra bodies. It's indicated to be 2 adults sleeping below and 2 kids sleep above, however I checked with Apollo about having 4 adults and it is fine to do. The maximum weight rating for the upper bed is 200kg. The average weight of an adult is 75kg so just be sure to sort your sleeping out best according to weight.
What's the difference between...Endeavour - Auto transmission; HiTop - Manual
Hi-Top and the Endeavour Campervans?
Endeavour - baby seats OK; HiTop - nope
Endeavour - water tank 55 litres; HiTop - 31 Litres
Endeavour - Doona and sheets; HiTop - Sleeping bag and sheets
The rest is the same.
Why the Euro name? - because it is based on a European model vehicle - in this case a VW rather than the Australian built Hiace used for the other 2 campervan models (used to be Mercedes Sprinter so don't be surprised if you get a Merc model). With total shut down of all vehicle manufacturing taking place in Australia, pretty soon Apollo will have to name all their vehicles after other parts of the globe.
The Euro tourer is the luxury model of the campervan class. Significantly bigger than the Hiace model that is used for the HiTop and Endeavour models, it could easily fit 4 people, but Apollo have decided it is better suited to 2 people traveling in style. This vehicle is when you are really starting to get to hotel-room style on wheels. Electric pump water, TV, DVD, air con (when on mains power), 3/4 sized fridge bigger than many hotels - shower and toilet. If connected to mains power, this has all the facilities of a decent hotel room minus the carpet. When not on power you will lose the air con and microwave and the use of any power sockets however, this is the same for all campervan and motorhomes that carry those items. A normal powered site at a caravan park will set you back $30-$50. Some will be more in high season, some will be less in some towns. (if you are interested in comparing campervan hire using caravan parks VS car hire and hotels, read this article )
Of course, like all things luxury, there is an additional price to pay. In this case it is basically double what you will pay for the HiTop and 50% more than the Endeavour, but if you are the kind of person that likes to glam it up when traveling, this is the unit for you.
Motorhomes are bigger, plusher and more expensive than campervans and generally have walk through access from the front seat. The base model of the motorhomes for Apollo is the the Euro Camper. As we have moved into the more luxurious category, TVs, DVDs, Microwaves, showers and toilets all become standard and this motorhome is no exception. This model is perfectly acceptable and being less than 3 years old will have all the mod cons that you are after. You can expect a higher level of quality of appointments, but one of the biggest complaints about motorhomes is that the shower/toilet area is "smelly". Everyones tolerances are different but keep this in mind for all motorhomes with those facilities.
This is just a slightly upgraded model of the Euro Camper. The swanky thing about this model that sets it apart from many others is the electric raise and lower of the double bed at the back. Very handy at the end of the day when it comes to bed time - no moving of boards and cushions to make the bed. The only concern is what if it gets stuck? I hope there is a manual override. Generally the more moving parts a thing has, the more things there are to break down. There is also a slide out cooker come BBQ from the side of the motorhome. Australia loves to BBQ so this is a welcome addition to allow for smokey outdoor cooking under the expansive awning.
This is a really homely unit. It has luxury and comfort and will be just a like a plush hotel room on wheels for those who want all the creature comforts when they travel.
What's the Difference Between...
Euro Star and Euro Camper Motorhomes?
Euro Star: automatic - Euro Camper: manual transmission
Euro Star: fridge 150ltr - Euro Camper: 110ltr
Euro Star: cooktop 3 (2 gas 1 electric) + oven - Euro Camper:3 gas
Euro Star: gas 9kg - Euro Camper: 4 kg
Euro Star: water tank 150ltr - Euro Camper: 100ltrs
Euro Star: Electric life bed - Euro Camper: no lift. smaller 2nd bed
This is the largest model Apollo offers with 3 double beds for 6 people. The fridge is a little small to cater for 6 people I think, but there is a lot to fit in to this motorhome. Something else to keep in mind is showering for 6. The hot water system can be slow to heat up and quick to run out in motorhomes, so don't plan on all 6 people showing one-after-the-other. You should spread it out between mornings and nights - and keep the times to a minimum, 100 litres of water won't go far when there are 6 showers in a day. On the up side, this model has a grey water waste tank making the vehicle entirely self enclosed. This is handy for some council parking rules that only allowed self contained motorhomes to park legally overnight on the side of the road.
There are actually a tonne of little things in this motorhome that make it a sweet ride, not the least of which is the separate dining area for kids, the awning and the outdoor speakers so make sure you sit through a walkthrough video for this motorhome before you drive away in it.
Apollo are stepping up a notch with this motorhome being the only one that has a slide out wall to expand the living and cooking area when parked. If you are looking for a hotel-room-on-wheels, then you have found it here.
With all the modern conveniences for both cooking and relaxing, it will be hard to find a motorhome flasher than this when you turn up to a caravan park. Please keep in mind the motorhome must be parked on a flat stable surface to be able to side out, this is not always the case with roadside stops. Roadside stops are normally in great condition along the main Australian highways, but if you want to be get off the beaten track and on the the B roads and C roads, the spots are less maintained. You shouldn't let this stop you from renting this motorhome, just something to keep in mind. Like the Euro Deluxe, this motorhome has a grey water tank so is completely self contained - very handy if you find yourself pulling up to a road side stop that only allows overnighting in fully self contained vehicles.
Be aware this motorhome has complicated system to run all the little devices it has - there are circuit switches galore and numerous things that must be turned on, off or turned on in a certain order to make everything work. You should watch the "Show Through" video here or at Apollo before driving away. It lets you know things like how to empty the toilet cassette and that it takes 20 mins to heat up the water for a shower. It also highlights some traps you can fall in to that that will result in extra fee charges if you don't do as they ask.
It is a little pedestrian and long but I really advise you watch it all before renting it or heading out in it.
If looking for something even more luxurious than the Apollo Motorhomes, then Star RV campers will be newer and flasher.
Apollo are offering 3 models of 4wd (4x4) campervans.
Adventure Camper: A low-level model for 2 people
Overlander Camper: Low-level model for 5 people
Trailfinder Camper: a hard-core, go anywhere for 2 people
What do i mean by low-level and hard core?
Low Level - Dirt roads that are graded or slightly washboard roads, creek crossings, grass fields, flat-lands.
Hard core - Desert tracks, deep ruts, severe washboard roads, steep incline/decline, forest track bush bashing.
Dirt road, mostly graded, mild washboard, low creek crossings vs
Dust, ruts, washboard and mud
The advantage of this kind of model is the room. The tortoise shell on the back goes up and over the roof and allows for designers to come up with great concepts using all the available space. So when it comes to comfort and space this baby is right on. All this extra space comes with a price of course - it is heavy. Given the average ground clearance of the Toyota Hilux it is built on, and the extra weight, expect a few more rock bashes under the vehicle and keep the angle of of incline attempted as merely "insane". Also a reduction in fuel efficiency compared to some others.
The Trailfinder Camper, built using the Toyota Landcruiser is in another category. If you are looking to go to those places in Australia that only the few get to go to, this is the 4wd campervan for you. It will go places the other models won't go due to it's high ground clearance, whopping V8 turbo diesel engine, all terrain tires and it's pure engineering to survive no matter what you throw at it. Don't get me wrong, you can go plenty of places in Australia with the Adventure and Overlander models, but quite honestly, there will be a nagging feeling in the back of your mind - will we make it to the end of this track? No such feeling with the Trailfinder. It's more like - that track was killer fun, where is the next one?
The Trailfinder is also better appointed for outback adventure. 2x 90ltr tanks not only gives you more fuel, but a safety in case once gets a puncture. The water tank is nicely tucked under the chassis keeping it safe but not getting in the way of day to day use and is a better sized 50ltrs. In the other 2 models, water and extra fuel all come in jerry cans. Trying to add just a little bit of luxury to the outback workhorse, Apollo have added a pop-top roof for added headroom when parked, a larger 48ltr fridge and a side awning included. The side awning will protect you from the elements whilst using the slide out cookers and sink on the passenger side.
If you have kids unfortunately this model won't suit you, but if you are a couple looking to see the wilds of Australia, you can't go pass the Trailfinder that hopefully will get you into a little trouble but will also be able to get you out of it too.
The Overlander is the newest addition for the 4wd section of Apollo and should appeal to those who are travelling outback with a family or those who just like to rough it. No Sleeping inside the camper, all sleeping is done in tents. Some in a roof tent and the rest on the ground in an awning. Also, no real adjustments to the interior of the vehicle so they can continue to sit 5 people in there - the seating has been left traditional with a front row and back row. The rear storage is the only area where some customisation has been done. There is more storage on the roof and that is also where the tents go. There is a whopping 45ltr fridge/freezer in the back that will run off the house battery but whilst it is nice to have that much refrigeration for 5 people, it takes up A LOT of room. In the end the problem with this camper is storage. Up to 5 people in there and very little spare space to put all their stuff. The blue box on the roof will go a bit of a way, but if you are taking a whole family in this, be aware that you are going to be putting things in every nook and cranny you can find to store them.
This campervan is really the only 4wd option that Apollo are offering for families, and it seems there competitors are doing the same, but at the end of the day you are really just getting a 4wd and a tent. I guess its a one-stop shop, but I wonder what could be achieved just by renting a 4wd, a tent and 32ltr fridge. There are some other little benefits though, the awning that comes included as standard, the gas burner and the table to put it on. If you are travelling to the point of pickup from overseas or similar, then this vehicle still has an appeal, but many Australians would be able to achieve what's there by renting a 4wd and taking things they probably already have.
BTW if you can grab an air compressor from an auto store it is well worth it on long off-road trips. When driving on long dirt roads you should let air out of the tires, the compressor will let you blow them back up once you get on the bitumen.
This is a benchmark company that the others measure themselves against. You will almost certainly find a vehicle style to suit you but they book out quick in high season because of their popularity
By far the most complained about aspect of Apollo is the time it takes to return the safety deposit that you give when you commence hire. All campervan and motorhome rental companies will take a bond of some sort - Apollo seems to be lagging the most in getting it back to you. In the mean time it can leave a big hole in your credit card that may rack you up some interest charges with your bank. Considering the amount of complaints about it I can only assume they are stashing it away in a short term high interest account. There is nothing you can do to speed it up so be prepared.