What To Look For
The first thing to look at when shopping for a camper shell is the quality. Pay special attention to the windows, looking for any gaps or spaces where the window frame doesn't meet the shell. Also, look at the camper shell itself and how the core was made. The inside of the shell should contain two layers of material and preferably have a honeycomb design, which is stronger. You'll also want to find a lock that features remote entry or has a strong key lock to protect your property. You might also want a lock that gives you the option of locking yourself inside.
The most common pitfall associated with buying a camper shell is buying the wrong size. Most camper shell manufacturers offer the option of having the camper shell fit or sized for your specific truck, which ensures the best fit. Another mistake involves buying a collapsible camper shell when you need a more stable shell. Aluminum and fiberglass shells are more durable and last for long periods of time. The shells are harder and stay up all the time. Collapsible shells are more temporary and you raise and lower the shell each time you use it, which puts more pressure on it and reduces its life span.
Where To Buy
When comparing camper shells, the first place to look is at a car dealership or RV dealer. These dealers offer both new and used camper shells, and know how to attach the shell correctly to your truck. If you're buying the camper shell used, you might not know how to install it properly which can lead to leaking or even cause the camper shell to pull away from your truck. Car and RV dealerships also have access to customized camper shells, which not only match your truck in terms of size, but also match the color or paint job of your truck perfectly.
Camper shells generally cost $1,000 and up based on 2010 pricing. Some basic camper shells retail for around $600, but these may not have any windows except for the large back window. These are available from some auto parts stores and websites, but you face the problem of installing the camper shell yourself and risking the above-mentioned problems. Camper shells that are custom made and fitted to your vehicle often retail for over $1,500 before factoring in the cost of installation and labor. If you have the ability to install the camper shell yourself, it's possible to find used shells for $500 or less.