Review: Carado T447

Review: Carado T447

Opting for a refurbished ex-rental brings the opportunity for a quality, comfortable motorhome within reach of those without the budget to stretch to purchase a new one. Paul Owen checks out a Carado T447 with plenty of service left in it.

Back when our kids were still living at home, we began to yearn for the former lifestyle we enjoyed as house-truckers and owners of old buses converted into mobile homes. We dreamed of owning something a bit more 21st Century than the ancient ex-Auckland Transport Board 1939 Bedford bus with a ‘crash gearbox’ that required every shift to be painstakingly double-clutched.

The problem was that every new RV we liked, with a model year beginning with a ‘2’ also had a six-figure price tag back when we were going through this mid-life reassessment. We couldn’t afford any of these, so we compromised and settled for an ex-rental 2006 Kea Traveller campervan instead. This cost us a far more agreeable $60,000 and turned out to be money well spent.

Buying the Traveller from a rental company that was shedding the models on their fleet that had exceeded 100,000km ensured that the price was almost half of what we would have paid if buying the same campervan when it was new. This enabled us to access a comfortable mobile lifestyle at an earlier stage in our lives, and we accumulated lots of fond memories of the trips we enjoyed.

It, therefore, intrigues (and delights) me to discover what you can buy from a reputable rental company such as Wilderness Motorhomes, which rotates out the longer-serving models on its fleet. Enter the Carado T447, which I spent some time with recently. Unlike that unruly ’39 Bedford of my earlier days, it has a modern six-speed sequential automatic gearbox, a brilliantly efficient 2.3-litre diesel engine, and a bathroom and separate shower space, meaning you can park the Carado overnight anywhere that certified self-contained vehicles are allowed.

Light and bright

Review: Carado T447
The lounge area can comfortably seat six

Inside is a lightweight yet durable interior, and the heating (particularly important over these winter months) comes from an efficient Truma Combi 6E gas system. This can draw energy from
the 9kg and 4kg bottles to heat both the cabin and the hot water system. It’s worth noting that being lightweight doesn’t equate to any lack of structural strength or insulation. The roof and rear wall of the T447 are made of fibreglass while the sidewalls are clad with aluminium sheet. All windows are also double-glazed, ensuring the Carado is winter-ready.

The big surprise is that the interior of the T447 looks just as it did five years ago when it first entered rental fleet service with Wilderness Motorhomes. It’s been meticulously maintained during the intervals between rentals, which is one of the reasons why purchasing a second-hand motorhome from this rental company is a canny buying strategy, as you can be assured that the vehicles have been well looked after.

The last thing the Wilderness rental fleet manager wants is customers calling in from somewhere remote to complain that such and such isn’t working, so the systems are always thoroughly checked before the next vehicle handover to a customer. Meanwhile, Wilderness rental motorhomes are some of the most pampered vehicles of their type, as they are delivered looking spick and span every single time.

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Take the dashboard area of the Carado as an example. The rich sheen of the plastic is proof of multiple applications of cleaning products and protectants. You could eat your lunch over the shelf just below the windscreen (although, it would be a tad uncomfortable). Everything you touch, flick, and twiddle in the driving cockpit feels brand-new.

There have possibly been a couple of busloads of tourists through this motorhome’s cabin, but they’ve left zero traces of their visits. The sink looks like it’s just been installed, as does the three-burner hob, the mini oven grille, and the generously sized fridge.

Meanwhile, the cream-coloured faux leather fitted to the seat bolsters and other parts of the upholstery shows not a single mark of the five years spent on the rental fleet and contrasts nicely with the light brown of the woodwork and the cedar-like grey of the floor coverings. There was hardly a rattle or a squeak heard from the interior of the T447 during driving, the near-silence helped by the wooden shower platform insert that holds the shower screens tight and damps any sound being generated by these potentially rowdy components of a motorhome interior.

Party like it’s 2019

Review: Carado T447
Comfy twin singles are accessed via a ladder

Fiat’s now-replaced six-speed servo-motor-operated automatic gearbox probably won’t ever gain entry to any Transmission Hall of Fame due to the slow deliberate ratio changes it achieves when driven like a conventional automatic. Still, it does have one huge advantage over torque converter-equipped transmissions – lower mass.

The old ‘Servotronic’ gearbox weighs 200kg less than its current-day nine-speed automatic, allowing the 2019 Carado T447 to squeak under the 3500kg Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) threshold. This defines whether a motorhome must be tested for Certificate of Fitness (CoF) standard or has to regularly pass Warrant of Fitness (WoF) tests. WoF tests are far cheaper, more readily available, and are conducted every year instead of every six months, like CoF inspections.

Complying with CoF rules costs close to $350 per annum compared to the $75 for an annual WoF test. But the big hassle with CoF testing is the time it takes. The inspections must be booked weeks in advance and can take hours to complete. The huge convenience of complying with a WoF testing regime is, therefore, one of the best reasons to buy a version of the Carado T447 with the ‘old’ gearbox.

Teutonic quality

Review: Carado T447
The kitchen comes complete with an oven grille and gas hobs

The endurance of the fit and finish of the T447 over several years of rental hires bears witness to the quality of the initial build. Carado is part of the Erwin Hymer Group (EHG), and although it’s a brand focused more on practical functionality and cost-effectiveness than others in the EHG family, retention of the quality that defines the group’s products is paramount.

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The design template of the T447 is pretty standard for a four-berth European semi-integrated motorhome of this popular 7.4-metre length. It kicks off with a front lounge with swivelling cab seats, two extra seat belts on the forward-facing bench, and additional bench seats on the side. There’s a drop-down double bed above the adjust-it-any-way-that-suits table, measuring a generous 1.9-metre x 1.4-metre, and although there’s no electric motor to raise or lower it, doing it manually takes remarkably little effort, thanks to some well-engineered counterweights and running tracks. A ladder can be retrieved from its dedicated mounting points on the rear wall of the garage to facilitate easy entry and exit to and from the drop-down bed.

The kitchen area of the T447 that follows the spacious lounge could use a bit more bench space. A lot of food prep will probably get done at the lounge table nearby before cooking begins. When it does, everything falls readily to hand. There’s a 156-litre fridge and a 29-litre freezer on one side and the oven grille, sink, soft-close drawers (some of which were retrofitted by Wilderness to make kitchen​ storage more accessible), and gas hob on the other, and enough elbow space to give the morning pancakes a good flip.

Behind the kitchen is where the cabin of the T447 can be sub-divided by a multi-purpose toilet/washroom door that closes off this area and the rear bedroom from the rest of the motorhome. On the other side of the washroom is the shower cubicle with doors that fold away completely so that more space is created when the shower isn’t being used.

Bringing up the rear of the Carado are the two longitudinal single beds that define the T447 and differentiate it from the island double bed of the otherwise identical T449. Both slat-based beds are 80cm wide; one is 2.1 metres long and the other measures 2.15 metres. The advantage of these is their height, as they’re raised further from the floor than the main bed of the T449, creating room for a more spacious garage underneath. Speaking of which, there’s lighting and extra cubby holes on the interior wall of the garage, which has a maximum weight capacity of 150kg.

Camping capacity

Review: Carado T447
Spacious garage is enabled by high-mounted rear beds

There are three 240V sockets and four USB ports located in strategic areas of the Carado’s cabin, giving plenty of opportunity to plug something in. The two leisure batteries are 95Ah AGM units that get charged either while driving or when plugged into mains power with the RCD-equipped lead. The freshwater tank holds 122 litres and a 92-litre tank collects greywater.

Enjoy all the benefits of this smartly presented Carado T447, along with the satisfaction that purchasing a refurbished ex-rental offers significant savings over buying new, while still allowing you to experience a quality motorhome.

Available at Wilderness Motorhomes from 1 July 2024.

Review: Carado T447
Carado T447 floor plan
Make and modelCarado T447 (refurbished ex-rental)
ChassisFiat Ducato-based cab/chassis,
front wheel drive
Engine2.3L turbodiesel, 130bhp
Gearbox6-speed Servotronic automatic
Fresh/hot/grey water122L/10L/92L
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