Upgrading to a Carado Mobil T449

By: Jill Malcolm, Photography by: Supplied

In this monthly column, NZMCD interviews the owners of a newly purchased RV to learn how they made their decisions

For the past seven years, seasoned motorhomers, Russell and Margaret Cooney, have been clocking up the miles unearthing the hidden corners of their own country.

Margaret Cooney in the fully swivelling seats that helped to swing the deal 

Most times, they head out the gate of their Kapiti Coast home with only a vague idea of where they are going. The weather, and their sense of adventure, dictate the itinerary and curiosity leads them by the nose to discover offbeat and intriguing places that have little or no mention in local tourist literature.

Tell us about your motorhoming experience

In 2011, we bought a five-year-old, six-berth, VW Coachcraft ex-rental. We called it Coast-2-Coast. For the next six years, we went away nearly every month clocking up 70,000km. We mostly travelled in the North Island but also made three trips around the South Island.

We love getting away and visiting new places, finding historic sites, cycling on trails, and playing golf on the wonderful country courses. Every road we drive, bike, or walk is recorded. We keep a comprehensive diary and take a lot of photographs.

A while ago, we sold our first vehicle and upgraded to a 2016, Carado Mobil T449 on a Fiat Ducato chassis.

Why did you decide to upgrade?

The Carado T449 has been a good choice for the new owners

The main reasons were to have more comfortable living and sleeping spaces and to increase the storage capacity. We also needed a newer vehicle to reduce maintenance expenditure, and we wanted a vehicle that only needed a Warrant of Fitness (required once a year at a low cost) rather than a Certificate of Fitness, which is more costly and must be renewed every six months. This applies to motorhomes with a gross vehicle weight of 3501kg and up.

How did you go about researching and working out what you wanted?

We read reviews in magazines and online, and whenever we’re on the road, we talked to other owners and inspected their vehicles. We also visited the sales yards of some of the importers.

The experience we’d had with our first motorhome helped us to make lists of features we liked and disliked. Of course, we also had a maximum budget.

Three things we didn’t particularly want in the replacement motorhome were the access door on the right-hand side, a front-wheel drive, and a vehicle longer than seven metres. Interestingly, we actually ended up with all of three but we’ve now come to accept them all and it’s no problem!

What was the biggest challenge in choosing the right RV?

Our new motorhome had to fit comfortably into the parking space at our new home. Our research and likes/dislikes narrowed the list down to a few similar models. Once we saw the Carado T449, we felt this was the one that best met our needs.

What were the deciding features of your RV?

An extra comfortable, extendible bed has been a great bonus

The driver’s and passenger’s seats, which can be incorporated into the lounge area, fully rotate. We say "fully" because in some vehicles the amount of rotation is restricted. An island bed and a separate shower were both top of the must-have list.

We wanted a three-way fridge/freezer to minimise battery use and dual house batteries with a good size solar panel to charge them when we were parked up away from any other power source. We also wanted a large storage space for our golf clubs, barbecue and table and other bits and it had to be easily accessible from the outside.

The Carado T449’s roomy interior and large fridge

The other things that swung our choice were: the cost (value for money); the privacy door between the living and sleeping/ablution areas; the adjustable length of the island bed for easier day-time access; the interior and exterior presentation and appearance; and the external storage area which has access from both sides.

How did you find the process of buying and the handover?

This was no problem at all. Once we had sold our old vehicle, we looked on Trade Me and found three Carado T449s available at that time. One was already under offer, one was above our price range, and one was near Nelson.

We contacted the Nelson sellers and they were very accommodating. They held the vehicle for us for a week for us to organise to fly down from the Kapiti Coast and they met us at the airport with the motorhome.

The Cooneys are great explorers. Here they are in the car park of the Warkworth Museum.

We went for a test drive and inspected all aspects of the vehicle thoroughly. It passed all the tests and was in excellent order.

So there seemed nothing to hold us back. We negotiated a price with the owners and they lent us the vehicle while we drove it into Nelson to arrange a bank transfer, change of ownership, and insurance.

We then met the now old owners for lunch and later drove to Picton, caught the evening ferry back to Wellington, and drove home, all in one day.

Did you end up buying the RV you imagined owning?

Mostly yes, the exceptions are the aforementioned three items. The bonuses were a very comfortable bed, a good sized fridge, and the great outdoor storage compartment.

Would you do anything differently?

No, we’re happy with the research we did and the way the purchase process worked so smoothly.

Is there anything about your new RV you’d change or improve?

A ringside seat for a ballooning event in the Wairarapa 

We would like steps on either side of the island bed to give us easier access to the overhead lockers and wardrobes at the head of the bed.

A window in the access door or adjacent wall panel would be an improvement as it would mean we could see out through the driver’s side of the living area. Another feature that would add to our comfort is to have foldaway steps on the rotating driver’s and passenger’s seats to use as footrests.

What advice would you offer others?

We would tell them to understand that in motorhomes and caravans, there are always compromises (it’s the same with life!).

We advise prospective buyers to take their time and have a long look at all the options. Talking with other RV owners is helpful for working up a list of ‘must haves’ as well as ‘desirables’.

What travel plans do you have?

We will continue as we have in the past by trying to get away somewhere each month. Once a year, we join 25 other motorhomers and caravanners on a golf safari and we are planning another South Island trip before the end of the year. New Zealand so wonderful; we will never run out of places to explore.

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