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LWB vs SWB - What’s the difference?

Posted in Guides | January 31st 2020

When it comes to discussing vans there is a lot of different terminology, if you are new to the van world you will often hear long wheelbase (LWB) or short wheelbase (SWB) and these refer to a specification of a van. But what exactly do they mean?

The wheelbase of any vehicle is the distance between the centre of the front wheels and the centre of the rear wheels and it is important to remember it’s not the length of the whole vehicle.

Different manufacturer’s offer different wheelbases for each of their vans; some models also offer a medium wheelbase (MWB) and an extra-long wheelbase (XLWB) but these aren’t as common.

So how do you tell the difference between a short wheelbase and a long wheelbase?

Looking at short wheelbase van and a long wheelbase van the difference is essentially the length; long wheelbase vehicles have a clear extension on the end which causes the wheels to be further apart. Also, an easy way to tell the difference on most makes and models is to see if there is a gap in between the sliding door and the rear wheel arch, if there is a gap then the van is not a short wheelbase.  However, certain models have a larger sliding door or extend from behind the rear wheel instead. Long Wheelbase Ford Transit Custom

Benefits of a Long Wheelbase Van:

  • More load space – Of course, if you are buying a longer van then you will get a bigger load area for your tools and equipment. Because of this, long wheelbase vehicles are very popular among people who are planning to do a van life conversion.

  • It’s a smoother ride – This is because the wheels are further apart so when you go over any bumps or dips in the road there will be a longer time between the front and rear wheels hitting the bump so overall driving condition will be smoother and even.

  • Better Fuel Economy and stability – With a bigger vehicle you may feel more at ease and stable as you have a bigger coverage on the road. In comparison to a short wheelbase vehicle, driving an LWB will feel less sporty due to its size so drivers find themselves driving with a lighter foot which leads to better fuel consumption.

Short Wheelbase Ford Transit Custom

Benefits of a Short Wheelbase Van:

  • Easier to drive and manoeuvre – In a short wheelbase vehicle it is easier to do certain manoeuvres like three-point turns, you will be able to easily get down narrow streets or through traffic which will be very difficult with a long wheelbase van.

  • Tighter Handling – Due to their size they will easily be able to move around tight corners and will be less likely to get stuck in a situation they struggle to get out of like a long wheelbase.

  • Sporty Feel – Because of the above points, a SWB will be a fun drive and will feel a lot sportier than an LWB.

Choosing which wheelbase you’d prefer is really down to personal preference and you need to consider what loads you will be carrying, how you would like the drive to feel and the location you’ll be driving in. Both wheelbases have their advantages and disadvantages so you can’t go wrong really!