VW T6 Dimensions: Making the Best Choice Between Short and Long Wheel Base Campervans

The perfect base vehicle for camper conversion is crucial for adventures, family trips, or mobile workspaces.

For years, the Volkswagen Transporter T6 and T6.1 have been the top choices for campervan conversions, and for good reason.

Known for reliability and versatility, they offer home-like comfort with features like an elevating roof for extra space and sleeping.

Choosing between short and long-wheelbase involves considering interior and exterior dimensions and turning circles for functionality.

This article explores SWB and LWB VW campervans, aiding in an informed choice for comfortable journeys.

Why choose a VW Van for a van conversion

VW T6 Dimensions illustration line drawings

Choosing a van conversion has many benefits that cater to various needs, whether for adventure, family trips, or remote working.

Here are some key reasons why a VW campervan stands out as an ideal choice:

  • Reliability and Build Quality:
    • VW campervans are celebrated for their exceptional reliability and build quality, ensuring a hassle-free ownership experience.
    • These vehicles are known to last between 250,000 to 500,000 miles or more with proper maintenance and regular servicing, showcasing their durability.
    • The VW Transporter ranks second in the Parkers reliability report for vans, underscoring its reliability, which should alleviate any significant concerns for potential owners.
  • Community and Resale Value:
    • Owning a VW campervan grants access to a passionate and welcoming community of enthusiasts. This community offers invaluable support and advice and organises social events, enriching the overall experience.
    • VW campervans maintain a strong resale value, making them a sound long-term investment. This is partly due to their strong following in the UK and globally, making them highly desirable.
  • Design and Versatility:
    • The distinctive style of VW Transporters, rooted in heritage and history dating back to the 1970s, appeals to many for its iconic design.
    • These campervans are incredibly versatile. They are available in four spec levels—Startline, Trendline, Highline, and Sportline—to cater to various preferences and needs.
    • The VW Transporter’s rich history, evolving through models from the T1 split screen in 1947 to the latest T6.1, underscores its iconic status in the campervan market. This history and the vehicle’s practicality, reliability, and versatility make it the most popular and iconic campervan model.

For the up-to-date van dimensions, see https://www.vanguide.co.uk/guides/vw-transporter-dimensions/

These factors collectively make VW Transporters an unparalleled choice for those considering a van conversion.

Whether the priority is durability, community support, investment value, or the unique blend of style and versatility, VW campervans cater to various preferences and needs, making them an excellent base vehicle for various conversion projects.

Benefits of a Short Wheel Base (SWB) VW Campervan

Blue T6 transporter Campervan with grey pop top raised.

For those considering a VW van conversion for adventures, family trips, or remote working, the Short Wheel Base (SWB) VW Campervan offers a combination of several compelling benefits that cater to a range of needs:

  • Maneuverability and Parking Ease:
    • The SWB VW campervan’s turning circle of 11.9 meters, compared to the LWB’s 13.6 meters, makes it significantly easier to navigate through narrow streets and tight parking spaces.
    • Its shorter wheelbase and overall length enhance manoeuvrability, particularly in urban environments and tight spaces, making it an ideal choice for city dwellers or those who frequent densely populated areas.
  • Cost-Effectiveness:
    • Initial purchase price: The SWB Highline costs approximately £31,000, whereas the LWB Highline is around £33,000, making the SWB version more budget-friendly.
    • Conversion and maintenance: The SWB campervan is cheaper to convert and generally more affordable to maintain, making it an economical option for those looking to customise their van on a budget.
    • Fuel efficiency: The 84PS SWB variant’s fuel consumption is 44.1mpg, compared to 40.9mpg for the 84PS LWB variant. Thus, the SWB model offers better fuel efficiency, which can lead to significant savings over time.
  • Versatility for Adventures and Daily Use:
    • Despite its smaller size, the SWB VW campervan provides a comfortable living space capable of sleeping arrangements for two to four people, making it suitable for solo travellers and small families.
    • Its agility on rough terrain and off-road capabilities make it a preferred choice for adventurers exploring beyond the beaten path.
    • The SWB model can serve dual purposes as a daily driver and a holiday home on wheels, offering the flexibility to transition seamlessly between everyday use and vacationing.

Incorporating these aspects into the decision-making process will help ensure that the choice between an SWB and LWB VW campervan aligns with individual lifestyle preferences, whether the priority is manoeuvrability, cost-efficiency, or versatility for various trips and activities.

Benefits of a Long Wheel Base (LWB) VW Campervan

LWB Tranporter in grey black wheels and awning

When considering the Long Wheel Base (LWB) VW Campervan for adventures, family trips, or remote working, the numerous benefits are tailored towards those seeking more space and comfort during their travels.


Here’s a breakdown of the key advantages:

  • Space and Comfort:
    • Interior Space: The LWB VW Campervan offers significantly more interior space, allowing for larger beds, a bigger kitchen, and increased storage capacity.

This is especially beneficial for families or groups of four adults, as it provides ample room for everyone to sleep comfortably.

    • Access and Storage: With the bed down, cupboards are more accessible, and the additional storage or a Porta Potti extension cupboard, along with a slender overhead locker at the rear, enhances convenience for longer trips.
    • Living Area: The extra floor space includes small side tables and provides room to stretch out, adding to the campervan’s overall comfort and livability.
  • Driveability and Practicality:
    • Smoother Ride: The longer distance between the front and rear wheels means bumps in the road are less noticeable, ensuring a smoother ride.

Despite its size, the LWB VW Campervan offers a car-like driving experience with improved handling and manoeuvrability, making it well-suited for long-distance travel and city exploration.

    • Fuel Efficiency: While more significant than its SWB counterpart, the LWB model maintains better fuel efficiency than larger motorhomes, presenting a cost-effective option for those planning extensive travel.
  • Considerations:
    • Cost and Maintenance: It’s important to note that LWB vehicles have higher ferry charges and may stick out in most car parks. Certain accessories and the Class for the MOT for LWB vehicles may also incur extra costs.
    • Manoeuvrability: While offering more space, the LWB model does have a wider turning circle and may face challenges with pyramid speed bumps if lowered on ultras, which could be a consideration for those frequently navigating urban environments.

The choice between a SWB and LWB VW Campervan ultimately depends on the individual’s needs and preferences.

For those prioritising space, comfort, and the ability to undertake more extended periods of wild camping with ease, the LWB VW Campervan stands out as an excellent choice.

However, considerations such as the potential for higher costs and slightly reduced manoeuvrability in specific situations should be weighed in the decision-making process.

Campervan interior, black, grey and beige

Cost differences

When considering the purchase of a VW T6 for conversion into a campervan, it is crucial to understand the cost differences between the Short-wheelbase (SWB) and long-wheelbase (LWB) models.

This information not only influences the initial purchase decision but also impacts the overall budget for the conversion project.

  • Initial Purchase Price:
    • The SWB model is generally more budget-friendly, with an initial cost of approximately £2,000 less than the LWB model.
    • A good quality, low mileage T6 or T6.1, regardless of the wheelbase, can fall within the price range of £25,000 to £35,000.
  • Investment Considerations:
    • Opting for a second-hand base vehicle costing less than £10,000 may not be wise. Potential hidden costs or the need for more extensive modifications might strain the conversion budget.
    • Your budget should guide the decision on which model to purchase, how frequently the van will be used, and the number of people it needs to accommodate for sleeping.

Comparative Analysis: Space and Comfort

Space and comfort are pivotal factors in choosing between a Short-Wheel-Base (SWB) and Long-Wheel-Base (LWB) campervan for conversion.

  • Roof Options and Cargo Space:
    • Both SWB and LWB Volkswagen Transporters can have standard-height roofs, which are common and provide a balanced profile for the vehicle. However, higher roofs can be added for those needing increased cargo space or headroom. Remember, you can fit a pop-top roof to the standard height of the vehicle, increasing the overall usable space.

This modification is particularly beneficial for LWB models. It enhances their suitability for family trips or remote working setups where extra space could be used for storage or as a more comfortable living area.

  • Tailgate vs. Barn Doors:
    • The choice between tailgates and barn doors affects access and convenience in different scenarios:
      • Tailgates are more popular due to their seamless look and the shelter they provide from rain when open.

However, they can limit access in tight spaces, making loading and unloading cumbersome.

      • Conversely, Barn Doors allow for easier access to the vehicle’s rear, especially in confined spaces.

This feature is advantageous for those who frequent urban environments or need to load and unload gear frequently.

Yet, barn doors may not provide the same level of shelter from the elements as tailgates.

  • Practical Considerations:
    • Turning Circle and Cleaning: The LWB model might have a wider turning circle, which could be a critical factor for those who plan to navigate through narrow city streets or tight camping spots.

Additionally, the larger LWB means it could take longer to clean, a minor but practical consideration for some.

    • MOT Classification: It’s worth noting that the LWB might be classified as Class 7 for MOT, which can influence maintenance and inspection requirements.
    • This classification may impact the overall cost of ownership and should be considered by those weighing the benefits of additional space against potential increased operational costs.

Comparative Analysis: Driveability and Practicality

Campervan interior, black, grey and beige

In evaluating the driveability and practicality of both versions of the T6 campervans, the choice between a Short-Wheel-Base (SWB) front body and a Long-Wheel-Base (LWB) model hinges on the intended use and the balance between performance and convenience.

Here are some key considerations:

  • Engine and Performance:
    • The recommended 150PS engine for the T6.1 conversions strikes an optimal balance between performance and fuel economy, providing sufficient power for daily driving and longer journeys with a campervan’s added weight.
    • Considering engine power, lower-power engines might be adequate for standard delivery vans but not a campervan once it’s converted.

Still, they could struggle under the load of a fully converted campervan, making a higher-power option preferable for those planning extensive modifications or carrying additional weight.

  • Transmission Choices:
    • With its dual-clutch technology and seven gears, the DSG automatic gearbox is preferred for a smoother driving experience.

This feature is particularly beneficial for those prioritising ease of driving and comfort over long distances. It offers seamless gear changes and reduces driver fatigue.

  • Practicality for Conversion:
    • When planning a campervan conversion, it’s important to note that models like the Shuttle and Caravelle may not be the most conversion-friendly due to their additional lights, vents, and plastic trims.

Transporter T6 with roofed raised, view with Drone

These features could complicate the conversion process or limit the customisation options available.

Conclusion and Recommendations


Choosing Between Short and Long Wheelbase VW Transporters

  1. How do I decide between a short-wheelbase (SWB) and a long-wheelbase (LWB) VW Transporter? 

Deciding between a SWB and LWB VW Transporter depends on your unique needs. If you often drive in cities and require a vehicle that’s easier to handle and park, the SWB might suit you better. On the other hand, if you’re looking to haul larger items or need more space, opting for the LWB could be the right choice.

  1. Which VW Transporter model is ideal for converting into a campervan? 

There’s no wrong choice between the T6 models of Transporters for campervan conversions. However, this year, the recommended engine type is the 2.0 diesel for the T6, which is particularly well-suited for camper conversions.

Understanding the Difference Between SWB and LWB

  1. What distinguishes a LWB from a SWB Multivan? 

LWB and SWB refer to the wheelbase length, which is based on the distance between the centre of the front and rear wheels. LWB vans feature a longer gap between these wheels than SWB vans, resulting in a smaller width and longer overall vehicle length.