Cubic meters (m3) and liters (L) are two metric units of volume. A cubic meter is a much larger unit than a liter. One cubic meter is 1000 liters!
Here are three easy ways to convert cubic meters to liters. The first method doesn’t require any math at all. The second method shows how to convert between cubic meters and liters in a single step. The first method illustrates why a cubic meter is so much larger than a liter.
Method 1: No-Math Cubic Meters to Liters Conversion
You don’t actually need to use a conversion factor or calculator to convert cubic meters to liters. All you do is move the decimal point three places to the right. This is the same as multiplying by one thousand. If you want to convert liters to cubic meters, just move the decimal point three places to the left. It’s that easy.
Method 2: Multiply by One Thousand
1 cubic meter = 1000 liters
So, convert cubic meters to liters by multiplying by 1000.
How many liters are 0.25 cubic meters?
liters = (cubic meters) x (1000 liters/cubic meters)
liters = (0.25 cubic meters ) x (1000 liters/cubic meters)
liters = 250 L
Note that the cubic meters cancel each other out to leave liters. Also note the answer is reported using the same number of significant digits.
How many liters are in 52.4 cubic meters?
L = (m3) x (1000 L/m3)
L = 52.4 m3 x 1000 L/m3
L = 52400 L
Method 3: Solving m3 to L using cm3
Remember, volume is three-dimensional. The meter is a one-dimensional unit. To get the unit as a volume it has to be cubed. The most common mistake students make with volume conversions is multiplying an answer times 3 or moving the decimal one space rather than three spaces. While not the most straightforward way to convert m3 to L, first converting to cm3 illustrates why units of volume involve a factor of 1000.
- 1 cm3 = 1 mL
- 100 cm = 1 m
- 1000 mL = 1 L
First, convert cubic meters to cubic centimeters.
- 100 cm = 1 m
- (100 cm)3 = (1 m)3
- 1,000,000 cm3 = 1 m3
- since 1 cm3 = 1 mL
- 1 m3 = 1,000,000 mL or 106 mL
Next, set up the conversion so the desired unit will be cancelled out. In this case, we want L to be the remaining unit.
- volume in L = (volume in m3) x (106 mL/1 m3) x (1 L/1000 mL)
- volume in L = (0.25 m3) x (106 mL/1 m3) x (1 L/1000 mL)
- volume in L = (0.25 m3) x (103 L/1 m3)
- volume in L = 250 L
Answer: There are 250 L in 0.25 cubic meters.
Check Your Work
This is a simple unit conversion, but it’s always a good idea to check your work.
- The digits should be the same. The numbers should be the same and in the same order as before. The only difference is that there might be more zeros.
- An answer in liters should be much larger than the number in cubic meters. Remember, it takes a lot of liters to fill one cubic meter.
- Report the answer using the same number of significant digits. Even if you did the conversion correctly, your answer might be considered wrong if you don’t report it right.