What's the Difference?

VLOOKUP and XLOOKUP are both powerful functions in Microsoft Excel used for searching and retrieving data from a table. However, there are some key differences between the two. VLOOKUP is a traditional function that searches for a value in the leftmost column of a table and returns a corresponding value from a specified column. It has been widely used for years but has limitations, such as only being able to search from left to right. On the other hand, XLOOKUP is a newer function that offers more flexibility and advanced features. It allows searching in any direction, not just left to right, and can return values from columns to the left or right of the search column. XLOOKUP also supports searching for multiple criteria and has the ability to handle errors more efficiently. Overall, XLOOKUP is a more versatile and powerful function compared to VLOOKUP.


FunctionalityLooks up a value in a vertical column and returns a corresponding value from the same row in a different column.Looks up a value in a range or array and returns a corresponding value from the same position in a different range or array.
Lookup DirectionOnly looks up values vertically (from top to bottom).Can look up values both vertically and horizontally.
Lookup RangeRequires the lookup range to be sorted in ascending order.Does not require the lookup range to be sorted.
Lookup TypeSupports exact match lookup only.Supports exact match, approximate match, and wildcard match lookups.
Return ValueReturns the first matching value found in the lookup range.Returns the corresponding value based on the specified match type.
Error HandlingReturns #N/A error if no match is found.Allows custom error handling with the IFERROR function.
CompatibilityAvailable in older versions of Excel.Introduced in Excel 365 and available in newer versions.

Further Detail


When it comes to working with data in spreadsheets, Excel users often rely on functions like VLOOKUP and XLOOKUP to search for specific values and retrieve corresponding information from a table. While both functions serve a similar purpose, they have distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the features and capabilities of VLOOKUP and XLOOKUP, highlighting their similarities and differences to help you determine which function is best suited for your needs.


VLOOKUP, short for "vertical lookup," is a widely used function in Excel that allows users to search for a value in the leftmost column of a table and retrieve information from a specified column to the right. It follows a simple syntax: =VLOOKUP(lookup_value, table_array, col_index_num, [range_lookup]).

One of the key attributes of VLOOKUP is its ability to perform approximate matches by default. This means that if an exact match is not found, it will return the closest match that is less than the lookup value. However, this behavior can be changed by setting the [range_lookup] argument to FALSE, forcing an exact match.

VLOOKUP also has limitations. It can only search for values in the leftmost column of a table and retrieve information from columns to the right. This can be restrictive in certain scenarios where you need to search for values in different columns or retrieve information from columns to the left.

Another limitation of VLOOKUP is that it cannot search for values in the same column as the lookup value. This means that if you want to search for a value in column A and retrieve information from column B, you cannot use VLOOKUP directly. Instead, you would need to rearrange your data or use additional functions like INDEX and MATCH.

Despite its limitations, VLOOKUP remains a powerful and widely used function due to its simplicity and familiarity to Excel users. However, Microsoft recognized the need for a more versatile and flexible lookup function, leading to the introduction of XLOOKUP.


XLOOKUP, introduced in Excel 365, is a newer and more advanced lookup function that addresses many of the limitations of VLOOKUP. It offers a more intuitive syntax and provides enhanced capabilities for searching and retrieving data from tables.

One of the key advantages of XLOOKUP is its ability to perform both vertical and horizontal lookups. This means that you can search for values in any column of a table and retrieve information from any column, regardless of their relative positions. This flexibility allows for more complex data analysis and manipulation.

XLOOKUP also offers the option to perform exact matches by default, eliminating the need to specify the [range_lookup] argument. This simplifies the function's usage and reduces the chances of errors.

Another notable feature of XLOOKUP is its ability to handle multiple criteria. With the use of arrays, XLOOKUP can search for values based on multiple conditions, making it a powerful tool for complex data analysis and filtering.

In addition, XLOOKUP provides enhanced error handling. It allows users to specify custom error messages when a lookup value is not found, providing more meaningful feedback and improving the overall user experience.


Both VLOOKUP and XLOOKUP are valuable functions in Excel that serve the purpose of searching and retrieving data from tables. VLOOKUP is a simpler and more familiar option, but it has limitations in terms of the columns it can search and retrieve data from. On the other hand, XLOOKUP offers more flexibility, allowing for both vertical and horizontal lookups, handling multiple criteria, and providing enhanced error handling.

Ultimately, the choice between VLOOKUP and XLOOKUP depends on the specific requirements of your data analysis tasks. If you are working with simple tables and need a quick and straightforward lookup function, VLOOKUP may be sufficient. However, if you require more advanced capabilities and flexibility in your data analysis, XLOOKUP is the recommended choice.

It is worth noting that XLOOKUP is only available in Excel 365 and later versions, so if you are using an older version of Excel, VLOOKUP remains your primary option. Regardless of the function you choose, mastering the use of lookup functions in Excel can greatly enhance your productivity and efficiency when working with data.

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