XLOOKUP vs. VLOOKUP: Excel’s Dynamic Duo for Data Lookup


In the world of Microsoft Excel, data lookup is a fundamental operation, and two functions that have long been essential tools in an Excel user’s arsenal are XLOOKUP and VLOOKUP. These functions serve a common purpose – searching for specific values within a table or range of data and returning corresponding values – but they do so with different features and capabilities. In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between these two Excel functions to help you choose the right one for your data lookup needs.

1. Flexibility

  • VLOOKUP is the older of the two and has its limitations. It can only search for a value in the leftmost column of a table and return a value from a specified column to the right. This restriction can be frustrating in situations where your data isn’t organized in this specific way.
  • On the other hand, XLOOKUP is a more versatile option. It allows you to search for a value anywhere in a table and return a value from the same row. You can specify whether the returned value should be to the left or right of the search column. This flexibility is a significant advantage, especially when dealing with more complex data structures.

2. Syntax

  • VLOOKUP relies on a relatively simple syntax: VLOOKUP(lookup_value, table_array, col_index_num, [range_lookup]). This straightforward structure makes it relatively easy to use.
  • XLOOKUP uses a more comprehensive syntax: XLOOKUP(lookup_value, lookup_array, return_array, [if_not_found], [match_mode], [search_mode]). While the syntax might appear a bit more complex, it offers greater control and flexibility when searching for and returning values.

3. Error Handling

  • VLOOKUP can return errors if the lookup value is not found. You need to use the [range_lookup] argument to control the type of matching (exact match or approximate match).
  • XLOOKUP simplifies error handling by offering built-in error handling options. You can specify a custom value to be returned if the lookup value is not found without needing a separate error handling function.

4. Multiple Results

  • XLOOKUP has the unique ability to return multiple results if there are duplicate lookup values in the search column. This can be incredibly useful when dealing with datasets that contain repeated values.
  • VLOOKUP cannot return multiple results and would require additional workarounds to achieve a similar outcome.

5. Return Results from Different Directions

  • While XLOOKUP allows you to return results from either the left or right of the search column, VLOOKUP is limited to returning results from the right.

6. Dynamic Arrays

  • XLOOKUP is part of Excel’s dynamic array functions, which means it can spill results into multiple cells if used in an array formula. VLOOKUP cannot do this, making XLOOKUP a more powerful tool when working with large datasets.


In the battle of XLOOKUP vs. VLOOKUP, it’s clear that XLOOKUP is the more powerful and flexible tool for data lookup in Excel, especially in modern versions of the software. Its advanced capabilities, dynamic array support, and superior error handling make it the preferred choice for most users. However, VLOOKUP may still have a role in older Excel versions or simpler scenarios.

To harness the full potential of Excel’s data lookup functions, familiarize yourself with XLOOKUP, and you’ll find that it’s a game-changer when working with complex and diverse datasets.