Arbor  vs  Pergola

$150 - $2,500
(for a 60-inch wide wooden arbor)
$1,500 - $10,000
(for a 60-inch wide wooden arbor)
Cost to install an arbor or a pergola varies greatly by region (and even by zip code).
Find out how much your outdoor project will cost
+ Much cheaper
+ Easier to install
+ Better for smaller spaces
+ Adds decoration to paths
+ Greater variety of materials
- Less supportive of certain plants
- More decorative than practical
Get free advice and estimates from pros in your city.
$150 - $2,500
(for a 60-inch wide wooden arbor)
+ Provides shade for gatherings
+ Larger and more versatile
+ Can support all kinds of plants
+ Can support extras like curtains and swings
+ Adds more resale value
- More expensive
- Requires more space
- Harder to set up
Get free advice and estimates from pros in your city.
$1,500 - $10,000
(for a 60-inch wide wooden arbor)

People are often confused by the meaning of the words pergola and arbor and use the terms interchangeably. Pergolas and arbors have a lot in common, so it can be difficult to tell them apart. Both are outdoor structures, usually found in places like patios and gardens. They are typically made of wood, featuring cross-beam designs for the roof and often decorated with plants and vines.

So, how do you tell them apart and choose the right one for your property. Fortunately, there are key differences between pergolas and arbors in terms of usage, placement, size, and cost.

Best Use

One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between an arbor and a pergola is to consider their placement and purpose.

An arbor, for example, is usually placed on walkways, paths, or entrances, and are used more for decorative purposes. They are often much smaller than pergolas and do not provide much shade. Instead, they simply add decoration and beauty to a pathway or garden entrance. They may also be used to provide shelter to a small seating area for one to two people.

A pergola is usually much larger, designed to provide a shady and sheltered area for many people to gather. This space can be used for everything from BBQs with the family and gatherings with your friends and neighbors to relaxing in the evenings. Pergolas can be connected to the side of your home or placed over decks and patios.


Pergolas and arbors have key differences in appearance. Arbors are usually made with two or four posts with a slatted and often arched roof. Meanwhile, pergolas typically have four or more posts and flat roofs. The sides of an arbor are usually covered with lattice or a trellis, while the sides of a pergola are most commonly left open.

When it comes to construction, pergolas can be made from various materials, including Alumawood, fiberglass, and different woods, such as pine and cedar. Arbors, meanwhile, can be made from vinyl, composite, wood, or metal. In general, wood is the most common material for arbors and pergolas alike.


Both arbors and pergolas can support vines and climbing plants of various types. In fact, pergolas were originally made in ancient times around Egypt, Greece, and Rome purely to support climbing plants and bring beauty and decoration to gardens and outdoor spaces.

This means that you can use either an arbor or pergola to grow plants along the trellis or lattice side walls or across the roof. But think carefully about which plants you use because the structure must support their size and weight.

Both arbors and pergolas are well-suited to a range of plants like American honeysuckle, roses, jasmine, and clematis. However, certain plants, like wisteria or grapevines, can be quite heavy and should only be placed on strong and sturdy pergolas.

Other features

As well as plants, you can also decorate arbors and pergolas with lights and other features. Battery or solar-powered fairy lights can be strung around the lattice or roof of an arbor to enhance its beauty in the evenings. Pergolas are usually large and strong enough to support larger lights with bulbs or even hanging lanterns.

Pergolas can also have curtains added to the sides to provide privacy and decoration, as well as offering a barrier against the breeze. Since pergolas are stronger and sturdier, you can tie swings to the roof beams or install a canvas shade along the roof. Some pergolas have even been fitted with hammocks and hanging beds.


The installation process for either an arbor or pergola depends on many factors, such as materials, shape, size, and whether you are using a premade kit or custom DIY design.

In both cases, holes usually need to be dug for the posts, which are then inserted into the ground and cemented in place before the rest of the frame and roof are built.

Since pergolas are usually bigger, the installation process tends to be longer and may require more people. If you have some DIY experience, you can install both arbors and pergolas alone, but professionals can help in either case.


A pergola is almost always more expensive than an arbor, but the costs depend on whether you buy a premade kit and set it up yourself or hire professionals to make and install the entire thing from scratch.

Pergola kits range from $1,500 to $2,500. If you install it, then there are no major additional costs. If you hire a professional, the cost is around $500 to $1,000. To construct and install a custom design, you can pay $10,000 or more, especially if you choose more expensive materials like fiberglass and elaborate designs.

Plastic and wooden arbor kits, meanwhile, can be found for about $150 to $250 and set up for free on your own or for about $200 if you hire a pro. If you want a professional to build and set up an arbor from scratch, expect to pay $1,000 or more, depending on the size, design, and materials used.

In general, if you want to install a premade pergola kit, you must pay for the material costs at around $1,500 to $2,500 and installation costs of $500 to $1,000, for a total cost of $2,000 to $3,500. For an arbor, material costs range from $150 to $500, with labor costs of $200 to $300 and a total overall cost of $350 to $800.

Resale Value

Installing a pergola or arbor can increase the resale value of your home. But you also have to think about how much money it will cost in the first place and see what percentage of that investment you might get back on the resale. This all depends on various factors, including where you live, what type of pergola/arbor you install, and how competitive the property market is in your area.

For example, data from Remodeling shows that outdoor home improvements of all kinds, including arbors and pergolas, add at least some resale value to a home. But if you want to see the best return on investment, it helps to live in a sunny area where the garden or yard will be used more often. 

In regions with active property markets, you can usually recoup almost the entire cost of any arbor or pergola. The stats show that the more money you put into the project and the better quality installation you make, the higher the resale value. For example, your property resale value will increase by a greater amount if you install an impressive, fiberglass, 12 x 12-foot pergola rather than a small plastic arbor.