Bacterial outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) have important biological roles in pathogenesis and intercellular interactions, but a general mechanism of OMV formation is lacking. Here we show that the VacJ/Yrb ABC (ATP-binding cassette) transport system, a proposed phospholipid transporter, is involved in OMV formation. Deletion or repression of VacJ/Yrb increases OMV production in two distantly related Gram-negative bacteria, Haemophilus influenzae and Vibrio cholerae. Lipidome analyses demonstrate that OMVs from VacJ/Yrb-defective mutants in H. influenzae are enriched in phospholipids and certain fatty acids. Furthermore, we demonstrate that OMV production and regulation of the VacJ/Yrb ABC transport system respond to iron starvation. Our results suggest a new general mechanism of OMV biogenesis based on phospholipid accumulation in the outer leaflet of the outer membrane. This mechanism is highly conserved among Gram-negative bacteria, provides a means for regulation, can account for OMV formation under all growth conditions, and might have important pathophysiological roles in vivo.