Sonder vs. Airbnb: A comparison guide for 2023

Published Date: November 28, 2023

A family of six walks out of a home while considering the differences between Sonder vs Airbnb.
Travelers seeking adventurous stays without the hotel price tag enjoy the convenient features vacation rentals have to offer. Two popular vacation rental sites are Sonder and Airbnb. Both platforms give travelers an array of amenities in international locations — but which one is better? Our Sonder vs. Airbnb comparison highlights the differences between the two platforms, the pros and cons of each and a third option for travelers who frequent the same destination. We’ll break down:Let’s find the best option for your next vacation.
Number of listings5,000+6 million+
Types of rentalsEntire unitsShared rooms, private rooms, entire units
Typical guestsBusiness professionals, digital nomads, solo travelers, groupsBusiness professionals, digital nomads, solo travelers, groups, amilies
FeesNightly fee, taxesNightly fee, taxes, cleaning fee, service fee
Instant bookingAvailableAvailable
ReviewsNot currently availableSubmit a 1-5-star rating and written review within 14 days after the stay
Cancellation policyFull refund if canceled within 3 days of booking if the Flex Rate is selected at checkout. No refunds if the Flex Rate is not selected at checkout.Full refund if canceled within 48 hours of booking if the Refundable Rate was selected at checkout (varies). Partial refund after the 48-hour window for select listings. AirCover coverage plan offers full refunds if a similar or better Airbnb is unavailable during an emergency with the original booking.

Sonder vs. Airbnb rental types

A graphic shows the difference in rental types between Sonder vs Airbnb.
Airbnb is known for unique stays in over 200 countries and regions. From treehouses to vineyard mansions, there is a rental type for everyone’s travel style and budget. Guests have the choice of staying in a shared room, a private room or booking an entire unit. You can book both long-term and short-term rentals, though amenities will vary with each listing.Sonder, on the other hand, is a boutique-style hotel found in over 40 cities across the globe. Guests only have the option to book entire units and are supported by Sonder staff rather than individual hosts. Sonder generally caters to short-term stays and provides hotel-style amenities like bathroom supplies and coffee.

Sonder vs. Airbnb user interface 

Both vacation rental websites have convenient apps you can download on your mobile device. While searching for a place to stay, both rental sites offer these filter options:
  • Location
  • Price range
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of beds
  • Number of bathrooms
  • Air conditioning
  • Gym or fitness center
  • Laundry services
  • Parking
Given the appeal of Airbnb’s unique stays, not all rental units have Wi-Fi, television or even electricity. However, guests can browse through extensive accessibility features and choose to stay somewhere that meets their needs.All Sonder stays are equipped with high-speed internet and contactless check-in. Sonder does not currently offer pet-friendly accommodations, and availability varies from host to host on Airbnb. 

Sonder vs. Airbnb selection

Given that Airbnb has various rental types in almost every country in the world, guests in need of a stay right away may have better luck on Airbnb. The rental site also specializes in exotic vacation destinations for travelers eager to get off the beaten path. If security and a seamless check-in experience are your priority, Sonder has you covered. Since its listings are only available in major cities, Sonder vacation rentals can be a great option for those visiting tourist destinations.

Sonder vs. Airbnb prices and fees

A graphic shows the difference between Sonder vs Airbnb property rates.
Sonder charges a set rate for every unit it lists. This fee includes the price of lodging, cleaning and administration. The only other fees guests will be responsible for are tax and cancellations. Sonder offers a Flex Rate at checkout that offers guests free cancellation and a full refund on their booking for a premium. However, bookings canceled within three days of a reservation do not qualify for a refund or free cancellation.Airbnb, on the other hand, charges a service fee for using its platform and a cleaning fee that can vary depending on the host. Guests can choose the Refundable Rate at checkout for free cancellation within 48 hours and a partial refund a week before the scheduled stay.AirCover by Airbnb is a free comprehensive coverage plan that guarantees all guests a similar or better booking in the event that they cannot check into their accommodation, the host cancels on them within 30 days of their booking or their unit isn’t as advertised. If a similar or better unit is not found, guests will be given a full refund.

Sonder vs. Airbnb reviews

Airbnb offers both guests and hosts up to 14 days to leave a review. A review is not mandatory for either party, and only hosts are able to respond to reviews left on their listings. Since guests have up to two weeks to share feedback, you may not have access to the most recent experiences of previous renters.Unlike Airbnb, Sonder does not have a rating or review system on its website. Since the platform chooses to operate like a hotel, each listing shares what guests can expect when they book the unit. Third-party reviews, however, are readily available on mainstream travel sites such as TripAdvisor and, similar to hotel stays.

Sonder vs. Airbnb customer service

The Sonder app grants guests access to 24/7 customer support, and in-person attendants are available if virtual communication is unable to resolve the issue. Customer service at Sonder is able to provide guests with fresh towels, coffee refills and no-contact check-ins and checkouts.The customer service experience at Airbnb depends on the listing and the host’s level of involvement. Airbnb provides 24/7 virtual chat services to all guests under its AirCover coverage plan, however, in-person representatives are unavailable. Hosts may be available to help resolve issues, although this depends on the listing and is not consistent within the platform.

Sonder vs. Airbnb safety

Sonder emphasizes security and health safety within each of its buildings, and guests can select listings with a doorman for an additional layer of comfort. Contactless check-in helps keep guests safe while traveling and units are cleaned after each booking.Airbnb allows guests to share their itinerary with family and friends, which is especially helpful for solo travelers who prefer to stay in remote areas. It is the host’s responsibility to clean and maintain their listings,  the hygiene standard can vary across bookings. Contactless check-ins are available but are not standard.

Another option for long-term stays: Second home ownership

A graphic compares second home ownership with Sonder vs Airbnb.
Sites like Airbnb and Sonder offer convenient booking options for occasional adventures. Travelers who find themselves drawn to the same destination, however, have another option that can save them money in the long run.Owning a second home could be a sound investment for those who prioritize safety, consistency and comfort when they visit a destination they love. Not to mention, homeowners can benefit from potential equity and are able to customize their dwelling so they truly feel at home. Owning a second home — especially through a fully managed co-ownership like Pacaso — offers many valuable, unexpected benefits for your family vacations. Rather than wasting time and money looking for vacation rentals, you own a home that you can return to year-round and enjoy a consistent luxury experience. As a co-owner of a Pacaso, you can choose the amount of ownership that's right for you and schedule stays in your home. Pacaso acts as the property manager, taking care of the interior design, furnishings, cleaning and maintenance, as all you have to do is show up and enjoy. So when it comes to Sonder vs. Airbnb, both rental websites offer guests a convenient way to travel internationally. But is one better than the other? That depends on what you need out of your vacation rental. However, if you frequent a particular destination and are searching for a secure and comforting way to enjoy your favorite place, owning a second home could be the solution.
An infographic compares and contrasts Sonder vs Airbnb.

Sonder vs. Airbnb FAQ

Is Sonder owned by Airbnb?

No, Sonder is not owned by Airbnb. Although Sonder and Airbnb are competitors, Sonder lists units on Airbnb on occasion.

Are fees higher on Sonder or Airbnb?

Fees are higher and can fluctuate on Airbnb. Hosts are responsible for setting the cleaning fee, and Airbnb charges a service fee for each listing. Sonder, however, sets a fixed price per listing and only adds taxes to the bill. 

Which is safer: Airbnb or Sonder?

Both rental platforms offer safety features. Airbnb does not have in-person representatives to assist guests, while Sonder does. For this reason Sonder also has a consistent security practices across bookings, while Airbnb’s security features vary with each listing.

What is the best alternative to Airbnb?

There are many Airbnb alternatives to consider, and this answer as to what’s the best depends on what you are looking for in a vacation rental.

Pacaso Icon for profile pictures


  • Share this post:

Featured articles

Travelers carry their luggage into their beachside rental unit, confident they received the best deal after comparing Vrbo vs Airbnb.

Pacaso co-ownership home in Lake Tahoe
ByJen Lyons


Don't miss out

The best homes sell fast. See the latest listings, inspiring second homes and buying tips.

Want to chat? Contact us.