Vrbo vs. Airbnb: Which is best for vacationers and hosts?

Published Date: November 30, 2023

Travelers carry their luggage into their beachside rental unit, confident they received the best deal after comparing Vrbo vs Airbnb.
Escaping the high prices and constricting environment of hotel rooms is a high priority for travelers, which has led to lucrative opportunities for vacation rentals.Two vacation rental platforms have risen to the top of this industry: Vrbo and Airbnb.But you might be wondering, as many travelers and property owners do, “Between Vrbo vs. Airbnb, which is better for me?” That’s where this comparison guide comes in, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of each. Before we dive in, it’s important to note that many vacation rental owners (also known as hosts) list their properties on multiple online platforms. This allows hosts to cast a wider net with potential renters and gives renters the ability to do a side-by-side comparison on costs and fees — we’ll touch on more on that below. Without further ado, lets find which option is right for you.

Airbnb and Vrbo rental types

The greatest distinction that can be made between Vrbo and Airbnb is the types of property each vacation rental company offers. Vrbo only allows the rental of private units — meaning Vrbo houses, cabins and apartments are only occupied by the renters. You won’t be seeing any shared spaces on the site, which makes it ideal for families and groups of people traveling together.
An image compares the possible rental options in a Vrbo vs Airbnb matchup.
Airbnb places no such restrictions on their listings. They allow the rental of entire homes, private rooms in a shared house, and even the sharing of a single room with other travelers.

Airbnb vs. Vrbo user interface

There isn’t much of a difference between the Vrbo and Airbnb user interfaces. Anyone experienced with booking travel accommodations online will find the platforms’ search functions familiar.They each have dozens of filter options to choose from, including: Vrbo has a leg up on Airbnb by allowing renters to specifically filter by highly rated locations and cleanliness. Airbnb has a similar feature which filters by “Superhosts,” the label Airbnb gives to experienced and highly rated hosts, whether they’re individuals or property management companies. Since this filter groups multiple criteria together, it isn’t as useful to renters who prioritize one above others. Winner: Vrbo

Airbnb vs. Vrbo selection

Since Airbnb has options for shared rentals, its total selection is about triple that of Vrbo’s. It’s estimated that Airbnb has about six million listings. So if you’re in need of a last-minute booking — or have tight budget constraints — in a Vrbo vs. Airbnb matchup, your best bet is Airbnb. Aside from the total number of listings, the styles of rental units are about the same. Both Airbnb and Vrbo have options for everything from mountaintop cabins to beachside bungalows.Winner: Airbnb

Airbnb and Vrbo prices and fees

Both Airbnb and Vrbo have service fees tacked onto their prices, but the options they give hosts differ. Airbnb allows hosts to choose between host-only fees and split fees. Host-only fees mean the host is charged the entire service fee by Airbnb — usually around 14-16% of the booking cost.Airbnb’s split fee charges the renter the majority of the service fee. This can increase the  cost to rent by about 14%, while charging hosts only around 3%. Hosts with strict cancellation policies can expect to pay even more in service fees. 
An image compares Vrbo vs Airbnb prices for the same property listed on each platform.
Vrbo fees charge guests 6-12% of the total reservation cost. This service fee does not include optional charges, like cleaning fees, that are determined by the host.Vrbo provides two options for hosts to pay fees. They can choose an annual subscription fee of $499 and bypass service fees on individual bookings. If a host has multiple properties, they’ll need a subscription plan for each listing. So if you expect to make more than $10,000 per year, this is the preferred choice. Vrbo also allows for individual booking fees of 5%. If your listing is seasonal and you expect to make less than $10,000 per year, this is likely the better option.Winner: It depends on your situation

Airbnb and Vrbo reviews

Airbnb places a tight time constraint of 14 days on guests to leave their reviews. This means you’ll be getting the opinion of a previous renter when the experience is still fresh in their mind. Vrbo guests and Vrbo hosts have up to one year after the visit to leave a review. Vrbo then gives the other party 14 days from the time of submission to send in their own review. Vrbo lists the submissions of both guests and hosts in the review section, giving potential renters both sides of the story.Airbnb and Vrbo both use a five-star rating system.Winner: Airbnb

Airbnb vs. Vrbo customer service

Since both Vrbo and Airbnb are the liaisons between guests and hosts, they need to make both parties happy, which means that customer service resolutions can be complicated. But which has better customer service?Airbnb saw a tremendous amount of growth in a relatively short amount of time, which left them scrambling to keep up with their growing customer base. This led to lackluster reports about their customer service, with many struggling to get in touch with a real person.  Vrbo, on the other hand, has a direct support line that is ready 24 hours a day to help guests and property owners alike resolve issues. Their customer support team can even help hosts rebook guests in the event a natural disaster makes the property untenable. It’s important to note that Airbnb handles way more rentals than Vrbo, so judging complaints based solely on these numbers may be misleading. Winner: Vrbo

Airbnb and Vrbo safety

Airbnb offers a specialized safety feature for solo travelers. It allows them to share their reservation itinerary with family and friends. The feature also offers safety tips and provides questions to ask hosts. Vrbo has fewer complications regarding guest safety since they only offer private rentals. Still, Vrbo provides assistance to guests who feel unsafe in their rental unit by helping them rebook. They then investigate the claim to determine if the host is in violation of any policies. All hosts are also required to disclose if any monitoring devices are installed on the property. Winner: Vrbo

Airbnb and Vrbo cancellation policies 

Both vacation rental platforms allow hosts to choose from different cancellation policy options. On Airbnb, the options range from flexible (where guests can cancel until 24 hours before check-in to receive a full refund) to strict (where guests must cancel within 48 hours of booking and at least 14 days before check-in). There are a few other options in between. Vrbo’s cancellation policy options are similar but named differently. The most lenient option is relaxed, in which bookings canceled with at least 14 days notice will receive a full refund. The strictest option is no refund, where no money will be refunded, no matter the reason. Like Airbnb, there are a few options in between. As a renter, you should always check the cancellation policy before booking, as the restrictions can vary by individual listing. Cancellation policies can also vary based on the length of your rental. Longer-term rentals, like those longer than 28 days in duration, may have different cancellation policies. Winner: It depends on the individual listing

Other options for long-term stays

An image compares second home ownership vs Vrbo vs Airbnb stays to see which is the best option for frequent travelers.
The Vrbo vs. Airbnb matchup is an easy one to make given their popularity and similar business models. However, there is a third option for travelers who regularly visit the same property, one that can improve safety while saving money long term.Purchasing a second home at a location you regularly visit opens up options that are not available with services like Airbnb and Vrbo. Many cities have begun blocking vacation rental services due to their impact on local property values. By using a service like Pacaso where you are an owner of the property, you can stay in these restricted areas. Better yet, rather than losing money on rent, you’ll have the opportunity to build equity in the property through your mortgage. Plus, with a fully managed co-ownership model like Pacaso, you can co-own your second home for a fraction of the cost and enjoy easy hassle-free ownership.So who wins the Vrbo vs. Airbnb matchup? Well, it all depends on you.In general, a renter will have an easier time finding what they’re looking for by using Airbnb due to its greater number of options. If you’ll be traveling with multiple people, there’s no harm in browsing both sites to ensure you get the best deal on what’s available. But if you’ve fallen in love with a particular city and you’re tired of throwing money away on rentals, learn more about how we can help it become your second home

Vrbo vs. Airbnb FAQs

What does Vrbo stand for?

Vrbo means Vacation Rentals by Owner, an acronym for its way of doing business. Rather than pronouncing each letter individually, its official pronunciation is “VER-bo.”

Are fees higher on Vrbo or Airbnb?

Both services have options to reduce fees for hosts and guests. 

Guests on Airbnb can save money by looking for rentals where hosts pay the entire service fee. 

Hosts can avoid a 5% service fee on Vrbo by paying for an annual subscription of $499. This is recommended for hosts making more than $10,000 per year on their rental properties.

Which is safer: Airbnb or Vrbo?

While both services take steps to ensure their guests’ safety, Airbnb carries greater risks since they allow travelers to stay in shared spaces. 

An infographic compares the metrics of Vrbo vs Airbnb so travelers can better determine which platform is right for them.

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