Airbnb vs. VRBO

When looking for a unique and fun place to stay within your budget, Airbnb and VRBO are likely two of the first places you look. If you are new to these platforms, you may find yourself wondering – what is the difference, and which is better?

Airbnb and VRBO are two of the biggest vacation rental companies to rent from currently. Choosing between the two ultimately comes down to personal preferences.

The two rental services share many similarities but also have several key differences, which we will cover in this article. Keep reading to learn all about each service so you can plan your next vacation with confidence!

What is Airbnb?

Airbnb is an online marketplace for vacation rentals that is available as both a website and a mobile app which both feature a user-friendly interface.

Founded in 2008, Airbnb reportedly has 150 million users as of 2018, according to Business of Apps. As for rentals, the platform offers over 5.6 million listings operated by roughly 4 million hosts.

What is VRBO?

VRBO stands for Vacation Rental By Owner and was one of the first major online rental platforms.

This online marketplace was founded in 1995. Despite being older than Airbnb, VRBO has a smaller user base and approximately 2 million listings, according to Lodgify.

Though originally only available as a website, VRBO has developed its own mobile app now as well. Additionally, VRBO acquired a secondary rental service known as HomeAway, though the services remain as separate brands (more on that later!).

What are the Differences Between Airbnb and VRBO?

When it comes to what makes these vacation rental sites distinct from each other, the biggest difference is in the types of accommodations offered.

VRBO deals strictly in listing private spaces and entire properties. This means that when you rent from VRBO, you are guaranteed to stay at a place without other guests or shared spaces.

Comparatively, Airbnb allows property owners to rent out shared spaces such as single rooms or suites within a house. This gives users a greater amount of choice in terms of pricing, as well as offering accommodations that are ideal for one-night stays.

With this in mind, let’s look at exactly what types of vacation rentals are available on each platform.

Airbnb vs. VRBO: Types of Vacation Rentals

Airbnb: Types of Rentals

Airbnb certainly takes the cake in terms of offering a diverse range of rentals and accommodations.

Airbnb now has over 60 different categories for listings. These categories allow guests to search based on categories such as location, style of accommodation, amenities offered, price, and more. 

Airbnb has even come out with a new category called “Icons,” which features unique listings and experiences. 

Four of the main Airbnb categories are: 

Entire Place

These are your stand-alone houses, apartments, and condos. When you rent an “entire place” this means you will have no shared spaces and the rental will typically include a full kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. Depending on the rental and host, entire places will also generally be the priciest options on the platform.

Private Rooms

Private rooms can be anything from a room within a residential home to a duplex unit attached to a larger house or apartment. While you will have the room itself completely to yourself, other areas such as bathrooms and kitchens may be shared with other guests.

Hotel Rooms

Airbnb allows many different types of accommodations – including more traditional hotel settings. Generally, the hotel rooms you find on Airbnb will be a part of more unique hotels, such as boutiques or bed and breakfasts. You will often have a private room with shared spaces, as well as hotel-themed services such as the ability to order room service.

Shared Rooms

Shared rooms are often the least expensive option on the platform and are similar to staying in a hostel where you sleep in a space with other people. These shared rooms offer vacation renters affordability, flexibility, and the opportunity to connect with their fellow travelers.

In addition to these four main categories, Airbnb has also expanded its business model to offer long-term stays as well.

VRBO: Types of Rentals

When it was first started, VRBO limited its offers to stand-alone or whole-home rentals. Now, it has expanded to a wider variety of rental types; however, VRBO exclusively offers private stays – no shared rooms and only occasional shared spaces.  

The vacation rentals available through VRBO can include full houses, apartments, condos, villas, and more. VRBO focuses on the type of rental and experience offered, dividing its rentals into 7 main sub-categories:

Lake Houses

These VRBO properties are often lake-front properties that make it easy to enjoy sporting and relaxation activities by a lake.

Unique Stays

VRBO has expanded its offers to include more unique stays including villas, treehouses, luxury rentals, glamping, cottages, and farms. Some of these rentals may include shared spaces, but these spaces will often be built-in as part of the experience.

Boat Rentals

With VRBO, you can rent your own boat home! From yachts to houseboats, these rentals offer you not only a unique stay but also a chance to try out life on the water.

Bed and Breakfasts

One of the few shared space options VRBO offers are bed and breakfasts. These rentals give guests the opportunity to connect with locals and other visitors, while also enjoying the food and hospitality services offered by B&Bs.

Condos and Apartments

Condos and apartments available on VRBO often allow guests greater options in terms of what location they are staying in. This gives you more opportunities to travel abroad or stay directly in the heart of a city.

Cabins and Lodges

For those looking for a mountain getaway, VRBO has you covered. They offer cabins and lodges as vacation rentals, with an emphasis on being friendly for large families or group gatherings.

Beach Houses

Like lake houses, the beach houses available on VRBO place guests directly at the beachfront to enjoy and sunny and salty stay by the ocean.

Airbnb vs VRBO: Number of Listings

Airbnb: Number of Listings

As previously covered, Airbnb offers around 7.7 million listings provided by roughly 5 million hosts.

In addition to this abundance of rentals, active Airbnb properties are available in more than 100,000 cities and 220 countries and regions, according to Airbnb News.

VRBO: Number of Listings

With more than 2 million active listings, VRBO offers unique and private places to stay across 190 different countries.

Though VRBO has considerably fewer listings compared to Airbnb, it is important to note that this discrepancy is due to VRBO not offering shared rooms. Each of VRBO’s 2 million listings is its own private space with a full range of amenities.

Airbnb vs. VRBO: Search Functionality

Airbnb: Search Functionality

Airbnb’s search capabilities include an intuitive design and detailed filter options.

When searching for a place to stay on Airbnb, users will first begin with the basics: choosing a destination, selecting check-in/check-out dates, and listing the total number of guests.

From here, users are presented with all of their potential vacation rental options, as well as a list of filters to help narrow down their search. These filters include:

Type of Place: The type of vacation rental you are looking for

Price: The price range you want to stay within

Cancellation Policy: Whether or not the place offers free cancellations

Pet Policy: Whether or not the rental allows pets

Instant Booking: Whether or not you can book instantly (see more on this in the Booking Process section)

Verification: Narrowing the search to rentals that are a part of Airbnb Plus or rentals with designated “Super Hosts

Amenities: A full list of amenities you want – popular examples include air conditioning, WiFi, and self-check-in

Facilities: A full list of facilities such as garages, pools, or hot tubs

Accessibility: A filter option for guests who have specific mobility needs

VRBO: Search Functionality

Like Airbnb, VRBO’s search process begins with the destination, check-in/check-out dates, and the total number of guests.

From here, you can narrow your search with a wide variety of filters. For many users, VRBO’s search functionality offers greater capabilities as it allows users to filter according to VRBO reviews and cleanliness, along with more standard options.

VRBO’s filters include:

Type of Stay: The type of property the rental is

Price Range: The price range users want to stay within

Rooms & Spaces: How many rooms and bathrooms are available

Free Cancellation: 3 options for free cancellations

Features & Amenities: Popular examples include pools, WiFi, and yards

Property Reviews: Filters for properties with 4 stars or more, highly rated cleanliness, and highly rated location

House Rules: Rules regarding pets, children, events, and more

Family-Friendly Stays: Properties designed specifically for family-friendliness

Neighborhoods: The type of neighborhood a property is located in, such as a villa or beach resort

Location: A property’s proximity to landmark areas, such as the waterfront or mountains

Nearby Activities: Activities such as shopping, golfing, wineries, and more that are near the property

Premier Host: An option to see properties only offered by Premier Hosts

Safety: Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors (some of the more unique stays, such as glamping, may not have such options)

Accessibility: Options for guests with mobility needs

Virtual Tours: Options for taking a virtual tour of VRBO properties before reserving

Discounts: Weekly, monthly, and discounts on new VRBO listings

Airbnb vs. VRBO: Booking Process

Airbnb: Booking Process

To book on Airbnb, a user must select a rental and then submit a Request to Book.

Some rentals will offer Instant Booking, which allows for the user to be instantly approved so long as they meet the requirements of the host. This often involves the user’s rating – a 1 to 5-star rating system given by previous hosts.

When Instant Booking is not available or not authorized, the user will need to wait until the host manually accepts the booking request.

As for payment, Airbnb offers two options:

One Payment: The full payment is made at the time of booking.

Payment Installments: An initial deposit is made (usually around 50 percent) with the remainder to be paid at a later date. Not all rentals offer this option, but the majority do.

VRBO: Booking Process

To book with VRBO, you must first select your property and then either Request to Book or Book Now.

VRBO offers hosts a Book Now feature which is an instant booking process similar to Airbnb’s that requires the host to enable the feature. If this feature is offered, the guest will need to meet certain requirements.

With VRBO, there are a few additional options for booking, including choosing discounts and cancellation policies during the search process and choosing between one-time payments or a payment plan.

Once you have submitted a booking request, you will need to wait to receive a confirmation before you are officially booked. Choosing properties that offer 24-hour confirmations will ensure you receive either an approval or denial within 24 hours.

Airbnb vs. VRBO: Fees

Airbnb: Service and Cleaning Fees

Airbnb’s fees are dependent on the options chosen by the host. They can choose between a split-fee structure where the host and guest split a portion of the service fee, or they can choose a host-only fee structure where they pay the entirety of the service fee.

The split-fee option is the most common, with hosts paying approximately a 3% service fee and guests paying a fee under 14.2% of the booking subtotal.

As for cleaning, the Airbnb cleaning service fee is determined by the host and can vary significantly between each vacation rental. For instance, hosts that hire cleaning companies will charge higher cleaning fees than those that clean the property themselves.

Typically, you can expect a cleaning service fee to amount between $50 to $100 of the total reservation cost.

Additional fees may be accrued if damage occurs to the vacation rental or if house rules are broken.

VRBO: Service and Cleaning Fees

In terms of cleaning, VRBO follows a similar model to Airbnb by allowing hosts to set their own cleaning service fee.

VRBO host fees are 5% commission out of your rental fee plus any additional charges such as cleaning, boat fees, or other add-ons. 

VRBO also charges a 3% payment processing fee. This fee takes 3% of the total amount you receive from guests, including taxes and damage deposits. The fee that is taken from the damage deposit is refunded to the guest once the host confirms there is no damage and returns their portion of the deposit.

Airbnb vs. VRBO: Cancellation Policy

Airbnb: Cancellation Policy

Airbnb cancellation policies are determined by the host, and come in 6 varieties:

Flexible: Free cancellation until 24 hours before check-in.

Moderate: Free cancellation until 5 days before check-in.

Strict: Free cancellation 48 hours after booking, as long as the cancellation is 14 days before check-in.

Long Term: Fully refundable reservations for 48 hours after booking, as long as the cancellation is 28 days before check-in. Automatically applied to reservations of 28 days or more.

Super Strict 30 Days: Guests must cancel at least 30 days prior to check-in to receive a 50% refund of the nightly rate and cleaning fee.

Super Strict 60 Days: Same as Super Strict 30 Days, but cancellation must occur 60 days before check-in.

VRBO: Cancellation Policy

VRBO cancellation policies are also left to the host, and come in 6 varieties as well:

No Refund: Bookings are non-refundable.

60-Day Policy: 100% refund 60 days before check-in.

60/30 Day Policy: 100% refund when canceled 60 days before, 50% refund when canceled 30 days before.

30/14 Day Policy: 100% refund when canceled 30 days before, 50% refund when canceled 14 days before.

14/7 Day Policy: 100% refund when canceled 14 days before, 50% refund when canceled 7 days before.

Custom Refund Policy: An option for hosts to determine their own custom cancellation policy.

Airbnb vs. VRBO: Customer Support

Airbnb: Customer Support

For customer support, Airbnb offers an online virtual Help Center, as well as a phone helpline that is available 24/7 at +1-844-234-2500.

It is also easy to get in contact with Airbnb through their app. There are emergency options where Airbnb is able to contact the guest quickly.

Guests can also get help with safety issues and report neighbourhood concerns through the support section of the app. 

VRBO: Customer Support

VRBO also offers a 24/7 customer support system. Like Airbnb, they also have an online Help Desk that answers frequently asked questions.

The 24/7 helpline is available via phone at +1-877-202-9331. Additionally, VRBO has a contact page for users to visit to get more information.

VRBO vs HomeAway

HomeAway is another online vacation rental marketplace that was acquired by VRBO in 2006.

Both VRBO and HomeAway have very similar functionalities. The main difference between the two is the areas in which they focus on and offer rentals.

VRBO is more commonly used in the North American regions of the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Comparatively, HomeAway is more actively used in Europe, India, and Australia.

Final Thoughts: Is Airbnb or VRBO Better?

When determining which vacation rental platform is better suited for your needs, it truly does come down to preference. Both VRBO and Airbnb have pros and cons.

Airbnb offers users a much wider range of accommodations, including shared rooms and spaces available at much lower price points than more traditional rentals. This platform also tends to offer greater flexibility in terms of house rules and booking.

However, VRBO still has a lot to offer as well – especially for large groups and families looking for a private getaway. VRBO also wins the race in terms of its search functionality, offering a much more extensive list of filters and intuitive features.

So which vacation rental platform should you choose for your next vacation? Your best bet may be to search both vacation rental sites and see what unique stays and hidden gems you can uncover!

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