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 mobile app.
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 Airbnb and VRBO distinct from each other, the biggest difference is in the types of accommodations offered.
VRBO deals strictly in private spaces and stand-alone homes. 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 hosts 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 rentals are available on each platform.
Airbnb vs. VRBO: Types of Rentals
Airbnb: Types of Rentals
Airbnb certainly takes the cake in terms of offering a diverse range of rentals and accommodations.
According to Airbnb’s website, they divide their “places to stay” into four main categories:
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 rental offers to stand-alone homes. 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 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:
Airbnb vs VRBO: Number of Listings
Airbnb: Number of Listings
As previously covered, Airbnb offers around 5.6 million listings provided by roughly 4 million hosts.
In addition to this abundance of rentals, active Airbnb listings 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 rental options, as well as a list of filters to help narrow down their search. These filters include:
Type of Place: The type of 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 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 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 nearby 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 a property before reserving
Discounts: Weekly, monthly, and new listing discounts available
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.
Book Now 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 service 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 fees due to Airbnb, or they can choose a host-only fee structure where they pay the entirety of the fees.
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 subtotal.
As for cleaning, the Airbnb cleaning fee is determined by the host and can vary significantly between different rentals. 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 fee to amount between $50 to $100 total.
Additional fees may be accrued if damage occurs to the rental or if house rules are broken.
VRBO: Service and Cleaning Fees
For guests of VRBO, the service and booking fees can range from between 6% to 15% of the subtotal.
In terms of cleaning, VRBO follows a similar model to Airbnb by allowing hosts to set their own cleaning fees.
These can vary significantly depending on the size and location of a property. VRBO also takes a 5% commission from the host on the rental amount, cleaning fees, and other fees, which can result in higher fees for the guest.
Additional fees may be issued due to damage or broken property rules.
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 cancellation is 14 days before check-in.
Long Term: Fully refundable reservations for 48 hours after booking, as long as 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 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 available at +1-844-234-2500.
Unfortunately, the biggest complaint of Airbnb users tends to be the difficulty in getting in touch with customer support. As a result, the best way to get your questions answered about specific rentals is to contact the host directly through the app’s messaging feature.
VRBO: Customer Support
VRBO offers a more extensive, 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 call to +1-877-202-9331. Additionally, VRBO has a contact page for users to visit to get more information.
VRBO vs HomeAway
HomeAway is an 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 whether Airbnb or VRBO is better suited for your needs, it truly does come down to preference.
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 platform should you choose for your next vacation? Your best bet may be to search both and see what unique stays and hidden gems you can uncover!