Airbnb vs. Vrbo: Which One Should You Pick?

Using Airbnb and Vrbo to help find lodging for your next trip, you'll have plenty of options to book the perfect place. But which site is the best one for you?
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on reddit
Share on email
HomeAway vs. Airbnb vs. Vrbo: Which One Should I Pick?

TravelFreak is reader supported. Your engagement on this site allows us to bring you this content for free. Because this website contains affiliate links, if you make a purchase through these links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. This has absolutely no effect on our recommendations or evaluations. Thank you for supporting our mission!

If you’re looking for extra room to accommodate more people, or missing the comforts of home, a vacation rental is an excellent alternative to staying in the usual hotel rooms. From wooden tree houses to luxury chalets, vacation rentals also let you experience something a bit out of the ordinary on your trip. And when it comes to booking the perfect rental, you’ll probably be deciding between Vrbo vs Airbnb.

Depending on your budget and travel style, there are advantages and disadvantages to each rental vacation site, but the premise for both Airbnb and Vrbo is the same: they give ordinary people a platform to easily rent out their property to travelers. City travelers can enjoy an immersive neighborhood experience, while adventurous types can find incredible properties in some of the world’s most remote places. The possibilities are endless.

So, before you book your next trip, let’s put these two websites to the test and see how they stack up against each other.

Airbnb vs Vrbo Comparison

a green yurt in the woods
Who doesn’t want to sleep in a pod in the middle of the forest?

Airbnb and Vrbo are two of the most popular vacation rental sites out there, and Vrbo is, in my opinion, the best Airbnb alternative on the market right now. At their core, they both offer different types of short and long term housing around the world. And while these sites may seem similar, there are some stark differences to be aware of before booking your rental.

The most significant difference between Airbnb and Vrbo comes down to what each one has to offer. Airbnb lists just about everything: entire properties, a private room in someone’s home, shared rooms (like hostel dorms), and even hotel rooms.

Vrbo isn’t in the business of renting out private or shared rooms—you’ll only find entire properties for rent here, including everything from cozy cottages to fully decked-out condos.

Also, while both sites have millions of listings that you can easily search using a map view, Vrbo offers fewer rentals than Airbnb. Well, that’s an understatement…Airbnb has 5.6 million listings, and Vrbo has two million.

Furthermore, the level of customer support between both companies is also entirely different. If you have a problem with your booking or your vacation rental, Vrbo is more likely to offer assistance. Airbnb, on the other hand, takes a more passive approach to customer support, and should only be contacted after an issue has been resolved with the property manager.

The difference between Airbnb and Vrbo fees is also a sharp contrast, which I’ll explore more in detail in the following section.

Why I Like Vrbo

Although Airbnb has more listings, Vrbo is the better choice for vacation rentals. 

I like that both platforms list tons of cool properties, like tiny homes and vacation villas. But, in the end, customer satisfaction is one of the most important factors when choosing a rental. Vrbo shines in this respect, and I’ve always found to have excellent customer service. Incidents can always happen, and when they do, Vrbo has your back. They even have a direct support line.

Airbnb’s customer service leaves a lot to be desired. It’s nearly impossible to find a direct contact, and you’ll usually end up lost in the weeds of the Help section or talking to a robot. And when it comes to negative Airbnb reviews, there’s actually a whole website dedicated to horror stories.

Perhaps that’s the pitfall of a vacation rental platform like Airbnb having tremendous growth over a relatively short amount of time—keeping on top of customer service turns into a challenge.

The total reservation cost for Vrbo properties also tends to be cheaper than Airbnb, and sometimes by quite a bit. It’s hard to ignore all those Vrbo benefits!

Differences Between Airbnb and Vrbo

a modern apartment with grey couches and yellow chairs
Apartment, or cottage?

Let’s look at the specifics of Vrbo vs Airbnb for each booking site to see which one is ultimately better for booking a vacation rental.

Types of Properties Listed

Airbnb has a large variety of rental options. You can rent the entire place, a private room in a shared house, or even a shared room with other travelers. Airbnb has even extended its platform to also include individual or shared rooms in hotels and hostels.

And because Airbnb lists more types of rentals, they have over five million homes, apartments, and rooms to choose from. Because of this, it’s often easier to find places to stay outside of traditional vacation destinations. If you want to get off the beaten path, Airbnb will certainly help.

On the other hand, Vrbo only allows you the rent entire properties, whether that’s a house, cottage, or apartment. That means you won’t find any shared homes or rooms listed on the site, which is good if you’re looking for more privacy. It’s not so good if you’re a budget traveler or someone who’s traveling solo and doesn’t need a giant place to stay all on your own.

Otherwise, both sites are more or less the same when it comes to home styles. You’ll find everything from private bungalows, mountaintop yurts and countryside villas on Airbnb and Vrbo. In addition, Airbnb and Vrbo also have a wide selection of eclectic homes, like tiny houses, bubble domes and shipping containers!

Still, if you want more variety and better budget options, Airbnb is the clear winner.

Service Fees

The cost of the service fees is typically much lower with Vrbo. Although the total price will depend on the cost of your rental, a Vrbo rental tends to be cheaper than an Airbnb rental.

The cost of the listing depends on a variety of factors, including location, size and length of stay. You will also need to add taxes, cleaning charges and website service fees to the total price of your vacation rental.

The service fees for Airbnb and Vrbo are very different.

Airbnb offers a split-fee structure. This means that an Airbnb service fee is taken from the host’s payout, and then a service fee is also charged to guests. Most hosts pay a 3% service fee, but some hosts may pay more (like Airbnb Plus hosts).

Most guests pay a service fee around 14% of the booking subtotal (the nightly rate plus cleaning fee and additional guest fee). But some guest service fees can be as high as 20%!

Sometimes, there’s a host-only fee for Airbnb, and as a guest you won’t have to pay any Airbnb service fee at all (this applies mostly for hotels renting out their hotel rooms).

Vrbo also adds a service fee to the cost of your booking, which is anywhere from 6-15% of your total cost. Since Vrbo doesn’t sell individual rooms, there’s no option for the host to cover the entire service fee. Vrbo is the better choice here because you’re more likely to pay less of a service fee.

Other Fees

When it comes to other service fees, Airbnb hosts will set their own cleaning fees or sometimes an additional guest fee. The booking subtotal doesn’t include Airbnb fees for occupancy or taxes.

Similarly, Vrbo owners set their own cleaning fees as well.

For both Airbnb and Vrbo, the cleaning fee can be $100+ depending on your length of stay. All these fees are completely transparent on the rental site, so have a look before you book.

Quality of Customer Service

In terms of support, Vrbo is better than Airbnb.

For one, a Vrbo guest can add travel protection insurance to their booking. So, if you get sick and need to cancel your trip, you will still get a refund for the prepaid cost. And if you’re traveling with pets or children, you can purchase damage protection insurance to avoid any extra charges.

Each listing on Vrbo also automatically comes with their Book with Confidence Guarantee. Their support team is on hand to answer any questions before, during and after your stay. They also assist with finding another place to stay if the host cancels your rental.

On the other hand, Airbnb does not have travel insurance, and their customer support is usually just available for emergencies. They will only help if you are not able to access your rental or if the place is unsafe. And if you need a refund, they’ll require evidence that you tried to work things out with your host before contacting the help department. Airbnb’s lack of insurance and absence of readily available help is a big disappointment, in my opinion.

Tip: To save yourself the hassle, you can get a good sense of how easy it is to deal with the host based on their Airbnb reviews or Vrbo reviews. Follow the house rules, and you’re unlikely to have any issues at all.

Cancellation Policy

When it comes to cancellation policies, the Vrbo vs Airbnb argument isn’t so black or white. But Airbnb’s policies are much more flexible than Vrbo’s.

With Airbnb, you need to be aware of your host’s cancellation policy before you book. It’s really up to the host to set these details. A last-minute cancellation for a host who is relying on your income can be a big blow, especially if you’re booking a short term rental during a super busy time of year.

You can find the details of your cancellation policy in the Trips section when you click on “show trip details.”

When you’re actually booking a spot, the cancellation policy will be listed on the property page. The most flexible plan allows you to cancel up to 24 hours beforehand for a full refund, while the strictest option allows guests to receive a full refund if they cancel within 48 hours of booking. After that, you’re only entitled to a 50% refund if you cancel at least seven days before the trip begins.

Vrbo is much like Airbnb in this way—property owners set the policy, but even the most relaxed policy is very strict compared to Airbnb’s policy. With a relaxed policy, you can cancel at least 14 days before your check-in date and receive a full refund. On the other extreme end of the spectrum, some property owners opt for no refund policy at all.

The stricter policies are vital for property managers who own Vrbo or Airbnb properties in busy destinations, especially at certain times of the year. For example, you’re probably not going to have much luck cancelling an accommodation in Munich during the height of Oktoberfest.

Vrbo vs Airbnb for Hosts: Listing Your Property

Cabin in the woods
Have a cabin in the woods to rent?

Both Airbnb and Vrbo have straightforward processes for listing your vacation rental. It’s literally as easy as setting up a profile, filling in the details about your property, and uploading your images. Both Airbnb and Vrbo hosts are also subject to background checks for an extra layer of security.

With Vrbo, property managers have two different payment options: they can either pay a 3% credit card processing fee plus a 5% commission fee to the company for each booking, or they can have unlimited bookings for an annual fee of about $500.

Airbnb is kinder to hosts, and only takes about a 3% host service fee from the total earnings. This fee can be a lot higher for hosts in Italy though (thanks to government legislation introduced to keep housing prices in Italy under control). Hotels also pay a commission between 10-16% since they work on a host-only fee basis.

Which site is better for listing your property? It depends on how many bookings you expect. If you’re busy year-round, Vrbo’s subscription model could save you literally thousands of dollars.

Vrbo vs Airbnb: FAQs

Is Vrbo Cheaper than Airbnb?

Vrbo is often cheaper than Airbnb because its service fee is typically lower.

As a test, I compared prices between the same property on both Vrbo and Airbnb. Using a vacation rental in Kelowna, Canada, I went through the booking process for a two-night stay, and looked closely at each guest service fee. The cleaning fee is the same ($120), but the service fee on Vrbo is $73 while the service fee on Airbnb is $83.

Here’s the fee breakdown of the Airbnb listing:

Airbnb fees

And here’s the cost of the Vrbo property listing:

Vrbo fees

Notice the difference in “occupancy taxes and fees” for Airbnb vs Vrbo. The total price difference is very large.

A further dig into Airbnb’s higher tax cost came back with this nugget of information: “In areas that Airbnb has made agreements with governments or is required by law to collect and remit local taxes on behalf of hosts, Airbnb calculates these taxes and collects them from guests at the time of booking.” Vrbo does not yet have the same policy in place.

Prices across both booking sites can also vary wildly. Another property I compared even had two differently nightly rates…for the exact same dates. The Airbnb property was going for $311/night, while the Vrbo rental was going for $360/night. Even so, with all those fees and taxes factored in, the Vrbo rental was still cheaper by nearly $100!

At the very least, if you’re searching for an Airbnb property, see if you can find it on Vrbo and compare the costs (and vice versa). This extra few minutes of work is very worth your time if it means you’ll save some cash.

Is Vrbo Better than Airbnb?

Because of its affordability and better customer service, Vrbo is better than Airbnb.

But like anything, it’s all relative. If you want way more options, like hostels and incredibly affordable room rentals, Airbnb might better suit your needs.

Presumably, because Vrbo charges more to hosts for commissions, property hosts are more inclined to list their place on Airbnb…hence the many, many more options available to you.

Both Airbnb and Vrbo have their own unique pros and cons. But Vrbo is a cut above Vrbo in almost every way.

Vrbo vs Airbnb: Which One is Safer?

There are always certain risks that arise when traveling and booking short term rentals, and both Vrbo and Airbnb do a good job of ensuring customer safety.

It’s true that we’ve heard some Airbnb horror stories over the years. Airbnb users have reported creepy hosts, misleading listings, and unsettling experiences in the neighborhoods where they’re staying. But those are few and far between, and Airbnb and Vrbo try to deal swiftly and fairly with those situations.

Vrbo doesn’t seem to receive as much public attention from horror stories, but on the other hand, it has only a fraction of the rental properties that Airbnb does.

Both sites work hard to protect their guests AND their hosts. There are background checks, watchlist checks, and a whole team of people dedicated to monitoring for scams and other risks. Airbnb even offers hosts free smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors!

Speaking from personal experience, I always read the reviews first to get a sense of the host and where I’m staying. I make sure to engage with the host when the booking is made, and I’ll typically avoid private rooms in someone else’s home—I’m much more comfortable with renting a full apartment or accommodation.

Trust your gut. Dos something feel off? Cancel your reservation and explain the situation to the booking site.

Which Vacation Site is the Best?

Vrbo is the best vacation rental site.

I don’t believe that the quantity of property listings is better than quality. Airbnb and Vrbo are both great sites, but Vrbo’s customer service and fairer prices just work better for me.

Of course, these aren’t the only two vacation sites out there. But they’re certainly the two that have stood the test of time and have outlasted much the competition (RIP, Homeaway).

Does that mean I won’t compare properties across both sites when I’m planning my next trip? No. But Vrbo will always be my first choice.

Is Airbnb and Vrbo Ethical?

There’s no doubt you’ve heard all the fuss about over-tourism and the insane demands being placed on popular destinations in recent years. Airbnb has absolutely exploded in popularly over the last decade, and its impact has started crowding out locals in heavily touristed cities around the world. Take Barcelona, for example: new regulations have been introduced to stem the flow of tourism and protect long-term housing for locals.

As shown in our price comparison above, some governments have begun implementing occupancy taxes in certain places. This levels the playing field for hotels and legitimate businesses, including family-owned bed and breakfasts that already have to pay such fees.

And some property owners have essentially begun snatching up cheap real estate and entire properties to turn into more vacation rentals, effectively becoming a vacation rental business in their own way. Even some real estate listings these days will list the Airbnb or Vrbo potential income. You can see how this is troublesome in congested cities where the lower income population is struggling to find affordable housing.

But there are so many benefits of using sites like Vrbo and Airbnb as well. It’s more immersive, you can meet some wonderful people, and sometimes your unique accommodations are just out of this world. You’ll often find way more amenities in your accommodations than in your typical hotel room.

So how can you minimize your impact? There are a few things you can do:

  • If you’re traveling to popular city destinations that are prone to massive tourism crowds, consider supporting a local family business (like a bed and breakfast) or staying in a regular licensed hotel or hostel. The local tourism board’s website will likely have a full list of these licensed accommodations.
  • Avoid hosts with multiple listings. This is easy to do by clicking on the host’s profile and seeing if they have any other properties listed. Personally, it’s a red flag if they have more than two properties listed.
  • Rent a room in someone’s house rather than the full house. This is a property owner who’s likely just trying to supplement their income rather than making a full living off their property.

Vrbo vs Airbnb: Final Thoughts

Terrace of a Spanish house

While both sites offer a variety of short and long term rentals, Vrbo comes out on top for cheaper prices and excellent customer service (including great insurance policies).

To summarize, Airbnb is one of the only sites that offers shared accommodation. Single rooms and communal apartments tend to be much cheaper than renting the entire place, which is ideal for budget travelers. And since you will share the space with homeowners and other guests, you’ll have the opportunity to meet new people during your trip.

As a Vrbo guest, you’ll be required to book the entire apartment or home. But compared to Airbnb, the total price is usually a lot better on Vrbo.

In terms of service and support, Vrbo offers better trip protection compared to Airbnb. So if anything bad were to happen during your Vrbo stay, you’d be able to get the help you need.

With all these factors to take into account, it’s up to you to decide between Airbnb vs Vrbo—but I’m choosing Vrbo. Once you find the right listing, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your vacation!


READ MORE:

Jeremy Scott Foster
Jeremy Scott Foster
Jeremy Scott Foster is an adventure-junkie, gear expert and travel photographer based in Southern California. Previously nomadic, he’s been to ~50 countries and loves spending time outdoors. You can usually find him on the trail, on the road, jumping from bridges or hustling on his laptop working to produce the best travel and outdoors content today.

On A Similar Note...

5 Responses

  1. Nice review and from a renter’s perspective I’ve saved up to 1K for the same listing on VRBO, but usually it’s in the $200-$400 dollar range which is still more than enough for me to go with VRBO. Talking to the owners it’s the difference in service fees they charge which is interesting because by all accounts AirBNB provides worse service. Happy Travels.

  2. We’ve done Airbnb and Homeaway (now Vrbo). Homeaway insisted we register with the city of LA even though we are not in LA. Nothing we could do would change their demand that we provide a city of LA registration. I even tried to trick LA into thinking that our place in Glendale was in LA, but the LA caught it and said, No. Even that info from LA did not change Homeaway’s demand and it cut us off in 2019. Thus, we went to airbnb.

    At first Airbnb was great but it soon turned into an unmitigated nightmare costing us thousands of dollars in damages and lost rental income. Airbnb was catering to parties. One woman pretended she was renting for her family from Europe, but airbnb knew she was travel agent booker for entertainment groups from Eastern Europe, whom she charged a fortune. They made all sorts of demands and treated the 6 bedroom house like trash. They even overstayed their booking and refused to leave and refused to pay any additional rent. Airbnb supported them because Lily used Airbnb all the time for her hordes of guests.

    When the pandemic arrived airbnb said it was anti-party but that was false. It intentionally book Hip Hop raves with hundreds of people despite our strict no party policy. Airbnb did it over and over at BOTH our houses. The police came but did nothing. In fact, Airbnb started the first surge in LA’s Black area by promoting these raves in the Hills. Airbnb was a lethal threat to everyone. All they did was lie about being anti-Party. The thing that stopped them was when someone was murdered at an illegal Airbnb rave in the Hollywood Hills and they got sued.

    Airbnb consistently accepted outlandish falsehoods to allow guests to cancel even after the check-in date. One guy lied saying there was a gas leak. The gas company came out ASAP and verified there was no gas problem, but Airbnb accepted the lie as true and we lost one month’s rent, but airbnb rented him another location.

    We were constantly “blackmailed” by false negative reviews which airbnb knew were false. One person said we had no heat and took a picture of the thermostat, which showed that there was heat since it was 50 degrees outside and 68 inside. Another showed a picture of some room which was not even part of the rental, but that did not matter to airbnb.

    Another person brought his own defective electric wok and was blowing our circuit breakers. We had our contractor come out immediately after the first outage, but he did not know about the wok. This guy took his wok from outlet to outlet and fried 11 circuit breakers costing us thousands of dollars. We did not find out about the defective wok until after he had departed and I found the wok. Airbnb did not care as he was some big mucky muck in airbnb.

    It seems that Aribnb’s business plan calls for corporate hosts with hundreds of rentals and who handle all problems. If a small host has a problem, Airbnb supports the guest. I believe that Airbnb is trying to drive away small hosts in favor of the corporate hosts.

    We are moving back to Vrbo and doing private rentals.

  3. I can t agree more.Airbnb Customer service and support team suck.Many of them don t know their product and they don t know what they re doing.It just happened to me now.The airbnb support ambassador hang up on me.He made it sound like we were disconnected but I m sure we weren t.When the case is too complicated for them to handle and they don t know what to do,they disappear and never call back

  4. Just had an Airbnb home owner flake out and not even notify me. I had to figure out when the they would not answer my questions which I sent 8 days prior to rental (confirmed this rental 3 months ago) but not able to get them via email, text or phone – “mail box full”)) and come to see that someone else with same owner (a rental company) said this past week that the company had sold the home and not notified the air bnb renter who arrived with no where to stay.
    After 5-6 calls to air bnb finally got notice that all money will be refunded but since is a holiday weekend – I have to pay an additional $1000+ and our family reunion is now split up into 2 hotel rooms and a small rental for one couple so not only additional cost but nowhere to congregate during a pandemic (we know we are all vaccinated).
    Also one of the air bnb people who tried to help me (and said would call back but didn’t) told me that the rental had been discontinued 2 weeks before (and no one had contacted me).
    So I I had to scramble on my own to find somewhere for us all to stay not too far from each other just 4 days prior to flying out (holiday weekend so nearly impossible). I asked air bnb to pay the extra $1000 difference and they refuse.
    Will try VRBO or hotel next time I think.

    1. I’m really sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence, and it’s happened to many, many friends of mine. With both of these platforms, you’re at the mercy of the host, but Airbnb’s customer support is abominable, and in my years and years of using them, I’ve almost never seen them address problems in a suitable way. They have too much market share and they don’t have the support infrastructure to handle it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Adventure. Better.

Sign up now and get the best gear, travel tips, deals and destinations, straight to your inbox.