Airbnb vs VRBO – Which is Better for Hosts and Travelers?

Post Thumbnail

Airbnb vs VRBO – Which is Better for Hosts and Travelers?

It’s no doubt that vacation rentals offer more benefits than hotel rooms. However, with the many vacation rental sites, choosing the best can be daunting. Airbnb and VRBO are the most popular vacation rental sites today for both travelers and property owners. Here we look at everything you need to know about the two to help in your decision-making.

Airbnb vs. VRBO Overview


Formerly known as Air Bed in Breakfast, Airbnb was established in 2008. With over 7 million listings for rental services in over 220 countries, Airbnb has gained increased popularity in the bed and breakfast industry.

The primary aim of this rental platform is to connect homeowners with customers looking for rental spaces. As earlier stated, benefits from vacation rentals are far more than renting a hotel room.


VRBO was established in 1995. It was later acquired by HomeAway in 2006. Both VRBO and HomeAway were later acquired by Expedia Group in 2015. VRBO has about 2 million listings and is available in more than 190 countries.

Now that you have an overview of the top players in the industry, now let’s look at how they compare with each other.

Differences between Airbnb and VRBO (for guests)

Whether you are a property owner or a traveler, the type of vacation rental you choose will have a significant impact on your bottom line. Here’s how Airbnb compares to VRBO.

Rental types – Airbnb is the winner

Vacation rental via VRBO and Airbnb involves engaging in an online search to find property listings that meet your needs and preference. These platforms offer many options, including condos, houses, cabins, beach houses, etc.

The main difference between Airbnb and VRBO is the property type they offer.


VRBO offers exclusively stand-alone homes, which is the main reason why they have fewer listings than Airbnb. Travelers looking to stay in traditional vacation destinations go to sites like VRBO because they offer extensive inventories in popular tourist destinations.


Unlike VRBO property, Airbnb accommodations offer stand-alone homes and shared spaces. That makes Airbnb an excellent vacation rental website for users who want a cheaper shared space and don’t want the privacy of a full-property rental.

Additionally, Airbnb users can enjoy great stays in treehouses, tiny houses, castles, and private islands, which VRBO and other sites lack.

As you can see, both Airbnb and VRBO are great choices when looking for a vacation home. However, customers may want to go with Airbnb if they are looking for cheaper shared space. On the other hand, since VRBO offers more traditional accommodation, it is more appealing to users looking for more prolonged family stays.


Airbnb vs. VRBO – Pricing 

Comparing the overall pricing of these two services isn’t easy since the price varies from one property to another. However, as you will see below, both platforms charge a service fee on top of the base rate.

Another notable thing about the pricing on these two platforms is that they both allow hosts to decide whether they require a refundable security deposit for guests. However, you’ll find more of these deposits on VRBO properties than Airbnb properties on searching further. As you would expect, these deposits make things more complex and may add an extra expense for guests.

The nightly rate displayed on the map results on Airbnb includes the cleaning and services fees. However, VBRO’s nightly rate does not include cleaning and service fees but will only be displayed after you click book now. That being the case, finding accommodation on a budget is easier on Airbnb than on VRBO.

Booking fees

Both VRBO and Airbnb require hosts and guests to pay service fees. As expected, these service fees will determine the final cost of making a reservation.

VRBO fees

VRBO vacation rental site requires guests to pay a service fee of between 6-12 percent of the total reservation cost. Guests, on the other hand, have two options based on their estimated annual income.

The first option is to pay an annual subscription of $499 for unlimited bookings on the platform. The second option is to pay per booking where they need to pay a 5 percent commission per booking and a 3 percent fee for processing a credit card.

The annual subscription would be best for hosts who will exceed the minimum number of bookings as it will reduce the hosting fees that they are required to pay.

Airbnb guest fees

Airbnb guests pay a service fee of 5-20 percent of the subtotal, including cleaning fee, nightly rate, and additional guests. Although Airbnb will not require guests to pay service fees for experiences, booking with this platform can be more expensive than VRBO in some circumstances.

Airbnb host fees

Airbnb vacation rental site requires their hosts to pay a fee (about 3 percent in the US) for each booking they receive. The host fee is based on the booking subtotal, including the nightly rate, cleaning fee, and any additional guest fees. However, these fees and taxes are automatically taken from the host’s payout when the booking funds are released, meaning they won’t affect their bottom line.

Cleaning fees

Both Airbnb and VRBO allow the property manager to determine the cleaning fees. Similarly, both platforms encourage guests to rate the cleanliness of their host when checking out. Adding cleaning fees helps users decide whether or not they will use a cleaning service or buy cleaning supplies.

As stated above, Airbnb includes the cleaning fees on their pricing, while VRBO requires hosts to clarify the cleaning fee as an additional charge on the listing page.

Flexibility – Airbnb carries the day

Besides having more than 7 million listings and being in 191 countries, Airbnb is accessible in 62 languages. The company doesn’t only offer short-term rentals; it sells experiences and adventures as well.

Moreover, unlike VRBO that only allows guests to book an entire property, Airbnb offers an option to book a shared space.

However, this accessibility doesn’t miss challenges. For instance, Airbnb has been under sharp criticism for failing to address reports of alleged fake host profiles and rentals that don’t match the conditions advertised online.

As a result, the company has initiated a raft of safety measures, including a 24/7 support hotline in every region, verification of all Airbnb home listings, and guest guarantee.  That means if a guest finds that the property isn’t the same as described online when they check-in, the company will find another one of equal value or refund 100 percent payment.


Cancellation process – VRBO has easier-to-understand policies

VBRO and Airbnb allow property owners or managers to set cancellation and change terms meaning they vary from property to property. However, depending on when the cancellation occurred, both platforms require the guests to pay a certain percentage of the booking cost to protect the hosts from bearing the full brunt of cancellation.

VRBO has five cancellation policies, including relaxed, moderate, firm, strict, and no refund. For more details about VRBO’s cancellation policy, please click here. On the other hand, Airbnb has three standard cancellation policies ranging from flexible to moderate to strict depending on when the guest cancels.  For more details, please check Airbnb’s cancellation policy here.

Customization – VRBO wins

Unlike Airbnb, VRBO offers entire homes, meaning no single rooms within a home available. Guests book a property through the VRBO app or website. The user experience is similar for Airbnb and VRBO, i.e., options on the left and an interactive map on the right.

However, VRBO is a step ahead in its use of filters. More specifically, users can search 25 different home types (from castle to apartment), 13 location types, safety, and accessibility features. Moreover, the platform allows travelers to filter by rating, neighborhood, features, amenities, etc.

Airbnb, too, offers similar filters to its users but doesn’t allow for more customization like VRBO.

Airbnb vs. VRBO – reviews

As with other businesses, Airbnb and VRBO rely on word of mouth to grow their business. That being the case, they strive to offer the best services for their guests to ensure they receive positive results.

Airbnb reviews

While customers can know more about the properties listed on Airbnb by checking at the property details, checking reviews will also come in handy. Airbnb encourages guests to leave their thoughts after their stay, ranging on several things, including accuracy, cleanliness, communication, value, location, and check-in.

The reviews are based on five stars, and the review section is searchable, meaning users can filter reviews if they have specific concerns when booking an Airbnb. The best part is that the site has a host community section where hosts can share ideas on listing a property on Airbnb successfully.

VRBO reviews

VRBO, too, has a review section where users can rate their stay at a specific property. However, it is not just users who can leave a review on VRBO; hosts, too, can reply to the reviewer, allowing users to get more information about a particular property before booking a stay.


Both Airbnb and VRBO websites let users search for their destination, stay dates, and the number of guests. Usually, the results on both websites are in a split and map format, but users can filter the results by neighborhood, property amenities, house rules, host language, and more.

Airbnb website allows users to minimize the website to get a more extensive list view. This way, users can see the nightly accommodation rate and compare the affordability of specific areas simultaneously.

The case is entirely different when browning the map with VRBO as the user must click a blank marker to view the nightly rate, which increases the browsing time.

The property pages for both websites feature property specification, image gallery, and availability calendar for instant booking. However, VRBO has the upper hand because the availability calendars include the nightly rate that lets users compare prices of alternative dates.

Besides, VRBO displays the property size (not to filter by property size), but it can help know which place is spacious when comparing between two places. Airbnb doesn’t feature a property size.

Airbnb vs. VRBO – which is better for property owners?

Property owners looking to list their houses on vacation rentals, choosing between Airbnb and VRBO is something they need to deal with. Here we shall look at the key features of each to help determine which is better for your property.

Airbnb and VRBO are the most popular rental websites. Both offer an instant booking option that lets customers complete the transaction, meaning filling your vacancies is only a few clicks away.


Both Airbnb and VRBO have specific rules that govern the listing of property on either platform. Here’s a snapshot of what you need to expect when you list your property on any of these platforms:

VRBO rules for listing your property

  • The property address
  • Provide rental rates
  • Digital photos of your property
  • Keep your listing up to date
  • Respond to traveler inquiries and screen guests
  • Answer guest’s questions while on their stay
  • Manage payments and reservation dates
  • Ensure your property is well-maintained and cleaned

Airbnb rules for listing your property

Airbnb requires property managers to specify the following before listing their property:

  • The exact address of the property
  • The size of the property (how many guests can it accommodate?)
  • How the property looks like (provide photos)

Airbnb encourages property owners to offer clean accommodation to their guests (host are required to provide a cleaning fee to be included in the pricing)

Traffic sources

Knowing where each rental website gets its traffic is paramount.

Airbnb get more direct traffic

More than 40 percent of Airbnb traffic is direct, meaning most visitors search for their website URL from the browser. It’s incredible how they can pull a large percentage of direct traffic.

The only explanation is that Airbnb has built a robust online presence. In other words, the company is not overdependent on search engines, digital advertising, or social media.

VRBO doesn’t attract much direct traffic like Airbnb; only about 20 percent of its traffic is from direct sources. To match Airbnb, VRBO needs to spend more time building its brand.


VRBO is doing well on email marketing

About 10 percent of VRBO traffic comes from email marketing. On the other hand, only about 0.10 percent of Airbnb’s traffic comes from email. Again, Airbnb has a lot to learn from VRBO when it comes to email marketing.

Organic traffic – VRBO is doing great on non-branded searches

Airbnb gets more organic visits in a month than VRBO. However, something is interesting about Airbnb’s organic traffic: all top searches are branded. 

In other words, the company is getting organic traffic from terms that have their name on them like “airbnb rentals in Indiana,” “airbnb London, etc.” The problem with this is that they are not getting traffic with terms like “vacation rentals in San Diego” and other such terms that people may be searching for.

On the contrary, VRBO is getting most of its organic traffic from non-branded searches. That being the case, it may appear before Airbnb when people search for a vacation rental in a specific location. In most cases, Airbnb may not appear on the first page of search results. That means Airbnb has a lot to do to rank for a non-branded search.

Referral traffic – Airbnb is doing quite well

Positive reviews are king, and Airbnb seems to know this exceptionally well. Airbnb uses third-party search websites to compare vacation rental prices, driving much traffic to the Airbnb website. VRBO is missing on such traffic since they are not prioritizing these websites.

These websites, for instance,, have good organic SEO and have healthy advertising budgets that enable them to attract a lot of traffic which they refer to Airbnb. This is something that VRBO and other sites need to learn from Airbnb to ensure they get traffic from these sources as well.


Knowing about global market penetration is paramount. The US is the top traffic location for Airbnb, with about 45 percent of Airbnb’s traffic. It is followed by Russia with about 5 percent and then Malaysia at about 4 percent.

VRBO’s most traffic also comes from the US, with about 83 percent, followed by Canada at about 6 percent. Unlike Airbnb, VRBO has little presence outside North America, meaning they have a massive opportunity if they decide to venture into that location.

Airbnb vs. VRBO – which is better for property hosts?

Depending on the type of property you have, how long you will permit people to stay, and any added experiences, you may want to choose Airbnb or VRBO, or both. To that end, here’s why you may choose one over the other.

You may want to choose VRBO if:

  • You own property in vacation destinations
  • You have vacation homes that you need to rent out (most VRBO visitors are looking for more space)
  • You own multiple properties or vacancies

Airbnb is best if:

  • You own properties in metropolitan areas
  • You own single rooms and need to rent them for a few nights at a time
  • You can create experiences like tours for your guests

Important note: Although Airbnb is known for single-room rentals, they also allow full-house listings.

Is it possible to list your property on both Airbnb and VRBO?

Yes, a property owner can list their property on both Airbnb and VRBO to take advantage of their traffic. However, you need to take measures to ensure that no overbookings occur. One way to avoid this is to use property management software that helps synchronize the calendars to avoid overbookings.

Airbnb or VRBO – Which vacation rental platform is best for travelers

To help get the answer to this question, we’ll recap the different features of these two platforms.


  • Offers the lowest host fee than other rental sites
  • Provides a wide range of choice to guests, including shared rooms and apartments
  • Airbnb property is ideal for city travelers and guests looking for adventures
  • Offer Experiences in addition to rentals


  • VRBO offers fewer rentals than Airbnb, meaning guests have less variety of choice
  • Offers only entire house or full-rental accommodations
  • Provides two fee modes for hosts to select from
  • Ideal for families or groups of people

Bottom line

As you can see, both Airbnb and VRBO have something best to offer to property owners and guests. However, based on the number of listings available for each platform and flexibility, Airbnb seems to have the upper hand over VRBO.