Which is Better Airbnb vs. Vrbo? Start Planning your Vacation

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With traveling picking up again, itchy feeters are desperate to embark on their next adventure. Vacation rental has soared up, so property owners and potential property hosts are seeing an opportunity to capitalize on the travel reactivation. For this season, Airbnb and Vrbo are the prime options when it comes down to vacation rental sites, but if you are interested in dabbling into the business, read further to get acquainted with all the basics.

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Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner)


Vrbo itself is a relatively recent brand, although it has been around under the name VRBO since 1995 –this is why many people still wonder what Vrbo is. It is a vacation rental company where rental owners or managers can advertise their vacation rentals and travelers can book their vacation homes or apartments.

This company operates internationally in 190 countries and its origins are North American. To be exact, its headquarters are in Austin, Texas.


Vrbo has some specific features that make it an attractive lodging solution. Vrbo properties are unoccupied-only in traditional vacation destinations, so this means guests do not share the space with anybody else, making it very appealing for families and large groups.

Its advanced filter system is very thorough, as guests can choose among several amenities and types of property.

According to Rental Recon, “Vrbo also attracts guests who may spend more money per rental.” Further, the fee structure is more flexible for owners as they can whose whether they pay per rental or a for a subscription fee –which is a pretty good deal.

Also, Vrbo property listings mean listing on HomeAway and other partner websites. “This means more exposure for your property, and possibly more income in the long run.”


Vrbo offers fewer rentals, and is not as flexible a rental space as Airbnb, since guests cannot share the same space in the property.

Also, sheer traffic on the platform –perhaps given the type of guest it caters to– is way lower when compared to Airbnb. In April of 2019, the platform had 17 million visits while its competitor topped 85 million.

Service Fees

Vrbo charges both the guest and the owner of the property. Those owners renting consistently will see the $499 subscription as an advantage.

According to its website, the service amount varies: “Generally, the higher the reservation amount, the lower the percentage of the service fee.”

As reported by Host Tools, Vrbo charges a commission for pay-per-booking listings starting at 8% per booking, and a 5% Vrbo service fee. For more details, you can check the company’s website.

Cancelation Policy

The platform offers owners several options when it comes down to cancellation policies. They can set “No Refund” at all, or “Strict” in which a full refund can be requested at least 60 days before the stay. With “Firm,” the same 60-day model applies, but cancelations 30 days before the stay offer a 50% refund.

However, Vrbo recommends the “Moderate” policy, by which “Bookings canceled at least 30 days before the start of the stay will receive a full refund. Bookings canceled at least 14 days before the start of the stay will receive a 50% refund.”

Lastly, in the “Relaxed” setting, bookings canceled at least 14 days before the stay will receive a full refund, and those at least 7 days before the stay will receive a 50% refund.

Types of Rentals

Since Vrbo operates exclusively for properties, it offers stays at houses, apartments, condos, villas, and much more. Guests can fiddle with filters and look for specific location types, from beachside to sky rentals. According to Mashable, filters on Vrbo are “more robust” in comparison to other platforms.


The platform offers a two-way review system, in which both owners and guests can rate each other. No editing is possible once a review is published, and neither part can read the review before it goes live.

Vrbo states that “once a review is submitted, neither party will be able to see it until both parties submit a review or until the 14-day submission period ends, whichever comes first.”

By DesignStudio (Airbnb’s Design Department) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons



Airbnb does not own any property. It simply acts as an intermediary between those who want to rent a space within a property and those who are looking for a place to stay. If you plan to rent additional space in your home, you must “become a host” and create a list for your space.


One main advantage of Airbnb against Vrbo is the fact that it rents any sleeping space. Moreover, the platform offers some extra features like bike renting, homemade goods and special breakfasts, and even yoga and music courses.

This way, hosts can make some extra money. Through their review system, hosts can also shine above the competition by becoming “Superhosts” if they –together with top reviews and good extras– offer guests a “whole experience.”

Further, Airbnb is a mammoth of a website as it recorded 85 million visits in April 2019.


For all the rental space flexibility and extra bonuses and perks, the type of guest the platform caters to could be a disadvantage: young people.

Because of their age, they can require more attention from the host, and are also more demanding on the “experience” side of the service. Also, the platform’s filter is not as bold as Vrbo’s, as it includes a few amenities and location data, on top of price and property types.

Service Fees

In addition to the cost of the room, Airbnb charges a guest service fee that typically ranges from 6% to 12%. Hosts also pay a service fee of around 3%, which Airbnb adds to each transaction. The price of a room on Airbnb depends on a variety of factors, including location, quality of the property, and amenities. You can find rooms and even cheap hotels. Superhosts earn a $100 Airbnb coupon every year that they keep their status

Cancelation Policy

Airbnb has a very thorough and detailed cancelation policy. In “Flexible,” guests can cancel up to 24 hours prior to arrival for a full refund.

“If they do so after that period, you will receive the amount corresponding to the nights they have stayed, plus an additional night,” according to the website.

With “Moderate,” they can cancel up to 5 days before arrival for a full refund, but if they do so after that period, hosts receive the amount corresponding to the nights they have stayed, plus an additional night and 50% of all the remaining nights.

“Semi-strict” means that guests must cancel at least 30 days prior to arrival to get a full refund, and if they cancel between 7 and 30 days before the stay begins, host will receive the amount corresponding to 50% of all nights.

To receive a full refund in “Strict” mode, guests must cancel within 48 hours of booking and at least 14 days prior to arrival. If they cancel between 7 and 14 days before the stay begins, you will receive the amount corresponding to 50% of all nights.

The platform offers specific conditions in “Long stays,” “Super Strict” and “Non-refundable option,” so you should check the refund policy section on the website.

Types of Rentals

Airbnb has several different accommodation options. In the first one, guests can rent the whole property, with which they look for privacy, good amenities, and living spaces, with outdoor facilities like BBQs, swimming pools, or gardens.

The second option is renting private rooms. With this option, guests can expect to share the property’s areas like bathroom and kitchen.

Whatever you want to offer your guests, make sure that you clearly list the conditions and allowed areas.

Shared rooms are another Airbnb option –more appealing to younger travelers. In this option, says Guest Ready, hosts offer “a spare room with two or more beds and that travelers will be expected to share this sleeping area during their stay.”

This is a popular option for budget-conscious guests who are looking for convenience and will not engage too much with the owner.

Airbnb also offers a Unique Stay option. “Some travelers are looking for unique spaces to rent while they are away so if your Airbnb falls into that category, whether it’s a yurt in the forest or houseboat in a canal, be sure to list it accordingly to attract more interest in your property listing.”


Once guests completed their check-out, they will be asked to write a review and provide star ratings for their trip and guest.

Reviews should be submitted within 14 days of check-out, and guests will not be able to edit them after that time. Also –similar to Vrbo– reviews are only posted after both parties have completed theirs or after the 14-day period –whichever comes first.

You can also leave private comments, which will be shared once the reviews are posted.

Difference Between Vrbo and Airbnb

Search functionality

Thanks to its bold and thorough filters system, this is a win for Vrbo against Airbnb. Being able to filter by property types, locations, amenities, and much more gives the property-centric vacation rental platform an advantage. Airbnb has enough filters to succeed, but it is nothing to write home about.

Pricing and fees

Both Airbnb and Vrbo charge the owner –host– as well as the guests, and in both cases “guest fees are a percentage of the total stay.”

However, owner/host fees operate differently as Vrbo charges both per booking and it offers an annual subscription. On the other hand, Airbnb charges per booking, and their fees are less flexible.

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The booking process is very similar on both platforms. In Vrbo, guests enter their arrival and departure dates, and then select the number of adults and minors from the drop-down menu, and check the box next to pets if applicable.

Upon clicking on “Reserve Now,” they can review the Total Payment Amount, the Payment Schedule, and any additional deposits.

Then, they enter their contact details, including any notes to the owner. After reviewing the Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions of the website, they read and accept the Rental Agreement, Cancellation Policy, and all other applicable policies.

In Airbnb, guests can book straightaway or send a reservation request to the host. From the available listing, they can check the availability and select the dates and number of guests, then click “Book.” If a “Confirm and Pay” option appears, a booking can be placed immediately.

If “Reservation Request” appears, travelers can add payment details, review the policies and conditions, and send a message to the host before submitting the request.

If guests opt for a reservation request, the host has 24 hours to respond, a time that can be used by guests to verify their identity if required by the host.

If the host accepts the request, Airbnb will charge for the reservation. On the contrary, if the guest rejects it or does not respond within 24 hours, they will not be charged and can reserve another accommodation.

Accommodation type

Airbnb’s accommodation types is a win over Vrbo’s, as the platform offers whole properties, as well as bedrooms. The latter is property-centric. Under these conditions, Airbnb’s wide variety of shared places is a plus and offers more possibilities for individual travelers and couples.

However, due to the pandemic, the platform launched Airbnb Plus and Airbnb Luxe, which are more focused on whole properties.

According to the study “The seven lives of Airbnb. The role of accommodation types,” “COVID-19 is impacting different accommodation types, and whether travelers’ choices regarding accommodation type are affected by the need for physical distance.”


In the Airbnb vs Vrbo duel, the former is the most flexible overall. It sports more accommodation types, and its cancelation policy is more thorough and offers more possibilities to guests.

Besides, the platform gives travelers a wide array of extra features like bike renting, homemade goods and special breakfasts, and courses whose only objective is to create interaction between the host and the renter.


Also, depending on the destination, guests can even book for camping or boutique hotels and hostels –even a treehouse, or a villa entrenched in a mountain.

As of 2021, the company introduced both Airbnb Plus and Airbnb Luxe to differentiate for further accommodation segmentation. While the “Plus” version offers full properties as well as rooms, full privacy is the deal breaker by offering no shared areas at all.

Airbnb Luxe offers full properties including country houses, castles, vineyards, luxurious penthouses, mansions, and even private islands.

A big difference of Vrbo vs Airbnb is the types of properties that can be listed on the platforms. Airbnb offers a wide variety as, every host and property manager can list several styles of properties “from cabins and tiny houses to luxury villas and castles.”

On the other hand, Vrbo focuses more on conventional spaces. The company is more into group and family stays, so it admits entire properties only and does not allow advertising shared spaces of any sort.

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Other Alternatives


It was created in 2005 to carry out vacation rentals. The catch is, both Vrbo and HomeAway are part of the Expedia Group (NASDAQ:EXPE), which made Vrbo the main brand while keeping HomeAway U.K and U.S.


Home to Go is a vacation rental site where users from anywhere in the world can rent houses and apartments at incredible prices. It does not matter if it is a vacation with family, partner or friends, you will find all kinds of options according to your comforts.

Thousands of houses and apartments will be available to you with just one click, but it is not only used to find accommodation but also to compare the different prices offered. In more than 200 countries, people are using the services of this app. Part of this great popularity is because users can find houses and apartments in more than 3,000 popular areas.


Flipkey is a vacation rental owned by the great TripAdvisor. It is present in approximately 179 countries and usually provides a lot of information about properties. Every month it receives the visit of about 5 million users.


TurnKey offers travelers summer homes across the U.S. focusing on summer season with properties that offer “jacuzzis, sandy-white beaches, private pools, and endless sunshine.” TurnKey specializes in pet-friendly vacation rentals, including private beach access or summer monthly rentals.


Homestay is a Family Accommodation that offers the opportunity to stay with a family while traveling for a price.

Homestay.com is an accommodation marketplace dedicated to offering travel experiences, connecting guests with hosts in over 150 countries. Hosts offer the possibility to live and breathe the local culture, make friends, as well as memories, and explore the destinations in an authentic way, similar to Airbnb.


Does Vrbo do background checks on owners?

According to Finance Buzz, unlike Airbnb, Vrbo does not do background checks on owners. “Verified guest badge indicates guest has gone through additional identity verification process.”

Are Airbnb and Vrbo the same company?

No. According to IGMS, “They both were designed as an alternative to hotels for guest accommodation.” Airbnb was founded in 2008 and now boasts over 7 million listings in more than 220 countries. VRBO (originally known as Vacation Rental by Owner) was founded in 1995 and now is owned by the Expedia Group.

Do you have to pay for Vrbo upfront?

Some property owners request upfront payments, but not all. The properties with 24-hour confirmation or Instant Reservation allow guests to reserve and pay instantly.

For both types of reservation, it is necessary that you enter your payment information on our website when completing the disbursement.

VRBO uses proprietary encryption and advanced tokenization services to protect transactions. When guests book and pay through the payment system, they can opt for a Reserve with Confidence guarantee.

Is Vrbo Cheaper than Airbnb?

According to Upgraded Points, Airbnb charges guest service fees typically under 14.2%, but when searching for properties, “we found consistent service fees of 16%. There are no guest service fees for experiences.”

“Booking with VRBO, guests are charged a 6% to 15% service fee of the subtotal (minus taxes).” This means that the guest service fee is actually pretty similar.

Is Vrbo Better than Airbnb?

Both Airbnb and Vrbo are great to list in. However, there are several elements to weigh in when choosing one over the other like the property you own, whether you are focused on experiences or amenities, and the rental time.

Million Acres state that Airbnb is best for owners with properties in metropolitan areas and single rooms to be rented for a few nights at a time. “Owners who can also create experiences for their guests, such as tours, lessons, etc.”

On the other hand, although Airbnb offers full property rentals, Vrbo is more focused on this segment and is more suited to owners with properties in vacation destinations, those with entire homes.

Also, due to its annual $499 membership possibility, Vrbo is more suited for owners with multiple properties or vacancies, “though this does mean that you’ll still pay regardless of whether your listing actually books.”

Final Thoughts

As the travel industry rekindles, every property owner must identify what type of property they have to choose the right listing.

Despite the similarities of both vacation rental sites, each one has a different target group, specific guest and refund policies, and other elements.

However, perhaps the deal-breaker as to which one to choose is the pandemic. COVID-19 has changed the guest-host relationship for good, so it is very important that you come up with a solid proposition based on the new reality.