VRBO vs. Airbnb: How They Stack up for Guests and Hosts

The debate is on in this VRBO vs. Airbnb comparison. Find out which option likely makes more sense for travelers and which one a property owner might prefer.
Last updated Jul 8, 2021 | By Ben Walker | Edited By Becca Borawski Jenkins
VRBO vs. Airbnb

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Vacation rentals offer a unique alternative to staying in hotel rooms and appeal to a variety of travelers. A 2020 report by Grand View Research on vacation rental market size found that the global vacation rental market was valued at more than $87 billion and expected to continue growing through 2027.

This has prompted many property owners to list their homes in different short-term rental marketplaces to meet the growing demand. But which site is best for travelers? And is one site better suited for hosts looking to put up property listings?

In this VRBO vs. Airbnb comparison, we dig into the differences between these two popular rental platforms so you can know — whether you’re a traveler or a property owner — which one might better suit you.

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If you’re a traveler | If you’re a property owner

In this article

VRBO vs. Airbnb for the traveler

Both VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) and Airbnb provide accommodations for travelers in worldwide destinations. But your preferences may be more suited to one vacation rental site over the other. Here’s how both sites stack up against each other when you’re a guest:

VRBO Airbnb
Founded 1995 2008
How to book Website or mobile app Website or mobile app
Fees Can include guest service fees, cleaning fees, extra guest fees, pet fees, and additional taxes and fees depending on location. Can include guest service fees, cleaning fees, extra guest fees, and additional taxes and fees depending on location.
Cancellation policy Five different policies based on amount of refund (none, 50%, or 100%) and the days from the reservation.

Example: 100% refund if you cancel at least 60 days before check-in; 50% refund (minus service fee) if you cancel at least 30 days before check-in.

Three different policies:
  • Free cancellation until 24 hours before check-in
  • Free cancellation until five days before check-in
  • Free cancellation for 48 hours (as long as you cancel at least 14 days before check-in)

    If a stay is over 28 nights, a standard long term policy applies.

Number of properties 200,000+ properties in more than 190 countries 500,000+ properties in more than 200 countries
Types of properties Entire home (houses, apartments, condos, etc.) Entire home, private room, or shared room
Unique properties Yurts, cabins, pods, cottages, farms, and more. Castles, treehouses, islands, yurts, RVs, cabins, pods, and more.
Special search filters
  • Cancellation policy
  • Amenities
  • Property reviews
  • Pets allowed, children allowed, events allowed, smoking allowed
  • Neighborhood
  • Type of location
  • Property type
  • Premier Host
  • Nearby activities
  • Accessibility
  • Virtual tour available
  • Discounts
  • Airbnb Plus or Airbnb Luxe
  • Superhost
  • Accessibility
  • Amenities
  • Facilities
  • Property type
  • Unique stays
  • Pets allowed, smoking allowed
  • Host language
Communication with hosts
  • Through website or mobile app
  • You may receive additional contact information, such as a phone number and email address
  • Through website or mobile app
  • You may receive additional contact information, such as phone number and email address
Review system
  • Rate the overall experience from one to five stars and leave any comments
  • Hosts may also leave reviews for guests
  • Written review, as well as star ratings for multiple categories, including overall experience, cleanliness, and communication
  • Hosts may also leave reviews for guests
Ideal renter Families and other travelers interested in entire homes Travelers who want flexibility with property types and increased property numbers

VRBO: What we like

Book with Confidence Guarantee

If you book and pay for a VRBO, you qualify for the Book with Confidence Guarantee at no additional cost. This policy offers:

  • 24/7 live customer support
  • Emergency assistance if you arrive to a property, can’t get in, and the owner isn’t responding
  • Payment protection against fraud or an owner wrongfully keeping your damage deposit
  • Assistance with finding a similar property if an owner cancels your reservation 30 days or fewer before your stay
  • Assistance booking a new reservation if property is found to be unsafe or substantially misrepresented

Some of Airbnb’s policies may be similar, but not exactly the same. And the benefits you receive are more clear with VRBO.

Family-focused

Whether by design or not, VRBO has become known in part as a family-focused vacation rental marketplace because all the properties on the site are entire places (houses, apartments, condos, etc.). This makes it easy for groups, including families, to find the space they need when traveling.

Search filters

In a straight comparison against Airbnb’s search functionality, VRBO comes out on top. You get similar options on both, including sorting properties by date, location, number of guests, bedrooms, and bathrooms. But VRBO tends to offer more options if you’re looking for something specific.

This includes searching by cancellation policy, property reviews, whether a home is suitable for children, and if there are discounts available. Airbnb doesn’t offer these types of filters.

VRBO: What they could improve

Number of properties

Airbnb has millions more properties than VRBO. This means your options are more limited when searching for accommodations on VRBO, though the number of listings available will depend on the specific destination.

Property types

VRBO lists only entire properties, so there’s no option for a shared or private room within a larger home. This may not make much of a difference for some travelers, but if you travel on a budget or enjoy meeting other people staying in the same home, Airbnb is likely the better option.

Credit card coding

For frequent travelers, the strategic use of credit cards offers one of the best ways to reduce travel expenses and take advantage of helpful benefits. You’re typically able to earn bonus rewards on travel-related expenses if you use certain travel credit cards.

However, VRBO rentals are a mixed bag when it comes to whether you’ll earn additional points or miles because they sometimes don’t code as “travel” on your credit card statement. In comparison, Airbnb rentals consistently code as travel purchases and will earn bonus rewards with the right credit cards.

For credit cards that work well with VRBO rentals, consider our list of the best credit cards for VRBO.

Airbnb: What we like

Property types

Airbnb offers entire homes, similar to VRBO, but it also offers shared or private rooms. Most people would prefer an entire home if given the option, but being able to book a single room can help you save money and, in some cases, open the door to more unique opportunities. For example, you might not be able to find or afford an entire home in the middle of a city, but a private room could be available.

Unique properties

Airbnb loves to showcase its wide range of properties, especially the ones that offer something different. This includes castles, yurts, islands, RVs, tiny houses, and more. VRBO also offers plenty of unique properties, but Airbnb has a specific “unique stays” filter in its search options to help you find something more distinctive.

In addition, Airbnb also provides Airbnb Plus and Airbnb Luxe properties. These properties tend to have the best reviews and offer higher quality than the average Airbnb listing. VRBO offers high-quality listings as well, but they aren’t necessarily placed into a separate category with its own set of standards.

Number of properties

Airbnb has millions more listings than VRBO in hundreds of countries worldwide. This makes it easy for travelers to search for properties in most destinations without having to worry about a lack of options. And because you have more options, you have more flexibility with your travel plans.

The number of available properties also makes it easier to book an Airbnb with points. If you have a Chase credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards, you may be able to find vacation rentals that are cross-listed on both the Airbnb website and the Chase travel portal.

In addition, cards that have a purchase eraser feature, such as certain Capital One credit cards, provide an option to use points for “erasing” past travel purchases, which includes Airbnb rentals. Learn more about which cards to use in our list of the best credit cards for Airbnb.

Airbnb Experiences

With Airbnb Experiences, you get to choose from a wide range of activities from around the world, typically hosted by local residents. This could include a desert adventure in Oman, a mole cooking class in Mexico, or a virtual tour of Paris with a Parisian. You don’t even have to stay at an Airbnb to book these events. These types of activities, which VRBO doesn’t offer, can help enhance your travel experience or prepare you for your next trip.

Airbnb: What they could improve

Search functionality

Searching for accommodations on Airbnb isn’t necessarily bad, but the available filters fall short of what VRBO offers. It’s nice to have filters such as “pets allowed” and “unique stays,” but it would be even better if you could search by reviews, cancellation policies, and available discounts.

Guest policies

Airbnb is slightly behind when it comes to providing certain protections for its guests. It has a guest refund policy that involves potentially getting a full refund after submitting a claim that complies with Airbnb’s guidelines. It’s possible the actual process is smooth in reality, but the written terms don’t seem as robust as VRBO’s Book with Confidence Guarantee.

How to make the most of your points and miles

Many types of rewards credit cards earn bonus points or miles if you use them for travel purchases, which could include VRBO and Airbnb rentals. In addition, you might be able to use your rewards to book a vacation rental.

Here are some of the best travel credit cards to use when booking rentals with VRBO and Airbnb:

Keep in mind that VRBO and Airbnb hosts often cross-list their properties on multiple sites. So although you may not be able to use your credit card rewards to directly book a vacation rental through either VRBO or Airbnb, it could be possible to find certain rentals through different loyalty program travel portals like the Chase travel portal, for example.

In addition, the Capital One purchase eraser allows you to redeem your points against past travel purchases, which could include VRBO and Airbnb rentals.

VRBO vs. Airbnb for the property owner

The vacation rental market has been red hot for years as travelers flock to worldwide destinations and search for alternative lodging options. But when it comes to hosting these rentals, how does a property owner choose which rental service to use?

Take a look at this quick comparison of Airbnb vs. VRBO for property owners:

VRBO Airbnb
Founded 1995 2008
How to list
  • Sign up for a free account
  • Provide the location, photos, type of property, and other details
  • Sign up for a free account
  • Provide location, photos, type of property, and other details
Listing fee None None
Service fee
  • Pay-per-booking fee is typically 8% (5% commission charge plus 3% payment processing fee)
  • An annual subscription payment model may be available for established accounts
  • Typically 3% per booking
  • Fee could be higher depending on location, cancellation policy, or if you’re an Airbnb Plus host or a hotel
Cancellation policy Choose from a variety of policies:
  • No refunds
  • 60-day policy
  • 60/30-day policy
  • 30/14-day policy
  • 14/7-day policy
  • Custom policy
Choose your policy for stays under 28 nights. If a stay is over 28 nights, a standard long term policy applies.

Options for under 28 nights include:

  • Free cancellation up to 24 hours before check-in
  • Free cancellation up to five days before check-in
  • Free cancellation for 48 hours
  • 50% refund for cancellations at least 30 days prior
  • 50% refund for cancellations at least 60 days prior
Types of properties Entire homes (houses, apartments, condos, etc.) Entire homes, private rooms, and shared rooms
Communication with guests
  • Through VRBO before and after making a reservation
  • You typically provide additional info, such as a phone number and email, once reservation is confirmed
  • Through Airbnb before and after making a reservation
  • You typically provide additional info, such as a phone number and email, once reservation is confirmed
Review system
  • Guests can leave a review and rating after a stay.
  • You may also leave a review for your guest.
  • Guests can leave a review and rating after a stay.
  • You may also leave a review for your guest.
Host protection
  • Up to $1 million in primary liability coverage at no additional cost
  • You may set damage deposit amounts that a guest would be required to pay
  • Property damage protection plans can be purchased by your guests, starting from $59
  • Up to $1 million in primary liability insurance at no additional cost
  • Up to $1 million in property damage protection at no additional cost
  • You or Airbnb may require a security deposit to help protect against damage
Trust and safety
  • Verified guest badge indicates guest has gone through additional identity verification process
  • You must accommodate service animals, regardless of your pet policy
  • You can set house rules to help protect guests and properties
  • U.S. hosts and guests undergo background checks and are run against watchlists
  • Most hosts can request a free smoke and carbon monoxide detector
  • You must accommodate service animals, regardless of your pet policy
  • You can set house rules to help protect guests and properties
Type of renter to expect Families, groups, and other travelers Families, groups, couples, adventurers, solo travelers, and budget travelers

VRBO: What we like

Large spaces

If you want to rent a property with large spaces, such as an entire home, villa, condo, or similar, VRBO might be a better option than Airbnb. Typical VRBO properties focus on large groups of people, including families.

Verified guests

Guests want to know they’ll be safe and can trust their hosts, but it’s a two-way relationship because hosts want the same security. In some ways, it can be more anxiety-inducing for a host because you’re worried about your property as well. Fortunately, VRBO travelers have the opportunity to participate in verification processes to put hosts more at ease.

Property protection

Travelers have the option to buy an accidental damage protection plan in case your property is damaged during their stay. In addition, you have the option to set damage deposits for your listing for the same purpose.

VRBO: What they could improve

Fees

You have to pay fees as a host, which is expected. But VRBO charges can seem steep compared with Airbnb. In addition, there is some fear that the option to do a subscription plan instead of the pay-per-booking model might be getting phased out for new VRBO hosts.

Property types

VRBO is focused on entire homes, which limits the types of properties you’re able to list. If you have different types of rental properties available, you might not be able to list them on VRBO.

Airbnb: What we like

Types of listings

Compared to VRBO, the eligible range of Airbnb properties offers a lot more flexibility. You can list entire homes, private rooms, and shared rooms. If you manage different types of properties, Airbnb is the clear choice over VRBO.

Airbnb Experiences

Participating in Airbnb Experiences won’t be for everyone, but it can give you another revenue stream option if you have a creative, interesting, or fun experience you want to share with others. Having the option for online experiences could be especially appealing if you want to work from the comfort of your home. VRBO doesn’t offer anything similar.

Host protections

Airbnb offers both Host Protection Insurance and Airbnb’s Host Guarantee, with the former providing up to $1 million in primary liability insurance and the latter providing up to $1 million in property damage protection — all at no additional cost. VRBO has some similar protections and options, but they’re not at the same level.

Airbnb: What they could improve

Fees

It always hurts to see fees take a chunk of your profits, but most property owners are aware of the costs involved in this industry. However, the 20% service fee for Airbnb Experiences seems high.

Local laws

Airbnb has run into trouble multiple times in worldwide destinations with local laws. To be fair, so has VRBO but it is not as well known. If you want to become a successful Airbnb host, consider the zoning laws in your city, as well as what kinds of taxes and fees may be involved. In some areas, you may need a business license or special permit.

FAQs

Is VRBO safer than Airbnb?

Both VRBO and Airbnb strive to provide safe environments for both guests and property owners. One isn’t necessarily safer than the other, though Airbnb does put an emphasis on background checks, whereas VRBO offers a voluntary process for travelers to become verified guests.

On the other hand, VRBO offers only entire homes, which aren’t shared with anyone else. With Airbnb, you might be sharing a room or space with other guests, which could be a safety concern for some people.

Do either VRBO or Airbnb do background checks on guests?

VRBO doesn’t do background checks on guests, but Airbnb does. VRBO offers a voluntary process for travelers to verify certain identification information and earn a verified guest badge that hosts can see. Airbnb typically checks U.S.-based travelers and hosts against certain databases, including public criminal records and sex offender registries.

Can you negotiate either VRBO or Airbnb rates?

VRBO and Airbnb rates are set by the property owners, so it’s possible to send them a message and negotiate a lower price. You shouldn’t expect to receive a discount every time, but it could be worth it to politely ask.


Bottom line

Both VRBO and Airbnb offer many benefits and features for both travelers and homeowners. But you might be drawn to one over the other depending on your preferences.

For example, VRBO doesn’t offer shared spaces, but Airbnb does. If you’re a traveler who wants a deal on a room for the night, it could make more sense to go with Airbnb instead of VRBO, which offers only entire homes.

If you’re a property owner who manages multiple, large vacation homes, it could make sense to list them on VRBO. This rental site focuses on private spaces for large groups and families, which could line up with your ideal customer audience.

At the end of the day, you could simply use both sites to increase your options and flexibility whether you’re a traveler or a host. If you do, remember to use credit cards to earn rewards as you travel or on your property-related purchases as a host. Check out available options with our list of the best rewards credit cards.

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Author Details

Ben Walker Ben Walker is a credit cards and travel writer at FinanceBuzz who loves helping others achieve their travel goals through financially-sound decisions. For nearly a decade, he has been using credit card points and miles for the sole purpose of traveling the world. Ben has been featured in The Washington Post, MSN, Debt.com, and Finder.com.