VRBO vs. Airbnb for Guests and Hosts [Comparing Fees, Listings, Cancellation Policies]

Full Disclosure: We may receive financial compensation when you click on links and are approved for credit card products from our advertising partners. Opinions and product recommendations on this site are ours alone, and have not been influenced, reviewed or approved by the issuer. See our Advertiser Disclosure for more details. We appreciate your support!

There are so many vacation rental websites out there, but 2 of the biggest players that you’ll be familiar with are Airbnb and VRBO. Both are peer-to-peer rental sites that allow private and commercial accommodation owners to rent their places out.

When it comes to booking a rental for your next trip, you’ll want to know which website offers the greatest choice of accommodation, has the most fuss-free booking process, and has the cheapest fees. If you’re an owner looking to list your property for rent, the commission rate will be important to you, as will the options you have for your cancellation policy.

We’ve taken a deep dive into these 2 popular accommodation rental sites to help guide you as to which is more suitable for your requirements, whether you’re an owner or a guest.

VRBO vs Airbnb – Differences at a Glance

VRBOAirbnb
For Guests

  • Booking fees: 6-12% of the subtotal
  • Smaller network of properties
  • Entire properties only
  • Monthly payment plan with Affirm
  • Damage deposit charged at the time of booking
  • Trip Board with the ability to add notes for travel companions

For Hosts

  • Host commission rate: 8%
  • Alternative annual subscription ($499) available for unlimited bookings
For Guests

  • Booking fees: 5-20% of the subtotal
  • Larger network of properties
  • Ability to filter your search by unique properties
  • Shared accommodation and entire properties
  • Damage deposit held 2 days before rental
  • Book experiences as well as accommodation

For Hosts

  • Host commission rate: 3%
  • Superhost status
  • Automatic smart pricing based on demand

VRBO vs. Airbnb for Guests

Variety of Accommodation

Airbnb Unique Accommodation
Airbnb unique accommodation. Image Credit: Airbnb

VRBO has 2 million properties in 190 countries and Airbnb has 4 million places to rent across 191 countries. Although Airbnb offers double the number of available rental spaces, VRBO offers entire properties only, and Airbnb features a combination of entire properties and private rooms.

Both Airbnb and VRBO feature a whole host of unique properties to rent, from castles to caves and igloos to treehouses. Airbnb allows you to filter your accommodation results by “Unique Stays” if you’re looking for something extra special. While you can filter by property type with VRBO, the options are far more standard types of accommodation rather than unique stays.

Website

Airbnb and VRBO’s websites are very similar, with the ability to search by your destination, stay dates, and the number of guests. Both websites display results initially in a split list and map format and you can filter your results by property amenities, neighborhood, host language, house rules, and more.

With Airbnb, you can minimize the map if you would rather browse solely from a more extensive list view. When browsing via the map, price markers display the nightly rate for accommodation, which can help compare the affordability of specific areas at a glance.

Airbnb Search Results
Airbnb search results. Image Credit: Airbnb

When browsing the map with VRBO, you must click a blank marker to view the nightly rate, increasing the amount of time required for browsing.

VRBO Search Results
VRBO search results. Image Credit: VRBO

The property pages are also very similar, featuring an image gallery, property specification, and availability calendar (where instant booking is possible). VRBO has the edge on Airbnb, as the availability calendars display the nightly rate, so you can quickly identify if an alternative date is cheaper.

VRBO also displays the size of the property. You can’t actually filter by property size, but it’s still useful to know which place is more spacious if you’re stuck deciding between 2 properties.

VRBO Property Page
VRBO property page. Image Credit: VRBO

Airbnb does not feature a property’s size, which has been a bone of contention with accommodation owners for years, as comparing prices based on the number of bedrooms, locations, and facilities may not be a true reflection of the value of the accommodation.

Airbnb Property Page
Airbnb property page. Image Credit: Airbnb

Payment Plans

Once you’ve decided on the perfect rental, you can click the Book Now or Reserve buttons to complete your booking. Both VRBO and Airbnb allow a partial payment on booking with the remainder payable at a later date. VRBO also enables monthly payments for those that qualify for Affirm, whereas this is not an option with Airbnb.

Booking Fees

Airbnb charges guest service fees of 5-20% of the subtotal, including the nightly rate, cleaning fee, and additional guests. Airbnb states that fees are typically under 14.2%, but when searching for properties, we found consistent service fees around 16%. There are no guest service fees for experiences. Booking with VRBO, guests are charged a 6-12% service fee of the subtotal (minus taxes), so this can be quite a bit cheaper than Airbnb in some circumstances.

Cleaning Fees

Accommodation owners determine the cleaning fees for both Airbnb and VRBO.

Pricing

When searching on Airbnb, the nightly rate that is displayed on the map or results list also includes the cleaning and service fees. This makes it easier to find accommodation that fits your specific budget.

VRBO’s nightly rate excludes cleaning and service fees, and these are only displayed after you click Book Now. This can make budgeting tricky as you cannot filter by service or cleaning fee amounts.

Damage Deposits

Airbnb and VRBO work differently when it comes to security deposits. VRBO charges a security deposit as part of the booking process that is refunded back to you after your stay, provided no damage was caused.

VRBO Booking Summary
VRBO booking summary. Image Credit: VRBO

On the other hand, Airbnb does not charge a damage deposit, but they hold funds 2 days before the start of your stay, which is released after you check out if no disputes are raised.

Airbnb Request to Book
Airbnb booking summary. Image Credit: Airbnb

Although you do need available funds in both instances, Airbnb’s process of holding the funds means that you don’t need to part ways with your deposit on the day of booking.

Instant Book

It can be frustrating when you think you’ve found the perfect rental property, only to have your request rejected by the host. Instant Book listings are available on both Airbnb and VRBO and enable guests to book a property without requiring approval. You can filter your search results to display Instant Book properties only if that’s important to you.

Contacting a Host

Both VRBO and Airbnb allow guests to message the host directly, with neither permitting contact by telephone until a booking has been made. Airbnb displays some useful information, including the host’s response rate and average response time, so you have some indication of how long you might need to wait for a reply.

Cancellations

Cancellation policies can be found on the property pages for both Airbnb and VRBO. Airbnb has 6 cancellation categories that hosts can choose from, and VRBO has 5, ranging from flexible to strict. VRBO has a no refund option, with all of Airbnb’s policies allowing at least a partial refund within the parameters.

VRBO Cancellation PoliciesAirbnb Cancellation Policies
  • No Refund: Booking is non-refundable under any circumstances.
  • Strict: Cancellations made up to 60 days before the start of the stay are fully refundable.
  • Firm: Cancellations made up to 60 days before the start of the stay are fully refundable. Cancellations made up to 30 days before the start of the stay will receive a 50% refund.
  • Moderate: Cancellations made up to 30 days before the start of the stay are fully refundable. Cancellations made up to 14 days before the start of the stay will receive a 50% refund
  • Relaxed: Cancellations made up to 14 days before the start of the stay are fully refundable. Cancellations made up to 7 days before the start of the stay will receive a 50% refund.
  • Super Strict 60 Days: Cancellations made up to 60 days before the start of the stay will receive a 50% refund of the nightly rate and cleaning fee.
  • Super Strict 30 Days: Cancellations made up to 30 days before the start of the stay will receive a 50% refund of the nightly rate and cleaning fee.
  • Long Term (Bookings Exceeding 27 Nights): Cancellations are permitted for 48 hours after the booking, providing the cancellation occurs at least 28 days before check-in.
    • Cancellations can be made before check-in and guests will receive a refund, minus the first 30 days.
  • Strict: Free cancellations are permitted for 48 hours after the booking, providing the cancellation occurs at least 14 days before check-in.
    • Cancellations made up to 7 days before the start of the stay will receive a 50% refund of the nightly rate and cleaning fee.
  • Moderate: Free cancellations are permitted up to 14 days before the start of the stay.
    • Free cancellations are permitted for 48 hours after the booking if the booking is within 14 days of the start of the stay. In this instance, guests can cancel up to 5 days before the start of the stay and receive a full refund.
  • Flexible: Free cancellations can be made up to 14 days before the start of the stay.
    • For bookings less than 14 days before the stay, free cancellation is permitted for 48 hours after the booking and up to 24 hours before the start of the stay.

Guest Reviews

Both websites feature an overall satisfaction rating, guest reviews, and the host’s response. Whereas VRBO has just 1 satisfaction rating, Airbnb breaks down the score by different categories, so that you can see the individual scores for aspects such as cleanliness, communication, and location. The only other difference is that Airbnb includes profile pictures of guest reviewers (where available), which can add a bit of credibility to the review.

Airbnb Reviews
Airbnb Reviews. Image Credit: Airbnb

Interesting Features

It’s not just accommodation that’s available on Airbnb — there are experiences, too. You can sign-up for a cooking class, visit historic sights on a walking tour, or arrange a photo shoot, and it’s all provided by locals.

Although the concept of saving and sharing properties online with family and friends is nothing new, VRBO has a handy feature where you can save and annotate specific properties. Add your travel companion to your Trip Board and you both can note down what you love about the property or the 1 thing that it’s missing.

Bottom Line: Overall, the online experience is slightly better with Airbnb, with a greater choice of accommodation and the ability to view map pricing at a glance to speed up browsing. If the price is an important factor over convenience, VRBO’s service fees can be up to 8% cheaper when comparing those top-end properties. Price-conscious travelers will also be drawn to Airbnb due to its availability of private rooms within houses that tend to offer much cheaper rates than entire properties.  

VRBO vs. Airbnb for Hosts

Booking Fees/Commission

With VRBO, property owners can choose to advertise with a flat annual fee or through a pay-per-rental commission. The annual fee of $499 allows unlimited bookings, whereas the commission-based structure charges 8% per rental (5% commission plus a 3% processing fee).

The Airbnb fee for hosts is 3% of the booking subtotal (10% for hosts in mainland China and potentially higher for Airbnb Plus hosts).

Search Rankings

With hundreds, if not thousands, of properties available in some areas, it’s important to get your property to rank as high up the list as possible in the search results. Both websites take into consideration a combination of factors — some of which are within your control and some that are not.

Ensuring that your listing has a detailed description and lots of good quality photos will help drive booking requests, and the higher conversion rate on your listing, the better your search ranking can be. Airbnb and VRBO also consider factors such as allowing Instant Book on your property, how quickly you respond to inquiries, and whether you’ve had no or a low number of rejected or canceled bookings.

Airbnb Superhost Status

Airbnb rewards its hosts with Superhost status when they have kept their accounts in good standing. These are the minimum requirements to become a Superhost:

  • Completed 3 reservations that total at least 100 nights, or at least 10 trips
  • Maintained at least a 90% response rate
  • Maintained a 1% percent cancellation rate or lower
  • Maintained a 4.8 guest rating
Airbnb Superhost
Airbnb Superhost status. Image Credit: Airbnb

The Superhost profile badge features on the property listing and can reassure guests that you’re a reliable host.

Listing Management

It’s really easy to register your property on Airbnb. You’re guided through a step-by-step process, which includes selecting your property’s facilities, uploading photos, and defining the rental rules for your guests.

If you’re signing up to VRBO and have a listing on another travel site such as Airbnb, you need to call the listing team to get started. If you’re not listed elsewhere, you can set up your listing online and the process is as simple as Airbnb.

Booking Calendars and Instant Book

Whether you allow Instant Book or not, it’s important to keep your booking calendar updated so that guests can check availability and avoid double booking.

Airbnb Host Calendar
Airbnb host calendar. Image Credit: Airbnb

With Airbnb and VRBO, you can sync your calendar with other rental sites to ensure you don’t have to reject or cancel a booking, which can lead to host penalties. Airbnb also enables you to sync calendars between multiple listings, for example, if you rent an entire place and the rooms separately.

Smart Pricing

With Airbnb, you can activate Smart Pricing that automatically adjusts your nightly rate in response to demand. Rates can be affected by seasonality, local events, and midweek vs. weekend dates, and Airbnb will increase or decrease your rates to attract more guests.

Bottom Line: For hosting, there’s very little difference with the online experience when it comes to listing your property. Both offer intuitive admin areas and provide tips and guidance for suggested nightly rates based on the property’s location and facilities. The Superhost status can add credibility to a host profile and is something to work towards to ensure best practices. If the commission is the deciding factor, Airbnb will be a host’s top choice charging a flat 3% compared to VRBO’s pay as you go 8%. 

Final Thoughts

So, which accommodation rental site should you book or host with? That depends on your circumstances. If you’re looking for a budget option of renting a room within a property, Airbnb is the website for you as VRBO only offers entire properties. If you’re looking for accommodation that is out of the ordinary, Airbnb makes it easier to find these hidden gems with a filter specifically for unique stays.

From a usability point of view, Airbnb has the edge on VRBO, as they’ve considered small touches that allow you to select properties that offer greater reassurances in host reliability. Superhost status and timeframes showing a host’s typical response rate can indicate how dedicated a host is in maintaining their listing.

When choosing which website to rent on, it’s likely going to come down to commission, as you’re renting your place to make money, right? Airbnb’s 3% is significantly less than VRBO’s 8%, but if your property is a full-time rental, you might want to consider VRBO’s annual subscription that allows unlimited bookings for a fee.


Frequently asked questions

Is VRBO the same as Airbnb?

VRBO and Airbnb are separate websites but essentially offer the same services. Both are rental sites that allow property owners to rent their accommodations. There are small differences between the 2 brands, such as the commission rate for property owners and the service fees for guests.

Why is Airbnb more expensive than VRBO?

Airbnb charges guest service fees of 5-20% and states that fees are 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 6-12% service fee of the subtotal (minus taxes), so this can be quite a bit cheaper than Airbnb in some circumstances.

Should I list on Airbnb and VRBO?

You can list your property on both Airbnb and VRBO. Host commission rates are 3% for Airbnb and 8% with VRBO. If you’re registered on another travel rental site then you need to contact VRBO’s listing team to register your property.

How much does VRBO charge owners?

VRBO charges accommodation owners 5% commission for the rental amount and any extras, plus a 3% payment processing fee.

Amar Hussain

About Amar Hussain

Amar was born and raised in England, UK, embarked on an 11 country round the world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second which ended up being a 23 country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then Amar has endeavored to turn his gap year into a ‘gap life’ and has spent the last 10 years traveling the 7 continents.

We respect your privacy. Please view our privacy policy here.

Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.

Any thoughts or questions? Comment below!

Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which we receive financial compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). However, the credit card information that we publish has been written by experts who know these products inside out, and what we recommend is what we would (or already) use ourselves. This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers that are on the market. Click here to see a list of advertisers that we work with.