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VRBO vs Airbnb: For Guests And Hosts

Written by Paul Esajian

In recent years, the vacation rental industry has seen exponential growth, driven by the rise of online platforms that have simplified the process of finding accommodations tailored to travelers’ unique preferences. Among these platforms, VRBO and Airbnb have emerged as notable contenders. This comprehensive guide delves into the VRBO vs Airbnb debate, comparing these platforms from the perspectives of both guests and hosts.

What is VRBO?

VRBO stands for “Vacation Rental By Owner” and has been a significant player in the vacation rental market since 1995. It pioneered the concept of homeowners renting out their properties directly to vacationers, emphasizing a direct connection between property owners and potential renters, thereby eliminating the traditional middleman. Over the years, VRBO has expanded significantly and achieved various milestones, including a merger with HomeAway in 2006, which was later acquired by Expedia Group in 2015

What is Airbnb?

Airbnb, founded in 2008, started with a simple idea of renting out an air mattress in a living room. It rapidly ascended to global prominence, offering a myriad of unique accommodations ranging from treehouses to castles, hence revolutionizing the travel industry. Airbnb’s success can be attributed to its user-friendly platform, community-building emphasis, and its innovative approach to travel accommodations.

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airbnb vs vrbo

VRBO vs Airbnb: For Guests

Booking Process

When deliberating the “VRBO vs Airbnb” debate, the booking process is a crucial consideration. On VRBO, the system is designed for clear, straightforward interactions between guests and property owners, with an intuitive interface that makes navigating property listings, asking owners questions, and confirming bookings easy. Similarly, Airbnb provides a seamless and intuitive booking process, guiding guests at every step from selecting the preferred accommodation type to checking out guest reviews.

Property Variety

VRBO primarily focuses on entire home listings, ideal for large groups or families seeking privacy, with a range of accommodations like villas, cottages, or beach houses. On the other hand, Airbnb lists a diverse range of accommodations including private rooms and shared spaces, catering to solo travelers or those on a budget, alongside unique listings like castles or treehouses.

Pricing and Fees

Understanding the pricing structure is vital when budgeting for a trip. VRBO utilizes a fee structure where guests are charged a 6-12% service fee of the total reservation cost, minus taxes. In contrast, Airbnb operates on a split-fee structure, with the host paying 3% of the service fee, and the guest paying between 14% and 20%. It’s advisable to be aware of additional fees like cleaning or service fees that may apply on both platforms.

Experience and Community

VRBO offers a straightforward vacation rental experience, focusing mainly on the accommodation itself. Conversely, Airbnb has broadened its offerings to include Airbnb Experiences, providing unique activities hosted by locals to immerse guests deeper into the destination’s culture.

VRBO vs Airbnb: For Hosts

Listing Process

Both VRBO and Airbnb offer streamlined processes for those keen on renting out their property. VRBO emphasizes creating detailed listings that highlight the property’s best features with a direct system ensuring clarity and transparency. Airbnb provides a more interactive approach, guiding hosts through every step from uploading photos to setting house rules, ensuring the property is showcased in the best light.

Commission and Fees

Analyzing “VRBO vs Airbnb” from a financial perspective reveals key differences. VRBO offers hosts two options: pay a 3% credit card processing fee and a 5% commission fee or pay a $500 annual fee for unlimited bookings. In contrast, Airbnb generally takes a 3% commission from hosts for each reservation, which can be more attractive for hosts, or even Airbnb business owners, especially if the property is listed part-time.

Support and Resources

VRBO provides hosts with robust property management tools, resources, and 24/7 customer support. Airbnb takes it a step further with its host academy, community forums, and a plethora of online resources, designed to help hosts excel in providing the best guest experience.

Flexibility and Control

VRBO affords hosts significant control, especially concerning bookings and setting parameters for potential renters. Airbnb, while offering flexibility, also provides guidelines to ensure guest satisfaction, creating a balanced hosting environment.

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vrbo or airbnb

Is VRBO better than Airbnb?

Determining whether VRBO is better than Airbnb largely hinges on individual preferences and the specific needs of travelers or hosts. Below are instances where one might prefer VRBO over Airbnb:

For Large Groups and Family Gatherings

  • Space: VRBO primarily lists entire properties which often offer more space, making it a suitable choice for large groups or family gatherings.

  • Privacy: With entire home listings, VRBO provides a level of privacy that is ideal for families or groups who prefer secluding spaces.

For Long-Term Stays

  • Stable Pricing: Even adding a small amount to your monthly payment can decrease your loan balance faster, building equity.

  • Accommodations Suited for Longer Stays: Properties on VRBO are often more suited for longer stays, with accommodations like houses, villas, or cottages that provide the comforts of a home.

For a More Traditional Vacation Rental Experience

  • Straightforward Transactions: VRBO’s platform emphasizes straightforward interactions between guests and property owners, providing a more traditional vacation rental experience.

  • Less Emphasis on Community: Unlike Airbnb, which has a strong emphasis on community and local experiences, VRBO focuses mainly on the accommodation itself which some travelers might prefer.

Each platform has its own set of advantages, and the choice between VRBO and Airbnb would depend on individual circumstances, preferences, and what one values most in their travel or hosting experience.


Navigating the “VRBO vs Airbnb” landscape can initially appear daunting, but with this updated knowledge, you’re well-equipped to make informed decisions whether you’re a guest seeking the perfect getaway or a host looking to share your space. Each platform offers unique opportunities, and assessing your individual needs coupled with thorough research will set you on a path to delightful travel experiences or hosting success.

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