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Are you looking for a full comparison between VRBO vs. Airbnb as you explore options on where to stay and what rental sites to choose from?

If you’re looking for a place to stay rather than in a standard hotel, you’ll find that there are thousands of vacation rental options available.

As the top two competitors in the online vacation rental marketplace, VRBO and Airbnb have several similarities but have their differences as well.

This article will take a look at the differences between VRBO vs. Airbnb in order to help you decide which is a better choice based on your budget and travel style.

Book your next trip with confidence knowing that you have analyzed the fine print outlining the differences between VRBO vs. Airbnb.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. 

Discover the difference between VRBO vs. Airbnb from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
At home amenities, such as a kitchen

First, why choose either?

When planning a getaway, many people are opting to stay in a private, one-of-a-kind vacation rental versus in a standard hotel.

With options such as uniquely-themed homes, beachfront cottages, cozy cabins, a tiny house, or an upscale condo, the exciting and affordable options are endless when it comes to booking vacation rental properties.

Most report that the main reasons for staying in a private vacation rental vs. a standard hotel room are cost savings, additional space, and pet-friendliness.

In addition, the conveniences of having a kitchen, laundry, and multiple bedrooms and bathrooms draw larger families and groups to choose the more sizeable Airbnb or VRBO properties.

Last, some prefer the feeling of living locally, for, unlike hotels, these rented spaces are naturally dispersed throughout local neighborhoods and communities.

With both Airbnb and VRBO showcasing similar amenity-packed home listings, there are different features of each.

In order to understand the differences between Airbnb and VRBO, let’s start by taking a look at their similarities.

Similarities between VRBO vs. Airbnb

  • Platform
  • Making reservations
  • Contacting hosts
  • Cleaning fees
Discover the difference between VRBO vs. Airbnb from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
An online platform with a mobile-friendly interface


Websites like Airbnb and VRBO are online accommodation marketplaces that cater to both guests and hosts.

Through these platforms, hosts can lease out their homes or living space and guests can rent a place to stay.

Airbnb and VRBO act as brokers in that by advertising and executing a transaction, they receive a commission from each booking.

Anyone can sign up to be a host, and each platform has an outlined non-discrimination policy that allows anyone to serve as a paying guest.

Making Reservations on VRBO vs. Airbnb

Booking an Airbnb or VRBO property is similar in that all reservations are made online.

The two ways to secure a reservation include Instant Book or 24-hour Confirmation.

With Instant Booking, the platforms will immediately charge your credit card and send an email confirmation.

When Instant Booking is not available, hosts have 24 hours to review your application and to accept or deny your request.

Once accepted, your credit card is charged and a confirmation email is sent.

In the instance of 24-Hour Confirmation bookings, you may cancel a pending request at any time before the host accepts.


Slight difference: VRBO has a very specific Book with Confidence Guarantee and Trust & Safety page, while Airbnb simply has a Trust & Safety page.

In addition, VRBO charges a refundable security deposit to your credit card at the time of booking.

Airbnb simply places these funds on hold and does not charge your credit card unless the property owner files a claim.

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VRBO rental home

Contacting your VRBO vs. Airbnb Hosts

Both Airbnb and VRBO have a secure online messaging system for communicating with rental hosts.

To contact an owner or a property manager prior to making a reservation, guests simply message hosts directly from the respective property listing.

Click “Contact Host” on the Airbnb listing page, and “Ask A Question” through VRBO.

If you have already made a reservation, you can access your guest account to find out how to contact the vacation rental owner or manager.

You will then be directed to either email or call the host to communicate with before and during your stay.

Neither platforms allow guests to call or email a host until a reservation has been confirmed.

Learn the differences between VRBO vs. Airbnb from Top US Family Travel Blog, Travel With A Plan!

Cleaning Fees on Airbnb vs. VRBO

Airbnb and VRBO both allow property hosts to charge a cleaning fee at their discretion.

Cleaning fees help hosts account for extra expenses they have getting their listing ready before guests arrive or after guests depart.

Slight difference: VRBO has a strict policy that hosts must clearly display the cleaning fee on the property listing page.

The displayed price per night does not include the cleaning fee as it is a separate charge.

Airbnb, on the other hand, displays the price per night and does not specify whether or not a cleaning fee is rolled in.

Guests will not find what the cleaning fee is until at checkout.

Unfortunately, the additional cost of the cleaning fee contributes to the Airbnb service fee, which drives the final price up even further.

Differences Between VRBO vs. Airbnb

  • Company basics
  • Rental types
  • Host network
  • Service fees
  • Cancellations
  • Additional features
  • Review section
  • Customer service
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Airbnb rental home

Company Basics

Airbnb: Airbnb is a much younger company than VRBO.

Founded in 2008 under the name Air Bed & Breakfast, Airbnb came to fruition after its rebranding in 2009.

Airbnb is a force to be reckoned with, however, as the most recent statistics boast a total of 80 million monthly site visitors.

It is approximated that 2 million people stay in an Airbnb property every single night.

VRBO: Airbnb’s biggest competitor is VRBO.

VRBO stands for Vacation Rental by Owner and has been in business since 1995. After merging with in 2005 and in 2007, VRBO has steadily grown into a global-wide community.

With its longstanding track record and presence in 190 countries, VRBO continues to be a top player in the travel industry.

HomeAway and VRBO share all of the same properties.

For example, searching one site produces the exact same results as the other.

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VRBO cabin rental

Differences Between VRBO vs. Airbnb: Rental Types

Vacation rental via Airbnb and VRBO is a matter of engaging in an online search to find a space that suits your style and your needs.

As mentioned, options include houses, condos, beach houses, cabins, yurts, and so much more.

Airbnb: The biggest differentiator between Airbnb and VRBO accommodations is that Airbnb users can rent single rooms in shared spaces.

Examples include a spare bedroom in someone’s home or in a hostel.

Such accommodations obviously lack the privacy of a full-property rental, but they’re great for travelers who don’t mind sharing amenities in exchange for a lower nightly rate.

Airbnb is also known to offer one-of-a-kind stays in tiny houses, castles, treehouses, yurts, and even private islands.

These unique stays are rarely offered by VRBO and other competitors.

Last, there is a high concentration of Airbnbs in city destinations.

This attracts more city and business travelers to Airbnb vs. VRBO.

VRBO: VRBO focuses exclusively on private residences which is the primary reason that VRBO has fewer property listings than Airbnb.

Options typically include a house, cottage, or apartment.

Travelers who want to book stays in traditional vacation destinations flock to sites like VRBO because they are more known for their large inventories in touristy destinations.

Read: Top 5 Tips to Choose the Best Vacation Rental

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VRBO vs. Airbnb packing list

Differences Between VRBO vs. Airbnb: Host Network

Airbnb: Airbnb currently advertises hosting more than 5.6 million listings in over 100,000 cities and 220 countries and regions.

This extensive host network is perhaps Airbnb’s biggest advantage over other listing platforms.

You can literally find an Airbnb anywhere.

VRBO: Compared to Airbnb’s 5.6 million listings, VRBO boasts over 2 million rentals worldwide.

Keep in mind, however, that while VRBO offers fewer rentals, they only list whole houses, condos, or apartments.

Users can rest assured that they will not be sharing space with the homeowner or other guests.


Differences Between Airbnb vs. VRBO: Service Fees

Both Airbnb and VRBO charge service fees to cover the costs of the company’s products and services.

Airbnb: Most commonly issued, the split-fee structure deducts 3% from the host payout, and a guest service fee that is under 14.2% of the booking subtotal (the nightly rate plus cleaning fee and additional guest fee, if applicable).

On rare occasions, properties offer a host-only fee of 14%-16% and no Airbnb service fee is paid by guests.

VRBO: The cost of the service fees is typically much lower with VRBO.

Guests are charged a 6-12% service fee of the total reservation cost, minus taxes when booking through VRBO.

It is important to note that hosts don’t have the ability to discount or waive the service fee.

If the reservation is within the window for a 100% refund per the property’s cancellation policy, the service fee will be automatically refunded when the cancellation is confirmed.

With both platforms, you’ll find that the service fee percentage is generally higher for affordable properties and lower for more expensive properties.

Differences Between Airbnb vs. VRBO: Cancellations

Airbnb: Property owners set their own Airbnb cancellation policies on a 6-tiered scale including the Flexible, Moderate, Strict, Long Term, Super Strict 30 days, and Super Strict 60 days cancellation options.

It is important to look over each listing individually to determine its cancellation policy and understand the details of each.

The Airbnb service fee is refundable three times a year when the cancellation takes place within 48 hours of booking and at least 14 days before the scheduled stay.

VRBO: VRBO property owners are also allowed to set their own cancellation policies, so it is important to read over the listing information carefully.

Refunds are given in accordance with the property owner’s specific cancellation policy based on these 6 policy options: No refund, 60-day, 60/30 day, 30/14 day, 14/7 day, or a custom policy.

Cancellations and refunds do not include the VRBO vacation rental service fee.

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VRBO vacation rental

Differences Between Airbnb and VRBO: Special Features

Airbnb: Not only is Airbnb a place to list and search for short-term lodging, but it also includes a unique “Experiences” section.

Airbnb Experiences are carefully selected activities that guests can choose to do near their Airbnb destination. As advertised, they are “One-of-a-kind activities hosted by locals” which include things like cooking classes, yoga, or other classes and workshops.

Airbnb guests pay a private individual through the platform to take part in these immersive activities.

VRBO: Where VRBO shines over Airbnb is that it has an extensive search filter when narrowing down properties.

VRBO also offers “Trip Boards” where you can build collections of your favorite properties.

Trip boards allow you to save, organize, and compare all the places you love.

You can then invite family (or other members of your travel party) to save homes, vote, and comment on your trip board.

Differences Between AirBnb and VRBO: Review Section

Airbnb: The Airbnb website features an active review culture that lets guests leave their thoughts after their stay.

Airbnb reviews are based on 5 stars per section (accuracy, communication, cleanliness, location, check-in, and value) and include a search function to make filtering easier.

VRBO: VRBO also offers a thorough review section after each booking. The VRBO review section also allows homeowners to post a response to the reviewer.

This can give helpful insight into understanding bad to moderate reviews.

Customer Service

VRBO guests can add travel protection insurance to their booking.

This means that if something comes up and you need to cancel your trip, you will still get a refund for the prepaid cost.

Also, if you’re traveling with children or pets, you can purchase damage protection insurance to avoid any extra charges from potential damages.

In addition, they have a 24-hour direct customer support line for questions or assistance related to your booking.

Airbnb, on the other hand, does not offer travel insurance and does not have a direct customer support team or phone number for non-emergencies.

If you need a refund, they’ll require evidence that you’ve tried to work things out with the host.

For non-emergencies, you’re required to first complete an online form, are given a case number, and are told that you’ll be followed up with after ‘additional investigation’.

Tiny House Airbnb rental

Which is Safer, Airbnb vs. VRBO?

In terms of Airbnb vs. VRBO being safer, it’s a toss-up.

There are always certain risks that arise when traveling and booking short-term rentals.

The safety in renting vacation rentals lies in watching out for misleading listings and in determining the actual location of the property.

In fact, my top vacation rental tips include asking plenty of questions, studying the location, and reading the majority (if not all) of the reviews.

Likewise, look for advertised safety features in the property listings as well as study the profile of the person or company renting out the property.

This includes checking the social channels of the renter as well as asking specific questions once the booking is made to determine whether or not you feel comfortable with the property.

Conclusion on the Differences Between Airbnb and VRBO

Both Airbnb has their unique pros and cons, but VRBO is a step above Airbnb in almost every way.


  • Larger host network of available properties
  • Offers both private properties as well as a private room in shared spaces
  • More options with a lower average price
  • Security deposit is not charged to a credit card unless a claim is filed
  • Airbnb Experiences feature
  • Better for city travelers and adventure seekers?


  • Smaller host network but with a higher concentration of high-end properties
  • Only rent ‘whole’ spaces and entire homes; have the entire property to yourself
  • Upfront cleaning fee
  • Lower service fees
  • Book with Confidence Guarantee
  • Great search filtering system and Trip Boards feature
  • Better for luxury rentals, families, and large groups?

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Discover the differences between VRBO vs. AIRBNB from Top U.S. familiy travel blog, Travel With A Plan!

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    1. This is a great tip for other readers as a reminder to look into cancellation policies. etc. I am sorry that you had that experience…