Travel Travel Tips

7 Differences Between VRBO vs. Airbnb: A Full Comparison

September 19, 2019

Are you looking for a unique place to stay other than in a standard hotel? Perhaps you’ve heard about the latest trend in short-term vacation rentals and are wondering about the differences between VRBO vs. Airbnb?

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

This post will take a look at the differences between VRBO vs. Airbnb in order to help you decide which is a better choice.

We’ll take a look at what you need to know before you hit the ‘reserve’ button, as well as even the most subtle of differences between each service. This includes analyzing the company basics, cleaning and service fees, and safety between the two.

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

*Due to current extenuating circumstances related to travel, both AirBnb and VRBO are offering updated, temporary cancellation policies for a limited time.

Please visit each site separately in order to read and fully understand their temporary cancellation policy so that you can book with confidence.

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, and upscale condos, the fun, exciting, and affordable options are endless when it comes to booking an Airbnb or VRBO property.

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 (when desired).

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.

These differences will have a definite impact on your vacation planning.

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
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.

Click here to discover the differences between AirBnb and VRBO!  If you've ever wondered the differences between these vacation rental platforms, U.S. travel blog Travel With A Plan thoroughly introduces them both.  #vacationrentals #differencesbetweenairbnbandvrbo #AirBnborVRBO #AirBnborVRBOforrenters #Homeaway
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 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.

Keep in mind that though you may be excited to have found a property for $150/night, it may actually be $200/night once the cleaning fee is added in.

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 addition 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
Click here to discover the differences between VRBO vs. Airbnb!  If you've ever wondered the differences between these vacation rental platforms, U.S. travel blog Travel With A Plan thoroughly introduces them both.  #vacationrentals #differencesbetweenairbnbandvrbo #AirBnborVRBO #AirBnborVRBOforrenters #Homeaway
AirBnb rental home

Differences Between VRBO vs. Airbnb: 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. Searching one site produces the exact same results as the other.

Click here to discover the differences between AirBnb and VRBO!  If you've ever wondered the differences between these vacation rental platforms, U.S. travel blog Travel With A Plan thoroughly introduces them both.  #vacationrentals #differencesbetweenairbnbandvrbo #AirBnborVRBO #AirBnborVRBOforrenters #Homeaway
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 the suites your style and your needs. As mentioned, options include houses, condos, beach houses, cabins, and so much more.

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

Examples include a spare bedroom in someone’s home. 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 properties 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 than VRBO.

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

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

Need an epic packing list to make your vacation even more seamless? I’ve got you covered!

*Click the following image to get your FREE family vacation packing list that is both customizable and printable!

VRBO vs. Airbnb packing list

Differences Between VRBO vs. Airbnb: Host Network

Airbnb: Airbnb currently advertises hosting more than 4 million listings in over 100,000 cities and 190 countries.

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 4 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

Airbnb: Airbnb and VRBO both charge host fees and variable guest service fees. Airbnb typically charges guests 5-20% of the reservation subtotal. Hosts are charged a 3% every time a booking is made.

VRBO: Guests are charged a 6-12% service fee of the total reservation cost, minus taxes when booking through VRBO. The service fee is more complicated for property owners than it is for Airbnb hosts.

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: Airbnb property owners set their own cancellation policies on a 3-tiered scale: either the Flexible, Moderate or Strict Cancellation Plan. 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 and allow for two types of refunds: partial or full.

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

Click here to discover the differences between AirBnb and VRBO!  If you've ever wondered the differences between these vacation rental platforms, U.S. travel blog Travel With A Plan thoroughly introduces them both.  #vacationrentals #differencesbetweenairbnbandvrbo #AirBnborVRBO #AirBnborVRBOforrenters #Homeaway
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 is 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.

Which is Safer, Airbnb vs. VRBO?

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

The safety in renting vacation rentals comes with going back to the listing to determine the 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.

In addition, check the social channels of the renter as well as ask 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:


  • Larger host network of available properties
  • Offer shared spaces as well as private residences
  • More options with a lower average price
  • Security deposit 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; have the entire place 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/or groups?

*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find our exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*

If you like our article on the Differences Between Airbnb and VRBO, click here to check out our Related Posts:

"If you like it, Pin it!" quote
Click here to discover the differences between AirBnb and VRBO!  If you've ever wondered the differences between these vacation rental platforms, U.S. travel blog Travel With A Plan thoroughly introduces them both.  #vacationrentals #differencesbetweenairbnbandvrbo #AirBnborVRBO #AirBnborVRBOforrenters #Homeaway
Are you looking for a socially distant place to stay?  Find out the differences between VRBO vs. Airbnb and what you need to know about renting a vacation rental.  We uncover the similarities and differences to help you choose.  #VRBO #Airbnb #vacationrentals #socialdistancing #bestplacestostay #familyvacationspots #familytravel #Homeaway
Discover the differences between VRBO vs. AIRBNB from Top U.S. familiy travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
  1. Reply

    Harmony, Momma To Go

    September 22, 2019

    I have used vrbo a few times and have my first airbnb stay coming up! i knew they were a little different, but this is a great article about the differences!

    • Reply


      September 22, 2019

      Thanks! I have rented with VRBO several times. Let me know how AirBnb goes! I too loved learning the differences!


Welcome Friends!

We are the Brommer family from Minnesota, and I'm Jen - the chief travel planner of the group! We love traveling together as a family for it's what keeps us happy and healthy at home during the everyday chaos of life. We hope you enjoy our free family vacation itineraries and tips that will help add some stress-free pizazz to your next adventure!

Looking For Something?
Travel With A Plan packing checklist

Get Your Free Family Vacation Packing Lists Here!

TMOM Travel Writer