Chapter 3

Airbnb vs. Vrbo: Who Reigns Supreme

Vacation rentals have a lot of benefits that you can’t find at hotels or other traditional accommodations. If you want to book a short term rental, chances are you will find yourself on either Airbnb or Vrbo.

Both Airbnb and Vrbo boast millions of vacation rental listings, receive tens of millions of monthly visitors, and hoards of loyal users. There’s no doubt that the two of these companies have made a name for themselves in the vacation rental business, but which one is better for your specific needs?

We’ve done the work for you and researched the differences between these two vacation rental giants, making it easier for you to know what sets them apart. With this guide, you’ll be able to decide for yourself which one is the better option for you in listing or renting a vacation rental.

General facts

Airbnb was founded in 2008 and has about 5 million listings, 150 million users, and operates in 220 different countries. It’s also estimated that Airbnb’s market share of the entire vacation rental industry is about 20%, which is the most of any single vacation rental company.

Vrbo stands for “vacation rentals by owner” and was founded in 1995. In 2006, it was acquired by HomeAway, and further down the line in 2015, it was bought by the Expedia Group. Today, this listing site has about 2 million listings in 190 countries and 150 million users.

Airbnb has more listings and is available in more countries than Vrbo. However, Vrbo reigns supreme in having a wider audience from being a part of the Expedia Group, which gives hosts more exposure.


Website structure

From looking at their websites, you can already notice some similarities and some differences. They both have similar search features, where you enter your destination, the number of people, and date ranges to see available properties, and also similar services. But after that, their websites diverge from this cookie-cutter format.

Vrbo Homepage English

Vrbo has a very traditional home page with some recommended locations, vacation ideas, and homes near you. You can browse places to stay in various regions of the globe right there on their home page. Airbnb has taken a bit of a spin from this basic format and highlights its new categories of special stays, where you can scroll along the top and find the type of property you are looking for, and showcases some outstanding properties from around the world below.

Types of accommodation

Airbnb has every type of rental space available, this includes houses, rooms, apartments, boats, igloos, tree houses and everything in between. They are known for having unique stays such as a Lego-themed house, floating Tiki suites and private castles. Niche options aside, you can rent a whole space to yourself, or you can choose to do a house or room share to save money.

Airbnb Homepage

Vrbo also offers a wide range of accommodations, although they don’t have as many unique stays as Airbnb. On Vrbo, you can only rent out entire properties. That means you can expect to never be sharing a room or a house with another guest. Due to this rule, there are a higher number of bigger houses and spaces on Vrbo than on Airbnb.

Both of these listing sites are great for finding suitable places to stay. If you are looking for longer stays, Airbnb and Vrbo have discounts for renting a place for a month at a time. Vrbo is slightly better for families or groups of friends that want to vacation together because they focus on renting whole accommodations. On the other hand, Airbnb is great for business travelers, cheaper stays and less typical rentals.


As with every online travel agency, there are various fees that you have to pay to be listed or to rent from the website. Airbnb and Vrbo are no exception. The fees paid can change the amount of profit you make off a booking, or they can change the price point for guests. Both of these websites have fees for both hosts and guests, so let’s take a closer look at what is owed to the platform when making a transaction.


Host fees

Airbnb has two options for fees: the split fee option and the host-only option. With the split fee option, the cost is split between the host and the guest. The host can expect to pay about 3% of the subtotal with this fee structure. You can expect to pay a bit more if you are an Airbnb Plus host, have a listing in Italy or have a super strict cancelation policy.

As the name implies, the host-only fee option means that the host takes on the responsibility of paying the entire fee. You can typically expect to pay 14%-16% of the subtotal. The same groups listed above can also expect to pay more here, and if you have a listing in mainland China, you can expect to pay only 10%. This fee option is mandatory for all traditional accommodation listings, including hotels and serviced apartments.

Vrbo offers two fee models as well: the pay-per-booking model and the subscription model. With the pay-per-booking option, hosts only pay the fee when they receive a booking and there is someone staying in their rental. These fees start at 8% which is made up of a 5% service fee and a 3% credit card processing fee which are taken from the total amount.

Most hosts choose the pay-per-booking option, but if you get a lot of bookings off Vrbo, then the subscription fee might be best for you. The subscription fee model is a one-time flat fee of $499, which is paid once per year.

Guest fees

Most hosts do not want to take the entire service fee cost off their paychecks, so the split fee option is more popular. If the host on Airbnb has chosen the split fee option, then guests reserving a vacation rental can expect to pay up to 14.2% taken off the booking subtotal. This fee is shown at checkout before you book.

When booking with Vrbo, guests can expect to pay a 6%-15% service fee based on the subtotal, excluding taxes. In the end, this can end up being cheaper than Airbnb, depending on the booking, of course.

Travel Plans

Cancelation policy

Both of these websites have cancelation policies that help protect hosts from unexpected vacancies and help guests get a refund within a specific time frame.

Airbnb has 5 main cancelation policies to choose from. They are flexible, moderate, firm, strict, and non-refundable. There are a couple more policies, flexible long term, strict long term, super strict 30 days, super strict 60 days, and special cases, but these are all circumstantial policies.

  • Flexible: Guests can cancel and get a full refund 24 hours before a stay, and the host receives nothing. If they cancel after that, the host will be paid for each night’s stay plus 1 additional night.
  • Moderate: Guests can cancel 5 days before check-in for a full refund, and hosts will not be paid. If they cancel after that, then hosts will receive money for each night’s stay plus 1 additional night and 50% of all unspent nights.
  • Firm: Guests must cancel before 30 days to receive a full refund. If they cancel between 7 and 30 days, hosts will receive a 50% refund. If they cancel less than 7 days before, then hosts are paid 100% for all nights.
  • Strict: For a full refund, guests must cancel within 48 hours of booking and 14 days before check-in. If they cancel between 7 and 14 days before check-in, hosts get 50%. If they cancel after that, then the host will get 100% for all nights.
  • Non-refundable: No refund will be issued, no matter how early a guest cancels.

vrbo cancelation

The 6 Vrbo cancelation policy options include no refund, 60-day, 60/30 day, 30/14 day, 14/7 day and custom policy. There are special policies for integrated property managers and platform partners. They also offer the option for custom refunds if it meets the price of the selected refunded amount and the impact on booking fee option for pay-per-booking properties.

  • No refund policy: No refunds are offered during any time frame.
  • 60-day policy: Bookings that are canceled 60 days before the check-in will receive a full refund.
  • 60/30 day policy: Bookings canceled at least 60 days before the start of the stay will receive a full refund. Cancelations up to 30 days before the check-in will get a 50% refund.
  • 30/14 day policy: Bookings canceled at least 30 days before check-in day will get a full refund. If they are canceled 14 days before the start of the stay, then a 50% refund will be issued.
  • 14/7 day policy: Bookings canceled at least 14 days before the start of the stay will receive a full refund. Bookings canceled at least 7 days before the start of the stay will be refunded 50%.
  • Custom policy: Hosts can customize their cancelation policies in a way that differs from those listed above. They can be viewed directly from the property page.


Reviews are important for any listing site. For hosts, having high reviews with prompt response times can land you more bookings. Airbnb and Vrbo know how important reviews are, and they both have the option of reviews on each listing. The way they go about reviews is a bit different, so let’s break down the reviews on each site.

Airbnb fosters an environment that prioritizes reviews. Once the check-out is complete, guests will be promptly asked for a review of their stay. Both guests and hosts have 14 days to complete a review. Reviews are left on a 5-star rating overall with other prompts for feedback on listing accuracy, cleanliness, communication, pricing and more. Leaving private feedback is also an option.

Guest and host reviews are posted at the same time, and they cannot be edited after. Reviews can’t be removed from a listing once posted, but they can be replied to or reported if they violate the guidelines. When looking at a listing, guests also have the option to filter reviews for specific topics that they are looking for.


Vrbo has an option for reviews, but they are less strict about creating a review-heavy culture on their platform. On check-out day, a notification for a review will appear, and an email will be sent three days after if a review is not submitted. Ratings are done on a 5-star basis with extra breakdowns for cleanliness, communication and adherence to rules.

Both guests and hosts can leave a review up to a year after the stay is complete, so it is less pressing to write a review immediately. Once a guest or host has submitted a review, then the other party has 14 days to write a review. After the 14-day period has passed, then the review will go public and it cannot be edited.

Who’s the winner?

Airbnb and Vrbo are two well-established listing websites that specialize in vacation rentals. Vrbo has been in the game for longer, but Airbnb was able to quickly make a name for itself within a shorter period of time.

Airbnb has more listings, including unique stays, and monthly users, but Vrbo has lower fees and is a part of the Expedia group which can get your listing seen by a wider audience.

In the end, whether Airbnb or Vrbo reigns supreme is completely up to you and your business goals. You can’t go wrong with putting your vacation rental on either of these websites. If you want to get the best of both worlds, why not list your property on both!