VRBO vs. Airbnb: Which One Is Better for Travel?

VRBO vs. Airbnb

Over the past few years, travelers have been moving away from staying in a hotel room. Instead, many travelers seek a more “staying at home” feel while away from their homes.

Whether you are looking to book a single room in someone’s house or the whole place itself, two of the most popular apps to achieve this are Airbnb and VRBO. Both have similar features and rentals available, so which is better?

Before diving in, let’s take a look at each company.

Airbnb

The idea for Airbnb formed when founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia wanted to rent out space in their San Francisco apartment. They needed a way not to have a full-time roommate but find short-term renters easily. In 2008 Airbnb was born with the name Air Bed and Breakfast.

Airbnb’s goal is to connect homeowners to potential renters at its core. Aimed initially at short-term rentals, Airbnb has become popular for long-term stays due to the pandemic. Since its arrival, Airbnb has been at the forefront of the sharing economy.

VRBO

Most people will think Airbnb was the first company of the two to be found, but they would be wrong. VRBO, or Vacation Rental by Owner for short, was founded way back in 1995.

As the name might suggest, VRBO is focused on renting out different types of vacation homes, putting the homeowner in direct contact with potential renters. HomeAway acquired VRBO in 2006.

VRBO vs. Airbnb Comparison

To compare these two popular sites, we’ll look at six key aspects of each.

Accommodation Types

When looking at the different accommodations each site offers, Airbnb has the advantage over VRBO.

VRBO mainly works via renting out stand-alone homes only. On the other hand, Airbnb offers traditional stand-alone homes and shared spaces (like renting out a single room in a multi-room home). They’ve also ventured into having hotel rooms available on the site.

Rental Selection

With the above in mind, it comes as no surprise that Airbnb also holds an advantage in the sheer number of rentals available on their site.

Airbnb boasts a robust 5.6 million rentals available worldwide in over 190 counties. While also available in 190 plus counties, VRBO’s exact rental availability is not public knowledge. However, by searching on each site for the same locations, it’s clear that there are far more rentals available on Airbnb vs. VRBO.

Website Searching

Next on the docket are the websites themselves. While they both boast powerful tools and search options, VRBO’s is just a bit easier to navigate. The site’s primary function involves searching for a perfect place to rent when it comes down to it.

VRBO filtering makes it easier to find exactly what you are looking for. Searching by user review, pets allowed, and other standard options work better on VRBO. It’s not that Airbnb doesn’t have the same functionality, but it’s a bit harder to find.

Booking

The next step in your rental journey for either site is the booking process, where again, they are both very similar. You deal directly with the homeowner on either website, not a third party. This typically gives both the host and the renter more ability to negotiate and give each other a sense of security.

For both sites, the potential rental will send a request detailing their timeframe, number of people, age range, and any pets or other needed details. At that point, it’s up to the homeowner to review the request and accept or deny it based on their criteria. There can be a dialogue back and forth between both parties to go over specifics or clear up any ambiguities.

Airbnb gives a slight edge in the booking department as they offer an “Instant Book” if the homeowner allows it.

Flexibility

After booking a home or room, canceling was not an easy process in the past. But, as we’ve now seen, many renters need to be flexible and allow for rescheduling bookings or canceling them altogether.

Both Airbnb and VRBO allow hosts to choose from preset cancellation and change options ranging from relaxed to very strict. Airbnb’s are a little more straightforward for everyone to understand.

VRBO offers hosts the ability to create custom options for changes and cancellations. This might be easier for hosts. However, some renters might find the process confusing. Therefore, the option to customize policies can be seen as a disadvantage for VRBO bookings.

Pricing and Fees

Pricing and fees represent other areas where both sites are very similar. Both charge roughly 20% of their services’ base cost on the surface. Both sites also allow for hosts to require refundable security deposits, as you might when renting a living space.

These security deposits can protect the homeowners from damage. However, the potential to be nickel and dimed for anything that may or may not have been your fault could be a turnoff for potential renters. These security deposit requirements seem to be more prevalent on VRBO.

Final Thoughts

So who wins in the VRBO vs. Airbnb debate? It depends on what side of the renting you are on. Airbnb offers a much more comprehensive range of rentals while also touting far more in sheer volume available. It also provides renters the opportunity to book a rental instantly without going through the review process.

On the other side, VRBO gives the renters themselves more options. Customized cancellation and rescheduling rules, plus more perks, seem to require security deposits to protect from potential damage. The VRBO site is also easier to navigate, allowing users to find the rental they want more quickly.

This article was produced by Wealth of Geeks

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Jonathan is a husband and father to two crazy kids. He is a software engineer, real estate investor, and personal finance blogger. He owns a small real estate business that operates a couple of investment properties in his local market. He has been featured in Grow from Acorns + CNBC, Business Insider, USA Today, FOX Business, and more!