Airbnb vs. VRBO: Which is Better for Travelers?

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Property managers and travelers frequently use Airbnb or Vrbo — two of the most popular vacation rental websites — to book short-term vacation rentals. Deciding which of these options to use for booking a place to stay can be challenging. Keep reading to learn which one typically works better for travelers.

Airbnb vs. Vrbo at a Glance

Originally called Vacation Rentals by Owner, Vrbo was launched in 1995 and is owned by the Expedia Group. Airbnb came along 13 years later, launching in 2008.

Vacationers often use Airbnb and Vrbo for travel accommodations instead of staying in hotels. The platforms offer some similar features and experiences for guests. While Airbnb has more listings, Vrbo typically offers more traditional accommodation choices.

Here’s a quick comparison of the two platforms’ features, including their similarities and differences.

Feature Airbnb Vrbo
Instant booking Available Available
Number of listings 6 million global listings 2 million global listings
Typical guest profiles Travelers with flexible schedules looking for adventurous getaways Families with children
Types of vacation rentals – Shared rooms and spaces
– Entire properties
– Large variety
– Entire properties
– Family vacation homes
– Traditional properties
Cancellation policy Guests must log in to cancel or make changes to reservations, policies vary by property May be relaxed, moderate, firm or strict, typically varies by property
Fees – Split fee: hosts pay 3% and guests pay 14.2% of booking costs
– Hosts may charge additional fees, such as cleaning or pet fees
– A percentage of total reservation cost; excludes taxes
Guest reviews Up to 14 days after a stay to leave a review Up to one year after a stay to leave a review
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Which Is Safer To Use: Vrbo or Airbnb?

Safety is a common concern when using websites and mobile apps to search for travel accommodations.

Here are some safety suggestions for using any booking service:

  • Use a secure payment method. Using a major credit or debit card, PayPal or an electronic check to book accommodations is a good way to safeguard against fraud.
  • Consider purchasing travel insurance before taking a vacation. Travel insurance can protect travelers from unexpected emergencies or injuries while staying at a property. Vrbo also offers insurance to travelers to protect their monetary investment in case they have to cancel their trip.
  • Review the listing specifications carefully and read reviews of the property by previous guests. Pay attention to clues that the property might not be safe to book a stay, such as poor quality photos, spelling and grammar errors in the listing, an unsecured payment option or a request for additional personal information.

Consider these safety concerns before booking your next trip.

Airbnb Safety Concerns

Many travelers are wary about staying in a stranger’s home, regardless of whether the host is present on the property or not . In this case, booking a hotel room may be preferable. To do this, simply select “Hotel room” when filtering Airbnb accommodations.

Airbnb uses a verification process where new users create an account in the app and must verify their identity before they can book accommodations.

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To Verify an Airbnb Account

  1. Enter a legal name and home address.
  2. Provide an official government ID, such as a driver’s license, passport or national ID card.
  3. Upload a clear, entire face self-photo.

Another safety concern involves the sharing of personal information. Airbnb guest and host profiles contain personal details that users might not want to be disclosed to other site users, such as addresses and contact information. Fortunately, this information remains concealed from both parties until a booking is confirmed.

It should be noted that Airbnb only processes debit and credit card payments. Hosts are not privy to guests’ bank card information and aren’t allowed to request money from guests outside of the Airbnb platform.

Airbnb travel guests should also be aware of check-in safety, fraud and scams when booking travel property reservations. Travelers can choose either a self-check-in or “host greets you” check-in option. With the “host greets you” option, the host will greet guests at the property upon arrival, check them in, show them around and communicate instructions and important information about the property.

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Airbnb also offers a 24-Hour Safety Line that offers assistance with quick re-bookings for guests who feel unsafe in their current Airbnb booking.

Vrbo Safety Concerns 

On Vrbo, vacation rentals are booked as contractual agreements between guests and property owners or managers. A property owner is ultimately responsible for resolving any safety issue during a guest’s stay. Guests are entitled to a refund of their booking payment and may include a security deposit refund if one was collected at the time of booking.

Vrbo wants to ensure its travelers’ safety, comfort and confidence when booking and renting property on its web app. For this reason, Vrbo offers an extra layer of security through HomeAway, Inc. for a $39 fee. This service guarantees travelers’ payment of up to $10,000 if they experience any of these security issues when booking travel:

  • Wrongful deposit loss
  • Internet fraud
  • Denial of entry
  • Material misrepresentation
  • Bankruptcy
  • Foreclosure

To further prevent travelers’ risk and ensure safety when booking a stay, Vrbo recommends that travelers take the following precautions:

  • Before sending payment for a booking, ask to speak to the property owner or manager by phone.
  • Ask the property owner or manager to provide references from previous renters.
  • Only send payment using authorized electronic payment methods.
  • Ask for additional photos of the property if the ones provided do not sufficiently represent the property.
  • Request and carefully review a signed rental agreement.

Why Is Vrbo More Expensive Than Airbnb?

Airbnb’s guest service fees are typically more expensive than Vrbo’s fees. Guest service fees on Airbnb average between 14.2% to 16%. Vrbo’s booking fee is 3% for payment processing and 5% for the commission of the total cost of the rental. These fees do not include taxes.

There are a few things that could drive the cost of Vrbo rentals higher than those from Airbnb. Some of these include:

  • Smaller inventory
  • Renting entire properties rather than single rooms or shared spaces
  • Damage deposit may be charged when property is booked
  • Additional Trip Board perk for making notes and collaborating with travel companions

Vrbo also offers a payment plan to travelers who qualify with a “buy at your own pace” payment provider, Affirm. Users pay between 10% and 30% APR based on their credit profile to use the Affirm payment plan. Airbnb does not offer this plan.

Good To Know

Airbnb and Vrbo both offer additional services. Vrbo’s Trip Board feature allows travelers to collaborate with family and friends to plan their travel. Airbnb Experiences offers a variety of activities and classes hosted at different destinations.

Which App Is Better: Vrbo or Airbnb?

The Vrbo and Airbnb apps are pretty similar. Users can search their vacation destination, their planned travel dates and the number of guests that will be staying. Users first see the search results in a split-screen list and map format. The results can be further filtered by different features, including house rules, host language, what’s nearby and property amenities.

One difference between the two apps is that users can minimize the map on Airbnb to browse by list view only. In Airbnb’s map browser view, the nightly rate for accommodations is shown to help users compare prices at a high level.

Airbnb also recently rolled out its Categories search function, which allows users to search by type of accommodation — such as surfing, farms, iconic cities or vineyards — in addition to location, dates and number of guests.

Are There Fake Listings on Vrbo and Airbnb?

Some property listings on Vrbo and Airbnb are from scammers. These listings can sometimes look legit, but be aware of common signs that indicate that they’re fake. A few red flags to look for when spotting fake listings include:

  • Urgency. If a host is urging a traveler to decide on the property right away and requesting payment via wire transfer or directly to a bank account, this is likely a fraud attempt.
  • Overly polished images of the property. Not all vacation rentals are super luxurious, so be wary if all of the photos look too good to be true. It might be worth requesting a live video chat with the property owner for a virtual tour of the rental ahead of booking.
  • Extremely cheap prices. Compare Vrbo’s rental prices with Airbnb’s to see if they are close to each other for the same type of property. The cheapest price might just be a scam.
  • Attempts to move the transaction off the app. Scammers usually attempt to collect payment in a way the app or website is not able to track, like a check or wire transfer.

Airbnb provides safety information on its website, including details on what it does to prevent fake listings, such as using machine learning to check listings and safeguarding contact and payment information. Vrbo, unfortunately, does not seem to have such information available on its site, though it does provide information to help property managers avoid scam bookings.

Final Take

Travelers who prefer city life and experiencing new adventures may consider Airbnb the better choice. Airbnb offers a wide variety of low-, mid- and high-priced vacation rental properties and accommodations, from single rooms to shared spaces.

Because Vrbo travelers tend to vacation in large groups, it might be a better option for big families and friends. Guests can only book entire private spaces. However, Vrbo offers fewer listings, meaning less variety and fewer choices for guests.

Amber Barkley contributed to the reporting for this article.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by Airbnb or Vrbo. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Airbnb or Vrbo.

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About the Author

Kathy Evans is a personal finance freelance writer and entrepreneur with a technical writing and instructional systems design background. She holds an MS in technical writing and informational design and is currently a doctoral student in instructional technology at Towson University. Through work experience in the federal government as well as commercial and nonprofit industries, she has focused her freelance writing on finance, investing and economic content with a specialization in budget coaching.  
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