Host Guide: The Key Differences Between Airbnb and VRBO

January 31, 2024

When it comes to booking vacation rentals, Airbnb and VRBO are two of the biggest players in the online accommodation marketplace. Both platforms offer a range of accommodations and customizable search options, but there are notable differences that may influence your decision. In this comparative guide, we'll explore the key differences between Airbnb and VRBO to help you make an informed choice for your next vacation.

Key Takeaways

  • Airbnb offers a wider range of travel accommodations, including single homes, private residences, apartments/condominiums, shared single rooms, and hotel rooms.
  • VRBO provides extensive search customization options, allowing users to filter properties by specific amenities and features.
  • Airbnb emphasizes experiences, allowing hosts to offer unique activities and tours to guests.
  • VRBO is known for its real reviews aggregator, providing a comprehensive overview of property reviews from multiple sources.
  • Both platforms have distinct fees and policies, with differences in cancellation policies, cleaning fees, and pricing structures.

Accommodation Options

Range of Travel Accommodations

When it comes to selecting the perfect place to stay, travelers are met with a plethora of options on both Airbnb and VRBO. Airbnb offers a diverse range of accommodations, from shared rooms to luxurious villas, catering to various preferences and budgets. This flexibility allows travelers to find a unique and personalized lodging experience, often with amenities that surpass those found in traditional hotels.

On the other hand, VRBO specializes in providing entire properties, such as private residences, condos, and unique stays like beachfront cottages and cabins. This focus on entire properties ensures that guests have exclusive access to the space, making it ideal for family trips or group vacations. VRBO's commitment to single-unit rentals reflects their understanding of travelers' desires for privacy and comfort.

Both platforms enable users to filter search results by property type, ensuring that finding the right accommodation is a breeze. Whether you're planning a solo adventure or a family getaway, the ability to customize your search to include specific amenities, location types, and nearby activities helps in crafting the perfect travel experience.

Notable Differences

When choosing between Airbnb and VRBO for your next vacation rental, it's essential to consider the unique features each platform offers. Airbnb is renowned for its diverse range of accommodations, including everything from single homes and private residences to shared rooms and hotel options. On the other hand, VRBO tends to focus more on entire homes and private residences, catering to travelers looking for a full-property experience.

Pricing strategies also differ significantly. Airbnb hosts can utilize 'Smart Pricing' to adjust rates based on demand, while VRBO pricing is more static. This could mean potential savings or a premium depending on when and where you book.

Airbnb's 'experiences' feature is a standout, offering guests the chance to book unique local tours and activities, enhancing the travel experience beyond just accommodation.

Lastly, terminology and status indicators like 'Superhost' or 'Premier Partner' can guide you to high-quality listings with excellent reviews on both platforms, but they are named differently. Understanding these differences can help you make an informed decision that best suits your travel needs.

Listing Types

Single Homes and Private Residences

When it comes to finding the perfect stay, both Airbnb and VRBO offer a wide array of single homes and private residences, catering to travelers looking for a home away from home. Airbnb's diverse portfolio includes not only single-family homes but also a variety of other property types. You can easily filter your search to find exactly what you're looking for, whether it's an entire place, a private room, or even a unique accommodation like a treehouse or castle.

VRBO, on the other hand, specializes in single-unit rentals, such as entire properties, condos, and cottages. These properties are particularly well-suited for those planning beach, lake, or ski vacations, as well as certain city destinations. A fun fact about VRBO: it's possible to find unique single properties like houseboats and even castles!

Both platforms provide the opportunity to enjoy amenities like fully equipped kitchens and private living spaces, which contribute to a more authentic local experience. The choice between Airbnb and VRBO often comes down to the type of property you're seeking and the nature of your trip.


When it comes to apartments and condominiums, both Airbnb and VRBO offer a variety of options that cater to travelers looking for a more urban experience or those who prefer the comforts of a home-like setting. Airbnb is known for its diverse listings, which include everything from studio apartments to luxury condos, providing travelers with a range of choices to suit their preferences and budget.

VRBO, on the other hand, focuses more on vacation homes and may have fewer apartment or condo listings in comparison. However, those that are listed tend to be entire properties, offering privacy and exclusivity for guests.

  • Airbnb's platform allows for a mix of shared and private spaces.
  • VRBO typically offers entire homes, with a focus on family or group travel.
Both platforms provide a secure and convenient way to find the perfect stay, but it's important to consider the type of accommodation you're looking for when making a decision.

Shared Single Rooms or Private Rooms

When it comes to shared single rooms or private rooms, Airbnb offers a variety of options that cater to solo travelers or those looking to save money by sharing space. Groups who would otherwise book multiple hotel rooms often find value in these shared accommodations.

  • Solo travelers can enjoy the social aspect of shared rooms.
  • Couples may prefer the privacy of a private room.
  • Budget-conscious travelers often opt for shared spaces to reduce costs.
For those planning a longer stay, Airbnb's pricing structure can be particularly advantageous, with lower nightly rates for extended bookings.

VRBO, on the other hand, focuses primarily on entire properties, which means shared single rooms or private rooms are not typically available through their platform. This distinction is crucial for travelers who prioritize privacy and space over cost savings.

Hotel Rooms

When it comes to booking hotel rooms, platforms like Airbnb offer a unique twist on the traditional stay. Unlike VRBO, which focuses on entire properties, Airbnb includes hotel rooms in its array of options. This can be particularly advantageous for travelers seeking the amenities and services of a hotel with the ease and personal touch of an Airbnb booking. Couples often find hotel rooms to be the most cost-effective choice, especially for short stays.

Airbnb users can benefit from booking about four weeks in advance to snag the best deals. On the other hand, last-minute hotel bookings can sometimes yield savings, but this is less predictable and can vary widely by location and time of year.

  • For those planning longer vacations, Airbnb's pricing structure may offer lower nightly rates for extended stays.
  • Groups looking to save money should consider sharing a larger Airbnb property rather than booking multiple hotel rooms.
While hotel rooms on Airbnb provide a familiar comfort, the platform's diverse offerings ensure that there's something for every type of traveler, whether you're looking for a quick overnight stay or a more immersive experience.

Search Customization

VRBO Customization

VRBO's search customization is where it truly stands out. Starting with the basics, you input dates, the number of guests, and pet accommodations. But the real magic happens when you hit the "filter" button. Here, you can tailor your search with precision, selecting from amenities like pools and Wi-Fi, setting a budget, and even specifying the number of bedrooms or kitchens.

Filters are not just about the property itself; they extend to cancellation policies, house rules, and even the neighborhood vibe. With VRBO, you can also sort by area amenities and user ratings, ensuring that every aspect of your stay is just as you want it.

  • 25 property types, from apartments to yachts
  • 14 location types, including beachfront and woodland retreats
  • Options for nearby activities like golf or gym access
VRBO's detailed customization allows for a tailored experience that can make planning your family trip or solo adventure a breeze. The platform's focus on user preferences ensures that you find the perfect match for your travel needs.

Airbnb Customization

Airbnb's search functionality stands out for its flexibility, allowing travelers to tailor their search to fit their specific needs. Initially, you can filter by cancellation policy, type of place, price range, and whether you want an instant book option. But the customization doesn't stop there:

  • You can specify the number of bedrooms and select on-site amenities like kitchens and laundry facilities.
  • Dive deeper by filtering for verified properties, choosing from 18 different property types, or looking for unique stays such as tiny houses or farm stays.
  • Set preferences for house rules, or search by neighborhood to find the perfect location.

This level of detail ensures that whether you're planning a solo adventure or a family getaway, you can craft a search that aligns with your preferences. Airbnb's approach to search customization is designed to provide exceptional customer service and maintain cleanliness, which are crucial for hosts aiming to request and respond to reviews effectively.

Fees and Policies

Cancellation and Refund Policies

Understanding the cancellation and refund policies of Airbnb and VRBO is crucial for both hosts and guests. Airbnb offers a variety of policies ranging from Flexible to Super Strict, allowing free cancellations within a certain timeframe before check-in. For instance, the Flexible policy permits free cancellation until 24 hours before check-in, while the Super Strict 60 days policy requires cancellation 60 days in advance for a partial refund.

VRBO's policies can be more complex, with options like the 60-Day Cancellation Policy, which grants a full refund if canceled more than 60 days before check-in, and a No Refund Policy for certain listings. Always review the specific cancellation policy for the property you're interested in, as some hosts may create custom policies.

When planning your stay, it's wise to filter your search by cancellation policy to find an option that offers the flexibility you need. Remember, cancellation policies are set by individual hosts, so they can vary significantly from one listing to another.

Cleaning Fees

When booking a vacation rental on Airbnb or VRBO, you'll notice an additional cleaning fee that is separate from the nightly rate. This fee is determined by the hosts and can vary based on several factors. For instance, hosts may charge more if they outsource cleaning services or if the property requires special cleaning due to pets, smoking, or its proximity to the beach. Travel in recent years has also introduced more rigorous cleaning protocols, which can influence the cost.

  • The cleaning fee is generally for standard cleaning expectations. However, guests should be aware that they could face extra charges if the property is left in poor condition or if house rules are broken.
  • On VRBO, you might encounter a "standard fee" that includes additional guest or pet fees, while Airbnb may list cleaning fees separately. Always review the breakdown of fees carefully before booking.
Cleaning fees can be a point of contention among guests, as they are a cost not typically found in hotels. While some listings may not have a cleaning fee, the median for those that do is around $75 for a one-night stay.


When it comes to pricing, both Airbnb and VRBO offer unique approaches that cater to different types of travelers and market demands. Airbnb's 'Smart Pricing' feature allows hosts to set flexible rates that automatically adjust based on demand, ensuring competitive pricing and maximizing occupancy. This dynamic pricing strategy can mean that the cost of a stay may fluctuate, potentially increasing during peak times when a property is in high demand.

On the other hand, VRBO hosts set their own nightly rates and can customize prices for specific times of the year, such as holidays, but do not employ demand-based pricing. This can lead to more predictable pricing for travelers, as the cost is not directly influenced by the number of people clicking on a listing. Both platforms add occupancy taxes to the nightly rates, aligning with traditional hotel pricing structures.

It's essential for travelers to consider these pricing models when planning their stays, as they can significantly impact the overall cost of a trip. By understanding the pricing strategies of each platform, guests can make more informed decisions and find options that best suit their budget and travel needs.


When booking a vacation rental, the total cost is not just about the nightly rate. Both Airbnb and VRBO include additional fees that can significantly affect the final price. Airbnb offers two service fee structures: the split fee and the host-only fee. The split fee is more common, with guests typically paying under 14.2% and hosts covering the rest. Alternatively, hosts may shoulder the entire fee, particularly in the case of hotels. VRBO, on the other hand, charges a guest service fee ranging from 6 to 15% of the booking subtotal.

Cleaning fees are another consideration. These one-time charges cover the cleaning of the space after your stay. While some listings may not have a cleaning fee, the median is around $75. It's important to note that the way these fees are presented differs between platforms. VRBO may list a "standard fee" that includes extras like pets or additional guests, and hosts can add "custom fees" for specific needs. Airbnb displays a clear cleaning fee line item in the initial quote, along with the service fee.

Remember to review the fee breakdown carefully before confirming your booking to avoid surprises on your credit card statement.

Lastly, for hosts looking to bypass these platform fees, tools like Booklee offer a way to create direct booking websites using existing listing links, potentially saving on commissions and gaining more control over bookings.

Reviews and Experiences

Real Reviews Aggregator

In the competitive landscape of vacation rentals, the power of real guest reviews cannot be overstated. Both Airbnb and VRBO understand this and have implemented robust systems to collect and display feedback from travelers. These reviews serve as a trustworthy guide for future guests and a performance indicator for hosts.

  • Airbnb's review system allows guests to rate their stay on various aspects such as cleanliness, communication, and accuracy of the listing.
  • VRBO also collects detailed reviews, focusing on the property's features and the overall experience.
The authenticity of reviews is crucial as it helps to maintain the integrity of the platforms and ensures that guests can make informed decisions.

Both platforms encourage guests to leave honest reviews shortly after their stay, which contributes to a transparent and reliable community. It's important for hosts to actively engage with this feedback, as it can significantly influence potential bookings.


Airbnb stands out by offering a unique feature that VRBO currently does not match: the experiences. These are not just accommodations but activities designed to immerse travelers in the local culture and environment. Airbnb experiences range from online workshops to in-person tours and even multi-day adventures, all hosted by locals. Here's what you can expect from Airbnb's experiences:

  • Online experiences to enjoy from the comfort of your home.
  • Local in-person guided experiences for a deep dive into the neighborhood's culture.
  • Multi-day adventures that include stays, experiences, and meals, providing a comprehensive travel package.

VRBO, focusing primarily on accommodations, has yet to venture into this realm. For travelers seeking more than just a place to stay, Airbnb's experiences offer a way to connect with the area and its people on a deeper level.

Number of Listings

When it comes to the sheer volume of options, both Airbnb and VRBO boast impressive numbers. Airbnb lists over 830,000 properties across 190 countries, showcasing a vast array of choices for travelers. VRBO is not far behind, with a strong presence in the vacation rental market.

Variety is the spice of travel, and both platforms cater to this by offering a wide range of property types. Whether you're looking for a cozy studio apartment or a luxurious villa, chances are you'll find it on either site. However, the two platforms may differ in the types of listings that are more prevalent or featured more prominently.

The number of listings a platform has can be a strong indicator of its popularity and the diversity of travel experiences it can offer.

Ultimately, the choice between Airbnb and VRBO may come down to personal preference, the specific type of accommodation you're seeking, and the unique offerings each platform provides.


In conclusion, both Airbnb and VRBO offer unique features and benefits for travelers and hosts. While Airbnb provides a wide range of travel accommodations and experiences, VRBO focuses on providing a variety of property types and customizable search options. Whether you're a host looking to maximize direct bookings or a traveler seeking the perfect vacation rental, understanding the key differences between Airbnb and VRBO is essential. Ultimately, the choice between the two platforms depends on your specific needs and preferences. With the right information, you can make an informed decision that suits your travel style and budget. Happy hosting and happy traveling!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key differences in accommodation options between Airbnb and VRBO?

Airbnb offers a range of travel accommodations including single homes, private residences, apartments/condominiums, shared single rooms, and hotel rooms. On the other hand, VRBO provides a variety of rental types, allowing users to choose from entire properties, private rooms, and shared rooms.

How do the listing types differ between Airbnb and VRBO?

Airbnb offers single homes, private residences, apartments/condominiums, shared single rooms, and hotel rooms. VRBO, on the other hand, provides entire properties, private rooms, and shared rooms.

What are the differences in search customization between VRBO and Airbnb?

VRBO allows users to customize their search by specifying dates, the number of adults and kids, and whether they are bringing pets. Airbnb customization, on the other hand, offers a different set of filters for users to narrow down their search.

What are the notable differences in fees and policies between Airbnb and VRBO?

The notable differences in fees and policies include cancellation and refund policies, cleaning fees, pricing, and other fees. Each platform has its own set of policies and fees that users should be aware of.

How do reviews and experiences differ between Airbnb and VRBO?

The differences in reviews and experiences include the real reviews aggregator, the number of listings, and the overall experiences provided by hosts on each platform.

What are the key benefits of using Booklee for direct bookings instead of Airbnb or VRBO?

Booklee offers a vacation rental website builder that helps hosts maximize the efficiency of their direct marketing and increase direct bookings. It allows hosts to create their own direct booking website, customize their page, share it on social media, and utilize industry-tailored tools like real reviews aggregator and multiple booking options.

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