When you’re planning a family getaway, you want the best experience for the best price. Vacation rentals are a great way to an immersive vacation – living more like a local and enjoying your surroundings.
There are two popular companies that offer services to connect travelers with homeowners of vacation homes, apartments, hostels and even hotel rooms worldwide – Airbnb and VRBO.
(Note: VRBO now owns Homeaway so now they are essentially the same service)
I know a lot of people are die-hard Airbnb or VRBO and are loyal to the one they like best. I think that each has pros and cons and are better at meeting different needs:
Airbnb and VRBO both offer online platforms where owners can advertise their spaces, but they differ in the way that they process payment. Airbnb serves as the facilitator and processes payments allowing guests to book and pay through their application charging processing fees. On the other hand, VRBO acts as an online classified platform where owners advertise their rental. The payment is processed directly between owners and guests. VRBO requires payment in full prior to the visit; whereas, Airbnb places a hold and waits 24 hours after check-in to make the charge. Airbnb only has two methods of payment – major credit card and Airbnb credit.
With VRBO, you can expect to pay the entire cost of your rental and security deposit before your visit; whereas, Airbnb places a hold for the security deposit until after check-in. With VRBO, the owner controls the security deposit, but with Airbnb, the security deposit can be automatically refunded if the guest has a legitimate claim.
Guests are charged a service fee for their booking through Airbnb, as does VRBO. The fees at both places are comparable at 5 to 12%; however, guests can avoid that fee from VRBO by paying owners directly with PayPal or check.
Most cities and states have additional taxes for hotel stays. Occupancy tax laws have changed because of the emergence of Airbnb. The depends upon the location you’re visiting. For example, Airbnb now collects hotel taxes on behalf of Los Angeles, but that may not be the case in every city you visit. For most VRBO rentals, you likely won’t pay a local tax, any additional taxes should appear in your quote request.
Because Airbnb interacts directly with owners and guests facilitating their transactions, the company can confirm the reviews it receives. On the other hand, VRBO cannot verify the accuracy of the reviews it receives.
Do you mind if someone is living in the space you are renting? If you choose a shared space option, it means the owner could be there while you are. If you don’t, AirBnb offers both full space and shared space options. VRBO only includes homes and rentals where no one is staying besides the tenant.
Both companies allow you to search and find pet-friendly properties, but there are associated charges. VRBO/Homeaway does have some properties that allow pets without a fee, but most owners will charge fee. Fees for pets are charged on a case-by-case basis at both Airbnb and VRBO.
If you have a problem with your stay, VRBO requires that you work directly with the owner. VRBO does offer options for cancellation and damage protection. As for Airbnb, you can work directly with them to rebook or get a refund when you have issues with your vacation rental, but you should do so on the day of check-in. Both companies offer customer service.
Ease of use
VRBO does not require an account. You can browse and interact without setting one up. On the other hand, Airbnb requires that you create an account, link it to Facebook and upload a photo. Although Airbnb does have a much more user-friendly interface and app.
Airbnb markets to a younger demographic while VRBO has more traditional owners and property listings. Airbnb is a much more popular platform for vacation getaways than VRBO.
Sometimes it’s simply a matter of not finding a rental you like on one of these platforms. It’s always good to compare rentals on each platform when planning a trip.
In my experience, VRBO rentals are run more by professional renters, people who rent out properties for a living. While Airbnb properties are more often run by regular people who just want to rent our their place for some side income. With that said I’ve had more pleasant stays in non-professional Airbnb’s than professional VRBO’s, so it really depends on the rental.
Both rental sites allow kids, but not all listings do. You’ll need to check the family friendly box when searching. Airbnb now has a cool feature that they added in the last few months that allows you to tell your host if your party is adults or kids. They also have a baby option. I’m guessing this will save people a lot of money since most hosts won’t count babies as additional guests. In the past I always messaged the host to tell them even though our party is 5 people on two are adults.
I would ask if they counted kids toward to party number. Many hosts don’t. In this way I do feel that Airbnb is cheaper for families because it seems that VRBO hosts are more inclined to count kids as guests and this can add up when they charge an additional $20 per guest like some listings do.
In my experience, I use Airbnb for almost all trips except:
- When traveling with a large group in the US VRBO seems to have better options.
- VRBO can be better for finding rentals in more rural locations. Airbnb is great in cities.
- Airbnb is just easier to use and offers great customer support
For example: if you want to rent a cabin in the woods that can accommodate 20 people VRBO might be the best place to look for that, but if you want to rent 2 bedroom in Portland, OR Airbnb is going to be your best bet.
Bottom line: options are good, check both sites when looking for a rental. Your chosen location and dates may play out better on one site than the other but it’s important to widen your search so that you get the best deal and experience.
A lot of travelers actually mix and match VRBO’s and Airbnb’s throughout a trip depending on where they are and which rentals are available.
Have you had a better experience with Airbnb or VRBO? Which site have you found to have the best rentals?