Vrbo vs Airbnb: Which Is Best for Hosts? The Complete Lowdown
So you’re finally ready to start receiving guests in your vacation rental. But which booking site should you get listed on? Which is better for hosts, Airbnb or Vrbo? And what if you advertised on both of them?
In this blog post, we’re going to give you a rundown of all the important differences between Airbnb and Vrbo.
how much each website charges in host commission fees,
what kinds of cancellation policies they offer,
what audience they target,
what property types they allow, and
how they handle reviews.
Then, we’ll take a look at ways to advertise on both Airbnb and Vrbo at the same time.
Let’s get right into it!
Practical hosting tips in your inbox. Every week.
Host Tools provides an automated, unified calendar, messaging and more for short term rental hosts. Start your free trial today!
What’s the difference between Vrbo and Airbnb? An Overview:
Before we jump into the differences between Airbnb and Vrbo, let’s do a quick overview of each company.
Airbnb, founded in 2008, recently became a publicly-traded company with an IPO that took place in early December 2020. It has over 7 million listings in 220 countries and regions worldwide.
Vrbo was founded in 1995. Originally known as Vacation Rental By Owner, the company is now a part of Expedia Group. It has 2 million listings in 190 countries around the world.
Even though Vrbo has been around for much longer than Airbnb, the once-startup has outshined its counterpart in popularity. This is reflected in the amount of traffic that each website receives on a monthly basis.
While Airbnb has more than three times the number of listings than Vrbo and attracts twice as many visits per month, that doesn’t mean it’s a better choice for all hosts.
Whether you decide to list on Airbnb or Vrbo (or both!) will depend on a range of other factors. Let’s take a look at them!
Vrbo vs Airbnb fees
Regardless of which booking site you choose to list your property on, once you start getting bookings, you have to pay commission fees.
Online travel agencies (OTAs) like Airbnb and Vrbo charge a host service fee that’s usually a percentage of the reservation total. Knowing exactly how much an OTA charges is important because you have to factor it into your pricing strategy.
Let’s take a look at how Vrbo and Airbnb host fees compare.
Vrbo has two different listing models: pay-per-booking and subscription.
Subscription: If you choose the subscription model, you have to pay an annual fee of $499 upfront.
Pay-per-booking: If you choose pay-per-booking, you pay commission fees for the bookings you receive.
Vrbo owner fees for listings on the pay-per-booking model start at 8%. They’re made up of a 5% service fee (calculated from the total amount of the reservation, including additional charges like pet fees), and a 3% payment processing fee (calculated from the total payment amount you receive from the guest, including extra fees, taxes, and security deposits).
Vrbo owner fees can slightly vary depending on the amount paid for the reservation. In general, the higher the total amount of the reservation, the lower the percentage of the Vrbo listing fee.
When making a reservation on Vrbo, guests pay a 6-12% booking fee.
Airbnb has two different fee structures. Currently, most hosts have the option to choose which one they would like to apply to their listings:
The split-fee structure consists of a host service fee and a guest service fee. Hosts pay a 3-5% service fee that’s calculated from the booking subtotal (which includes the nightly rate plus extra charges like the Airbnb cleaning fee). Guests pay a service fee of up to 14.2%.
The host-only fee structure, on the other hand, means that hosts pay a commission of 14%-16%, covering the service fee for the guest. This makes the pricing more transparent, ensuring that guests don’t interpret the guest service fee as a “surprise charge” during checkout. Plus, it’s more in line with industry standards, since other websites like Booking.com don’t have guest service fees either.
Each of these options has its own advantages, which we discuss in depth in our blog post on Airbnb host fees.
Vrbo vs Airbnb cancellation policies
Another difference between Vrbo and Airbnb is their set of available cancellation policies.
The cancellation policy you choose to offer your guests has a direct impact on your business. For example, picking a lenient cancellation policy can help you attract more bookings and increase your occupancy. At the same time, you could miss out on revenue if a guest cancels last-minute and no one else books your property for the canceled dates.
That’s why it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the cancellation policies that different channels offer, and choose one that works for your business.
Both Airbnb and Vrbo have a wide range of cancellation policies. However, Vrbo lets hosts pick from stricter options, including a no-refund under any circumstances policy.
Vrbo cancellation policies
Hosts advertising in Vrbo can choose from 5 different cancellation policies.
These are the options:
Relaxed: If your guest cancels at least 14 days before the start of the stay, they receive a full refund. If your guest cancels at least 7 days before, they receive a 50% refund.
Moderate: If your guest cancels at least 30 days before the start of the stay, they receive a full refund. If they cancel at least 14 days before, they receive a 50% refund. This is the option that Vrbo recommends.
Firm: If your guest cancels at least 60 days before the start of the stay, they receive a full refund. If they cancel at least 30 days before, they receive a 50% refund.
Strict: If your guest cancels at least 60 days before the start of the stay, they receive a full refund.
No Refund: Your guest can’t claim a refund for any reason.
Airbnb cancellation policies
Airbnb has 6 different cancellation policies to choose from.
These are the options:
Flexible: If your guest cancels at least 24 hours before the check-in time, they get a full refund.
Moderate: If your guest cancels at least 5 days before check-in, they get a full refund.
Strict: If your guest cancels within 48 hours of booking and at least 14 days before check-in, they get a full refund of the nightly rate. If they cancel at least 7 days before check-in, they get a 50% refund of the nightly rate.
Long-Term: If your guest cancels within 48 hours of booking and at least 28 days before check-in, they get a full refund. Airbnb automatically applies this cancellation policy to reservations of 28 nights or more.
Super Strict 30 Days: If your guest cancels at least 30 days before check-in, they get a 50% refund. They will not get a refund of the Airbnb service fee. This cancellation policy is only available for software-connected hosts (i.e. those who list on Airbnb via a channel manager or other software).
Super Strict 60 Days: If your guest cancels at least 60 days before check-in, they get a 50% refund. They will not get a refund of the Airbnb service fee. This cancellation policy is only available for software-connected hosts.
Airbnb vs Vrbo audience
Another thing to take into considerations is the audience that each booking site caters to.
While neither Airbnb nor Vrbo is a niche site targeting a specific type of traveler, there are some differences in the demographics they attract.
Let’s take a look:
Since its launch, Airbnb has been aimed at young, adventurous travelers looking for budget-friendly accommodation options. It has targeted guests who want authentic travel experiences, mostly in urban destinations.
However, throughout the years, Airbnb has evolved – and so has its customer base. Guests who book on Airbnb are no longer just budget-conscious Millennials craving immersive “live-like-a-local” stays. Its audience is much more diverse.
For example, Airbnb now also attracts business travelers looking to book entire apartments instead of hotel rooms for short or extended stays. And, the company has its own luxury collection called Airbnb Luxe that caters to more discerning travelers.
While a large chunk of Airbnb’s audience prefers vacation rentals over hotels because they’re cheaper, guests who book on Vrbo don’t necessarily consider cost as the primary factor in their decisions.
Thanks to its large portfolio of entire homes in sought-after tourist destinations, Vrbo is popular among families and larger groups traveling together. Its audience also includes older and more affluent travelers looking to book traditional vacation rentals like cabins or cottages in rural destinations.
Airbnb vs Vrbo property types
A major difference between Airbnb and Vrbo is the types of property they allow hosts to list.
Airbnb property types
When Airbnb was founded, part of its mission was to allow people to make a bit of extra money renting out rooms within their homes. To this day, Airbnb isn’t just for professional property managers with multiple listings, but also for hosts who look at their vacation rental business as a side hustle, renting out rooms or vacation homes when they’re not using them.
That’s why Airbnb allows hosts to list three different kinds of properties:
Entire place: Guests have the entire place to themselves. They usually include bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a living area. Hosts can still be on the property (for example, living on the second floor of the same home), but they’re encouraged to mention this in their property description.
Private room: Guests have a private room for sleeping, but they may have to share other spaces, such as the bathroom, kitchen, or living room, with the host or other guests.
Shared room: Guests sleep in a room that they may be sharing with others.
Vrbo property types
Unlike Airbnb, Vrbo doesn’t allow hosts to advertise any kind of shared spaces. Since its target audience is mostly made up of families and groups, it focuses on entire vacation homes.
If you’d like to rent out a room in your own home that has a shared bathroom, kitchen, and living area, Vrbo is not the listing site for you.
Vrbo vs Airbnb reviews
Both Airbnb and Vrbo use reviews to help guests find the perfect rental. And, getting good reviews is extremely important for hosts on both platforms, as they help their listings rank higher and attract more bookings.
However, there are some differences between how Airbnb and Vrbo handle reviews.
Vrbo gives guests and hosts an entire year to submit their reviews. However, when one party submits their review, the other has 14 days to write theirs. Vrbo keeps these reviews private until both parties have submitted them, or until 14 days pass.
Vrbo does not display traveler ratings publicly: owners and property managers can only see the ratings of travelers they communicate with.
On Airbnb, guests and hosts have 14 days after check-out to write a review. Airbnb only publishes these reviews once both parties have written their own, or once the 14 days are up.
Next to reviews, Airbnb also encourages guests to leave star ratings on a number of different factors. These include:
Vrbo vs Airbnb for hosts: how to list your property on both
Now that you know the main differences between Airbnb and Vrbo, you may have an idea of which platform might work better for your business.
However, it doesn’t have to be either-or.
In fact, a lot of hosts find it extremely beneficial to list on both Airbnb and Vrbo, even if they only have one or a couple of listings. Why? Because the more exposure you can get, the better.
As we’ve mentioned, Airbnb and Vrbo target different audiences and reach different traveler demographics. One guest who’s searching on Airbnb may not be searching on Vrbo, and vice versa.
So, if you want to maximize your occupancy and increase your bookings, you should get listed on both channels.
Multi-channel distribution for vacation rentals is not as difficult, time-consuming, or expensive as you may think. Here’s a quick overview of how to do it:
Vrbo and Airbnb calendar sync
The first option you have if you want to start advertising your listing on both Airbnb and Vrbo is to sync your channel calendars.
Making sure your availability is always up-to-date on both channels important because otherwise you risk getting double bookings.
A double booking occurs when two guests book your rental for the same period of time on two different channels. This can be a hassle to deal with, and you could end up losing money on cancellation fees.
However, you can decrease the chance of getting double bookings by connecting your Airbnb and Vrbo calendars. For this, you need to export your Airbnb calendar in iCal format and import it into Vrbo. Then, you need to export your Vrbo calendar and import it into Airbnb.
This way, you’ll have established a two-way connection that’ll allow both your calendars to update when you get a booking.
While this is a straightforward solution that’s easy to set up, it’s not optimal. iCal connections can be laggy and it can take up to a few hours for your calendars to update. In the meantime, you’re still prone to overbookings.
So how do you eliminate that risk? Let’s find out.
Use a Vrbo and Airbnb channel manager
The best way to advertise on multiple channels without having to worry about double bookings is to use an Airbnb channel manager.
Channel managers are software solutions that integrate directly with booking sites, allowing them to instantly update your calendars and availability across multiple channels.
Host Tools, for example, has direct API connections with Airbnb and Vrbo. Once you add your Airbnb and Vrbo accounts to Host Tools, the platform lets you unify your calendars and keep them in sync instantly. This way, guests will always see your correct availability at all times, no matter which channel they’re searching on. Plus, you can see all your bookings in a handy multi-calendar!
An intuitive, easy-to-use, and budget-friendly vacation rental software like Host Tools is a lifesaver for hosts who want to save time and prevent double bookings while enjoying the benefits of advertising on multiple channels. Try it now for free!
Vrbo or Airbnb for owners: conclusion
Airbnb and Vrbo are both good choices for hosts who are looking to advertise their listings in front of millions of travelers.
While there are some differences in commission fees, cancellation policies, audience, property types, and the review system, none of these mean that one platform is inherently better than the other.
In fact, many hosts choose to list their properties on both platforms to maximize their listings’ visibility and increase their occupancy and revenue.
To conclude, here is a table summing up the main differences between Airbnb and Vrbo:
3-5% (split-fee structure) or 14-16% (host-only fee structure)
8% (5% host service fee + 3% payment processing fee). Alternative: annual subscription
Flexible, Moderate, Strict, Long-Term, Super Strict 30 Days, Super Strict 60 Days
Relaxed, Moderate, Firm, Strict, No Refund
Young, budget-conscious travelers; business travelers; luxury guests (Airbnb Luxe)
Families; groups of friends; older, more affluent travelers
Entire place, Private room, Shared room
Entire homes only
Hosts and guests have 14 days to submit a review.
Hosts and guests have one year to submit a review. However, when one party leaves a review, the other has 14 days to submit theirs.
Host Tools provides an automated, unified calendar, messaging and more for short term rental hosts. Start your free trial today!