Vacation rentals can be a lucrative investment, and they are a popular choice for people who want a more unique vacation accommodation than they would get from a hotel. Since the vacation rental industry is so big, there are many different platforms where you can post your vacation rental listings, so it can be hard to determine which ones are the best to choose. Here, we will look at Airbnb and Vrbo, two of the most popular platforms, to help you decide which is the best for you. Both Airbnb and Vrbo have a lot of similar features available to the guests and hosts, but there are many subtle differences to keep in mind.
Vacation Rental Types
One of the biggest differences between the two platforms is the types of properties you can list on them.
Airbnb allows you to list many types of properties, from full houses to cabins to just single rooms in a house. This allows travelers who want something specific to rent out to have a better chance of finding it, and some travelers love renting shared spaces like they can on Airbnb.
Vrbo focuses more on family vacations, so you can only list homes on there, not shared spaces. It is used mainly by people planning large family vacations that want to rent a house instead of multiple hotel rooms. Vrbo is also better for longer stays than Airbnb is, but Airbnb hosts often offer discounts on longer stays.
Ease of Use and Functionality
Airbnb and Vrbo are both easy for guests and hosts to use, which is one of the reasons they are so popular.
Both platforms offer search filters to help guests find rentals. You can search by the dates of travel, destination, number of guests, and pets. They also offer more advanced filters, looking at the type of property, if Wi-Fi is included, and other things.
Every platform has service fees on it, including Airbnb and Vrbo. Both platforms charge a service fee on the base rate of the property, around 20 percent of your base rate. If you do not take this into account, it can potentially hurt a host's profits on the listing. There are some differences between the two in the specific fees, which we will look at in a moment.
Guests also have fees on both platforms, usually a security deposit, cleaning fees, and cancellation fees. These are not set by the platforms; they are set by the hosts.
Airbnb Service Fees
There are two service fee options on Airbnb, a split fee and a host-only fee.
The split fee will split the service charge between the host and the guest. Usually, when using this fee system, the guest takes the bulk of the fees in their booking pricing, saving the hosts money on fees. The guests will end up seeing these fees when they secure the reservation, so they may not be expecting them and might feel like the host is scamming them.
The host-only fee system means that the fees are covered by the host, and the guests do not have to cover them as part of their booking fees. The fee is based on a percentage of the total cost of the booking. If you go with the host-only fee, you can adjust your pricing a little to accommodate the fees, so they are not eating into your profits without potentially upsetting your guests by applying a bunch of extra fees to their total price.
Vrbo Service Fees
On Vrbo, guests pay a service fee of up to 12 percent of the total cost of their reservation.
Vrbo also offers two service fee types for hosts to pay, which are based on their estimated income for the year. They can simply pay $499 annually to cover all of their bookings for the year.
The other service fee model is to pay a booking fee for every individual booking. If a host chooses this, they are charged a five percent commission for the total rental amount and extra fees that are added to it, like a cleaning fee. They will also be charged a three percent credit card processing fee.
Both platforms have cancellation policies that will protect the hosts from the negative impacts of last-minute cancellations. Part of this policy includes giving guests a refund if they cancel early enough. The hosts can set the specifics of the cancellation policies, so guests will need to take the time to read through them before they book. On Airbnb, the types of cancellation policies that hosts can select are color-coded, so you can easily identify them when browsing.
Both Vrbo and Airbnb allow the host to choose how strict or flexible they will be in their cancellation policy. Guests often choose to book at places with more flexible policies in case something comes up between the time they reserve the property and the time they are supposed to be there.
Selection of Properties
While each site caters to different types of guests, the guests will always head to the site with the biggest selection of properties, which is Airbnb, by a landslide; it has approximately six million listings, compared to Vrbo's two million.
Airbnb's Audience vs. Vrbo's Audience
What age group are you trying to attract with your rental property? On Airbnb, the guests are usually a bit younger and are looking for more affordable rentals. They also tend to stay for shorter durations. Vrbo's main audience is more family-oriented and older folks who want an entire house, especially one that is kid friendly. They often are looking for longer durations of stay too.
Popularity (Search Interest)
While web searches on Google don’t fully encapsulate the popularity of both platforms, it can be a helpful indicator for the relative popularity of both services.
On a global level, Airbnb is definitely much more of a well-known entity than Vrbo and that can be visualized below based on Google search trends.
In the United states, the difference in popularity between the two services is slightly closer but Airbnb definitely remains the more popular option.
Airbnb and Vrbo both have good booking tools that allow guests to make reservations easily. They also both offer an instant booking feature that streamlines the process for guests, so they do not need to go back and forth with the hosts before reserving a property.
Quality of Customer Service
Good customer service is a must, but balancing good service to the guests and hosts can be tricky.
Airbnb's Customer Service
Airbnb does not have the best customer service history, with many hosts feeling like it always sides with the guests. The guests, on the other hand, do not feel that Airbnb is completely transparent about the service fees they have to pay.
Airbnb has a Resolution Center where guests and hosts can request money or refunds, and request mediation from Airbnb is needed. The platform is working hard to make everything easier for both the guests and hosts.
Vrbo's Customer Service
Vrbo does not have nearly as many complaints about its customer service, but they also have a lot fewer properties on the platform, so that might have something to do with that.
Vrbo has customer service that is available by phone or chat 24/7. Their customer service team will even help hosts manage their listings if a natural disaster impacts their property.
In an industry like this, reviews can make or break you as a host. Let's look at some of the differences in each platform's approach to reviews.
Reviews on Airbnb
After a guest checks out, both they and the host only have 14 days to write reviews about each other. The system is a five-star rating, and a guest can mark if the property matches the description, if it is clean, their interactions with the host, and more. The hosts can leave reviews that rank if the guests followed the house rules, left a large mess, stole or broke anything, and more.
Reviews on Vrbo
Vrbo gives guests and hosts an entire year to leave each other reviews, but once one of the parties leaves a review, the other has 14 days to write a review of their own. The other big difference between review systems is that if the host responds to a review from a guest, it is visible from the review section, so a guest can easily see how the hosts interact with past guests.
Safety for Travelers
Safety is one of the most important things to remember when traveling. You want to ensure your guests are safe when staying at your property, and both platforms have taken steps to help assure that.
Traveler Safety on Airbnb
Airbnb has a safety feature for people traveling, especially if they are in a shared space. It is called Solo Traveler, and it is an app that shares safety tips and some questions they can ask the host. They can also share their entire reservation itinerary with friends and family. This feature is going to be available for whole properties too soon.
Traveler Safety on Vrbo
On Vrbo, if a host makes a guest feel uncomfortable or unsafe, it will help them book a different property. Vrbo will also investigate complaints to determine if the host violated any of its policies.
Vrbo also has strict policies about privacy and security to help avoid fraud and harassment. Hosts are also required to disclose if they have any security monitoring devices, like cameras, to monitor the exterior of the home.
Both Airbnb and Vrbo have some special features that are unique to themselves.
Special Features on Airbnb
Airbnb has an interesting feature called Airbnb Experiences, which allows guests to book a unique experience in a popular tourist destination. These can include booking cooking classes or an adventure with a tour guide.
Airbnb also has an Airbnb Plus feature where you can search for properties that have been vetted in person to help ensure the quality of the rental.
Special Features on Vrbo
Vrbo has more extensive search filters than Airbnb does to help guests find the right property for them. They also have a Trip Board feature, which is similar to a Pinterest board. You can organize your favorite destinations and properties when planning your trip and collaborate with friends and family on the board.
Airbnb and Vrbo Differences Summarized
In a nutshell, Airbnb offers more properties, along with single rooms and shared apartments. The host fee is lower. And Airbnb is great for travelers looking for an adventure.
Vrbo has fewer listings but larger properties, which is great for big group vacations.
While both platforms are great for listing properties, the answer really depends on your type of listing, its location and the guests you're looking to reach. Airbnb generally remains a more well-known option and generates more demand making it a more popular option to list your property on. But the great thing is that you usually don't have to choose between the two and can choose to list your home on both platforms, and more!