VRBO or Airbnb: What’s the Difference?
Everything you need to know about both platforms and when to use them
In 2007, two hosts welcomed three guests to their San Francisco home, and Airbnb was born. The company is now worth north of $110 billion, and at the time of this writing, there are six million live listings worldwide, four million registered hosts, and there have been over one billion guest arrivals. Airbnb has dominated the short-term rental landscape for the better part of the last 15 years, but lately the platform has been on the receiving end of a considerable amount of backlash.
First, there’s the ever-present safety and privacy concerns. Then there’s the matter of the increasingly exorbitant fees (more specifically, cleaning fees). But both have left many former Airbnb loyalists wondering if their hard earned dollar would not be better spent elsewhere.
And Airbnb is hardly the only rental platform of its kind. VRBO is, on the surface, a very similar company — and almost equally popular — that boasts over two million listings around the world. (Originally founded in 1995, it’s also more than a decade older than Airbnb.) It’s likely that at some point while looking for a place to stay, you’ve found yourself toggling back and forth between the two.
So what’s the difference between Airbnb and VRBO? Below, everything you need to know about both platforms before you book your next trip.
Pros: Vrbo is short for “Vacation Rental By Owner,” so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the listings focus exclusively on primary residences. It also only allows one listing subscription per property for each account across all of its global sites. What this means, in short, is that you’re less likely to run into predatory property management companies or, for lack of a better term, slumlords.
Additionally, in the review section, Vrbo allows hosts to publicly respond to the reviewer. In some cases, this helps paint a fuller picture of events, as well as of the host and the property itself.
Lastly, some feel that Vrbo provides a better web user experience than Airbnb. For example, there’s a “Trip Board” feature, which allows you to collect your favorite properties in one spot.
Cons: Vbro doesn’t offer shared spaces — instead, all listings must be for the entire property. In fact, according to Mashable, “don’t share” became a marketing point in a 2016 ad about Airbnb vs. HomeAway — Vrbo’s parent company. While it is a perk for those who value privacy above all else, others find shared spaces massively appealing, if only for their (usually) lower price point.
Further, the entire-property specification has resulted in fewer listings on Vrbo.
What it’s best for: Large family or big group travel and longer stays.
Pros: The sheer number of listings on Airbnb makes it possible to secure a rental just about anywhere in the world, at any time. It also increases the odds of finding a property more suited to both your needs and your budget —shared spaces are, after all, more conducive to lower nightly rates.
Airbnb also boasts more stays of the eclectic variety — think treehouses, boats, airstreams, yurts, etc. — and, in some cases, even hotel rooms, which has become a major selling point in recent years.
Additionally, the mobile user experience is superior to that of Vrbo’s, the reviews include a search function and the “Experiences” feature allows you to plan some cool stuff alongside your property of choice.
Cons:The biggest cons to Airbnb are that the fees are typically more expensive than Vrbo’s and that the customer service tends to be lacking. It’s virtually impossible to find a direct contact number, and it often takes a while for issues to get resolved. And, though it’s to be expected, it’s not as easy to filter and narrow down results on Airbnb as it is on Vrbo.
What it’s best for: Avid travelers, or those looking for more one-of-a-kind experiences.
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