Are Airbnb and Vrbo a scam?

Holiday rentals for the February half-term holidays are up to 50% more expensive than three years ago, according to new research from Which? Travel found.

Holidays in Cornwall cost an average of £136 per night when booked through Airbnb or rival platform Vrbo in 2020. This year that has risen to £203 – meaning holidaymakers have to shell out over £1 £400 for a week’s stay, plus cleaning and service charge.

The popularity of self-catering has exploded during the pandemic, especially in rural and coastal destinations. Demand is down so far from a year ago – and yet Airbnb and Vrbo prices have continued to rise in many tourist hotspots, according to rental analyst data at AirDNA short term. Holiday rentals in West Wales are up 23%, with a week-long stay costing £455 more than last February, on average.

Our research also found cheaper prices elsewhere: booking a last-minute holiday through a chalet supplier could save you over £150 on a week-long stay.

How much have prices gone up in holiday hotspots?

The most expensive place to book an Airbnb or Vrbo mid-term stay is Dorset, with holidaymakers shelling out an average of £242 per night, up 36% from February 2020.

Cornwall has seen the biggest price increases, while nightly rates in Norfolk, Kent, West Wales, Devon, North East England and the Lake District have all jumped 40% or more since 2020.

City breaks have fallen out of favor during the pandemic, and demand has fallen significantly in London and Edinburgh compared to the February 2020 half – but prices have still risen by around a third.

February Half-Year Rate Comparison

Table Notes: The average daily rate was calculated from all bookings made for the period February through January 20 each year via Airbnb and Vrbo. Daily rates include rentals of all sizes, from private rooms to large properties. Cleaning and service charges are not included.

How do you compare hotel prices in the UK?

Many vacationers have turned to Airbnb over the past decade, choosing a one-person home with all the amenities over an impersonal hotel room. Above all, it was often more affordable too.

But bargains have been harder to come by during the pandemic, and the price gap between private vacation rentals and other types of accommodation has narrowed.

Hoteliers are now faced with soaring energy and food costs, so room rates have risen over the past year – but remain competitive. The average room rate in a three- or four-star hotel during the February semester is £107, according to data from comparison site Kayak. In February 2020, shortly before the pandemic, the average rate per night was £99, just £8 less.

We compared the price of an Airbnb or Vrbo to a bed with the cost of a hotel room in London for the February semester. Holidaymakers who booked a hotel paid just £5 more on average, or £132 per night.

In Edinburgh, the average price for a mid-term hotel is £98, while you’ll typically pay £90 for a night in a one-bed Airbnb or Vrbo – plus cleaning and service charges.

So if you don’t need a kitchen, hotels can be a good value option, especially if breakfast is included.

How do Airbnb and Vrbo prices compare to B&Bs?

Hotels are not your only option. When we compared the average price of a two-bed rental in February, we found that a stay booked through the UK’s largest cottage providers –, and Sykes – was cheaper than Airbnb or Vrbo.

The biggest price difference was in the Lake District, where the average cost of a two-bed rental was £200 more expensive. You would typically pay £640 for a week’s stay if you booked through chalet providers, compared to £882 for an Airbnb or Vrbo rental.

In Norfolk and Devon, a two-bed holiday rental booked through cottage providers costs around £175 less, on average.

Check out our reviews of the best and worst holiday home providers in the UK

The price of a one-week stay in the February semester

Table notes: We collected prices for 1,596 two-bedroom cottages in February from, and Sykes Holiday Cottages, and the average price of all available two-bed rentals on Airbnb and Vrbo d ‘AirDNA. MarketMinder short-term rental platform.

The prices in the table above do not take into account the discount that some Airbnb or Vrbo owners offer if you stay for a week. But they also don’t include platform service and cleaning fees, so the cost could end up being even higher.

Chalet providers were not always cheaper. When we checked the listings available for mid-February, many cabin owners had lowered their prices. For those who booked in advance, rates were equal to – or better than – an Airbnb or Vrbo in four out of five destinations. Follow our advice below to always find the best price.

Airbnb says, “This data distorts prices on Airbnb. Hosts on Airbnb offer affordable accommodation options nationwide, and one in three say the extra income helps them cope with the rising cost of living. Nearly half of guests say booking on the platform saved them money, and a quarter said they specifically chose Airbnb over other types of accommodation for the same reason.

Vrbo was also approached for comment.

How to save on holidays in the UK

1. Shop

Even if you have found your dream vacation home, check if it is listed on another platform for less. We found the same cottage on Airbnb £70 cheaper on

2. Expand your search radius

Where you choose to stay has a bigger bearing on cabin prices than you might think. For example, we found that the average price of a two-bed cottage was £100 more expensive per week in Cumbria than in the Lake District and Yorkshire.

3. Be flexible on dates

Check prices a few weeks before and after your scheduled dates, if you can be flexible. We have found that a week in a two bed cottage currently costs around £350 less in February than at Easter.

4. Find a cheap stay three miles away

Holidaymakers can save over £400 on a week’s holiday just by staying a few miles away. We compared average hotel room rates in 10 popular cities and resorts with nearby destinations. The result? Holidaymakers could save between £24 and £59 per room per night. Find out where we got the best deals with our full story on hotel room rates.

5. Compare prices to get the best value

When booking hotel stays, check price comparison sites, such as Travelzoo or No matter how good the price you found online, always call the hotel directly to see if they can beat it. More often than not, our research has revealed that they can.

Our research

AirDNA analyst has shared the average daily rate for UK Airbnb and Vrbo rentals in 2020, 2022 and 2023 in London, Cornwall, Edinburgh, Devon, Edinburgh, Dorset, Highlands, West Wales, North East England, Kent, Norfolk and the Lake District. The Kayak comparator provided average hotel rates for one night in a double room in 3 and 4 star hotels during the semesters of February 2020 and 2023.

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