VRBO or Airbnb: what’s the difference?

In 2007, two hosts welcomed three guests into 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 globally, four million registered hosts and there have been over a billion guest arrivals. Airbnb has dominated the short-term rental landscape for most of the past 15 years, but lately the platform has suffered a lot of backlash.

First, there is pervasive security and privacy issues. Then comes the issue of increasingly exorbitant fees (specifically, cleaning fee). But both have left many former Airbnb loyalists wondering if their hard-earned dollar might be better spent elsewhere.

And Airbnb is not the only such rental platform. VRBO is, on the face of it, a very similar – and almost equally popular – company with over two million listings worldwide. (Originally founded in 1995, it’s also more than a decade older than Airbnb.) Chances are that at some point, while looking for a place to stay, you’ve found yourself switching between the two.

So what is the difference between Airbnb and VRBO? Below, everything you need to know about both platforms before booking your next trip.

Advantages: Vrbo is short for “Vacation Rental by Owner”, so it should come as no surprise that the listings focus exclusively on primary residences. It also allows only one ad subscription per property for each account across all of its global sites. In short, this means you’re less likely to encounter predatory property management companies or, for lack of a better term, slumber merchants.

Additionally, in the review section, Vrbo allows hosts to publicly respond to the reviewer. In some cases, this helps paint a more complete picture of events, as well as the host and the property itself.

Finally, some feel that Vrbo provides a better web user experience than Airbnb. For example, there is a “Trip Board” feature, which allows you to collect your favorite properties in one place.

The inconvenients: Vbro does not offer shared spaces – instead, all listings must be for the entire property. Indeed, according to Mashable, “don’t share” became a marketing pitch in a 2016 Airbnb ad against HomeAway – Vrbo’s parent company. While this is a plus for those who value privacy above all else, others find shared spaces extremely appealing, if only for their (usually) lower price.

Additionally, specifying the entire property resulted in fewer listings on Vrbo.

What is it best used for: Large family or large group trips and longer stays.

Advantages: The large number of listings on Airbnb makes it possible to secure a rental just about anywhere in the world, anytime. It also increases the chances of finding a property that better suits both your needs and your budget – shared spaces are, after all, more conducive to lower overnight rates.

Airbnb is also offering more stays of eclectic variety — think treehouses, boats, airstreams, yurts, and more. – and, in some cases, even to hotel rooms, which have become a major selling point in recent years.

In addition, the mobile user experience is superior to Vrbo, reviews include a search function, and the “Experiences” function allows you to schedule interesting things next to the property of your choice.

The inconvenients:The main disadvantages of Airbnb are that the fees are generally higher than those of Vrbo and the customer service tends to be lacking. Finding a direct contact number is next to impossible and it often takes a while for issues to be resolved. And, while that’s to be expected, it’s not as easy to filter and narrow down results on Airbnb as it is on Vrbo.

What is it best used for: Avid travelers or those looking for more unique experiences.

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