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AIRBNB or VRBO FOR OWNERS: Pros & Cons with Comparison

When deciding to start a short-term rental business, I struggled to decide what program would be best for my property. I had three different types of rentals – a traditional one-bedroom house, a “glamping” cabin in the forest, and a trailer near a garden. I also wanted to rent out additional bedrooms in my home on occasion. What company should I go through?

With no one to ask, I learned through trial and error. This took me a lot of time – that you can avoid spending – by learning about the pros and cons of Airbnb and VRBO, the two largest home rental platforms available.

Short-term rentals have helped millions of homeowners generate new streams of income, but without a good reservation and promotional system you can lose out on a lot of business. Both Airbnb and VRBO support features that help promote your business and schedule your guests. However, it can be confusing as to which would work best for your rental property.

Below is an overview of how Airbnb measures up against VRBO.

So Which is Better…Airbnb or VRBO for Owners? Here’s Our Findings…

Space RentedAny sleeping space can be rented.Only unoccupied properties. No shared spaces allowed.
Type of GuestPrimarily younger guests.More families and large groups.
Review SystemGuest and Owner each write a review and can respond publicly to address issue. “Superhost” badge for recognition.
Guest and Owner each write a review and can respond publicly to address issue.
Filter FeaturesBasic filter for property types, price, some amenities and location.
Advanced filter feature that includes many amenities and property types.
Fee StructureGuests and Owners are charged fees per stay based on percentage.Guests are charged fees per stay but owners have the option of paying a membership fee by the year.
Special FeaturesAirbnb can help you earn extra money by selling “experiences”.
VRBO handles rentals only.
Online TrafficApproximately 80M views monthly*
Approximately 17M views monthly*

* Calculated using SimilarWeb. See results here.

Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of Airbnb and VRBO when it comes to the space rented, type of guest, review systems, filters, fees, special features and volume of online traffic.

How Does My Space Affect Whether I Use Airbnb or VRBO?

Airbnb and VRBO have different space requirements. If you have an apartment or house that you want to rent to one group at a time, VRBO can be a great platform to do so. If you have a house that has several individual rooms to rent with shared spaces, like the kitchen or living room, then Airbnb is the better choice as VRBO doesn’t allow shared spaces.

If flexible space rental is important to you, Airbnb is the better company to rent through.

That said – if you plan to have a designated rental and rent to one group at a time, other factors can come into play. For example, Airbnb is used more often by both Owners and Renters in larger cities while VRBO tends to appeal more to people looking for and renting a retreat in rural areas. Larger properties are often rented using VRBO instead of Airbnb while small apartments or unusual spaces like motor homes or boats are more often featured on Airbnb.

What Kind of Guests are Attracted to VRBO or Airbnb Listings?

Airbnb and VRBO attract different demographics. VRBO tends to attract older guests who stay longer and book earlier. VRBO also attracts guests who may spend more money per rental. You may see fewer international guests, and guests may be expecting a more professional experience.

VRBO may be the company for you if a steady, mature clientele is what you need.

Airbnb guests tend to be younger. These guests are often looking forward to an experience that goes beyond just a place to stay. Because they may be renting a room instead of an entire unit, they may be more social and require more attention. Airbnb guests can originate from just about anywhere in the world, so the cultural exchange is an often unexpected bonus.

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Is the Review Process the Same for Both Airbnb and VRBO?

Both VRBO and Airbnb have a solid review system in place. Airbnb ranks hosts based on their review performance through a star rating system. VRBO also uses a star-based rating system. Both review systems allow the host to publicly address any issues that come up in the review process.

Airbnb awards high performing hosts with recognition in the form of “Super-host” badges for guests to quickly identify.

Airbnb’s “Super-host” badge is a coveted achievement for hosts because it immediately shows guests that the host really knows what they’re doing, taking the guesswork out of the review process for people looking to book rentals quickly.

What Extras Features Come with Airbnb and VRBO Platforms?

Airbnb allows you to sell “experiences” as well as rent spaces. The way the platform is designed, you’re encouraged to develop special features for your property, whether this is homemade baked goods for the “breakfast”, available bikes, or special experiences like fishing lessons or guided tours. They give you the ability to charge for these extras through their platform.

Airbnb supports a variety of chargeable “extras” including activities while VRBO is strictly a property rental platform.

VRBO is great when you want to avoid the investment in time involved when offering extra services. They serve primarily as a reservation system.

What is VRBO and Airbnb’s Fee Structure?

VRBO and Airbnb both charge fees to the owner and guest. For both platforms, the guest fees are a percentage of the total stay. The owner fees are handled differently. When using VRBO, owners can choose to be charged a yearly subscription fee or a fee per booking. The yearly subscription fee becomes a great deal when the property is rented out consistently.

VRBO’s owner fees are more flexible by offering two different fee options.

Airbnb charges both owners and guests a percentage fee per booking. Their fees are less flexible but very consistent and transparent.

How do VRBO and Airbnb’s Filter Systems Work?

VRBO allows the guest to filter for features that are important to them, like a pool, bed size, property type, or specific location features (beachfront, anyone?). This can save the guest time filtering through properties themselves.

VRBO’s advanced filtering process can be a draw for the organized guest!

Airbnb filters for some features as well, but it’s not nearly as nuanced. Airbnb does allow you to filter for unusual properties like tiny houses and yurts – which is fun for the adventurous guest and makes the platform more entertaining for people who enjoy browsing the website.

How Much Traffic Does Airbnb and VRBO Process Each Month?

While VRBO has been around much longer than Airbnb, they have a much smaller share of the short term rental reservation market.

In April of 2019, Airbnb had well over 85 million people visit their site.

VRBO trails substantially at just over 17 million visits during the same month. You can see the traffic analysis between the two here. The number of visits correlates to the number of people who will know about your rental. Keep in mind that these numbers are global. Rental services can be regional in nature.

Can VRBO and Airbnb Be Used at the Same Time?

Is the best of both worlds possible? This is, of course, the best option. It’s also smart to consider that Airbnb and VRBO are not the only listing sites out there. There are obviously some challenges with using multiple reservation sites. It can be a regular headache keeping track of multiple listing calendars, especially with instant booking features on both sites. There is nothing so damaging to an owner’s credibility than accidentally double booking a guest. Fortunately, there are options for creating multiple listings for the same property.

AirGMS andAirGMS and OwnerRez are two of many such management tools. Some tools even help you make reoccurring reservations outside of the booking systems to avoid the fees listed above.

The Bottom Line…

In the end, I chose Airbnb because I had some unusual properties and I wanted to occasionally rent out rooms instead of full houses. In the near future, I’ll be listing with both companies through AirGMS to take advantage of the extra traffic. My listing is rural so I may get good results from VRBO. I appreciate their extra filters and a review system that benefits owners by offering a second chance to comment.

Ryan Drew- Contributor
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Ryan Drew- Contributor

I'm an Airbnb Superhost sharing my Airbnb journey and tips that I've learned along the way.

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