Airbnb vs. VRBO: What’s the Difference?

Think VRBO and Airbnb are the same? Think again.

Airbnb and VRBO, two of the biggest companies in the vacation rental industry, offer lots of distinctive accommodations to travelers. However, the key differences between their policies and usability may make one better for your needs than the other.


Both offer a range of choices, from apartments and condos to houses and villas. However, VRBO primarily focuses on traditional vacation rentals, like full homes or condos. Airbnb provides more options, including shared and private rooms, and unique stays like treehouses, yurts and even castles.

Number of Locations and Listings

Airbnb has a much larger global presence, with listings in more than 220 countries and regions. VRBO, on the other hand, features a smaller but more concentrated presence in North America, particularly in popular vacation spots like Florida, California and Hawaii.

Pricing and Additional Fees

VRBO generally charges fewer additional fees than Airbnb. Airbnb also has a “service fee” added to the cost of the rental, which can increase the total by a significant amount.

  • Base rates: This varies depending on the size and amenities of the property. It will likely be about the same regardless if you’re booking on Airbnb or VRBO.
  • Additional fees: These may apply for cleaning services or other amenities not included in the basic rental price. This is where VRBO, more often, holds an advantage over Airbnb.

Booking Process

Booking for Airbnb is a bit more complex than VRBO. On Airbnb, you create an account, then search for a place to stay. When selecting a property, you click on “book” and fill out all the information required by the host, including payment method. Then you wait until they approve your request.

Once approved, you’ll receive an email letting you know everything went through successfully, and providing instructions on how to access keys or other necessary items upon arrival at their house/apartment/etc.

Cancellation Policies

These can vary widely depending on the host and type of booking. VRBO generally has more strict cancellation policies than Airbnb, particularly for long-term stays. Airbnb also offers a “flexible” cancellation policy for some listings, allowing for cancellations up to 24 hours before check-in.

Mobile Apps

Both Airbnb and VRBO offer mobile apps for easy booking and management of your vacation rental. Airbnb’s app is generally considered to be more user-friendly and offers more features than the VRBO app.

Alex Shoemaker
Alex Shoemaker is a Florida-based journalist and  handyman who has extensive experience in home remodeling and house flipping. He has worked for numerous print and digital publications and has won awards for writing, photography and pagination.