Vrbo and Airbnb are two of the most popular sites for vacation rentals and vacation properties available for hire. Both are excellent options for hosts looking to make extra cash. In addition, travelers can choose from various properties and locations to have their dream holidays in a vacation home.
Given the different features of the two platforms, certain aspects of each are better suited to travelers and vacation rental hosts. However, this depends on the type of holiday you wish to have and the business you want to run.
We’ll take you through all the aspects you should consider when booking your holiday on Vrbo vs. Airbnb and the features offered to hosts for listing their properties.
Key Features of Vrbo
The prominent feature of Vrbo is that it only allows hosts with entire properties available to rent to list their vacation homes on the site. From a traveler's point of view, this means that there are fewer options to choose from when selecting a vacation rental. However, this also means that holidaymakers will be guaranteed their own space, whichever property they desire.
Vrbo has existed longer than Airbnb, founded in 1995 under Vacation Rental By Owner. It's now better known by its abbreviated name, Vrbo, and remains the lead competitor for Airbnb. Vrbo currently offers vacation rentals in 190 countries and has a portfolio of over 2 million properties for travelers.
Key Features of Airbnb
Airbnb has a much more extensive property portfolio than Vrbo, given that they offer shared spaces and singular holiday homes. For example, if you have a spare room that is not in use, you can list it on Airbnb to make some more cash. These facilities are also ideal for travelers, as it allows them to save some money on accommodation, but also will enable them to meet people local to the area in which they are traveling.
This type of vacation rental is prevalent among solo travelers and younger people, although it’s appropriate for couples and friends traveling together too.
User Experience of Vrbo Vs. Airbnb
One of the key differences between these two websites is the user experiences they offer for both hosts and travelers. The platforms are designed to be very user-friendly, but their layouts and structures of the booking and listing processes are slightly different.
A good user experience is essential for guests looking to book accommodation. In fact, it can be one of the defining factors of the platform they choose to book through and the accommodation they select. Both of the platforms have undergone extensive software and app development to give travelers an easy, stress-free user experience. There are slightly different features on Vrbo vs. Airbnb, but they follow much of the same user experience principles.
When it comes to booking accommodation, Airbnb offers travelers a great experience. The platform has several filters that make it easy to find the ideal property for your trip. Travelers looking to book accommodation through Airbnb can apply filters based on location, property type, amenities, and price to match their budget.
Airbnb also offers travelers a map which gives them a better idea of the location of the accommodation. This is especially useful if travelers book accommodation for a specific purpose or need to be near a particular area. For example, if travelers are using Airbnb to book accommodation for a wedding, the map function can help ensure they stay close to the venue.
For hosts, Airbnb is a straightforward platform to use. Setting up a listing on Airbnb takes up very little time. Create your listing in the host section of your profile, select the relevant tags, upload professional-looking photos, and post. It usually takes around 72 hours for your property to appear in search results, but it won’t take as long if you have followed all the correct steps for listing your property the first time around.
Airbnb also allows hosts to become Super Hosts, providing travelers peace of mind when booking. Superhost status is achieved by getting consistently good reviews from guests. Guests often leave better reviews for clean spaces, good value for money, and decent amenities. Vrbo also offers a review system to improve your exposure.
Like Airbnb, Vrbo offers filters whereby you can select properties that suit your travel needs. However, Vrbo is much more popular with families because only entire species are listed on the platform. Travelers can filter listings using the filters that allow them to choose properties based on the type of property, amenities such as wifi and internet access, whether or not the property is pet-friendly, cancellation policies, and rating from previous guests.
You can also search properties on Vrbo using the property location filter and a map filter similar to Airbnb.
Listing a property on Vrbo is similar to listing one on Airbnb. However, the average turnaround time for a property to be published on Vrbo is also much shorter than Airbnb, with properties appearing in search results less than 48 hours after being listed.
One of the differences to Airbnb is the host-rating system, whereby hosts can achieve premier host status based on several aspects of handling bookings. Property owners need to have an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 or higher and be able to accept bookings at a higher rate than 90%. Like Airbnb, hosts also have the option to cancel bookings if they are no longer able to accommodate guests. Property owners or managers must stay within a cancellation rate of 5% of the bookings to become a Premiere Host.
Vrbo Vs. Airbnb: Fees Comparison
The fee structure is one of the most essential aspects for hosts looking to list a property on either Airbnb or Vrbo. Many choose to list their property as a form of extra income and therefore need to run their vacation rentals as cost-effectively as possible.
Conversely, guests are also expected to pay service fees on both platforms. Some of these fees, such as the cleaning fees, go to the guests directly. However, some of the commission-based fees go to the forum, which forms the main income stream for their business models.
Airbnb Fee Structure
For travelers, Airbnb may be the most cost-effective platform to book through, depending on whether or not the host has elected to go with a split fee or a host-only fee option. The split fee option means that travelers booking the accommodation will absorb most of the booking fee, usually around 14% of the total booking cost. Hosts end up paying about 3% of the total booking.
It is, however, mandatory for some hosts to go for the host-only fee option. Hosts that fall under the category of ‘hotel’ have to go for this fee structure. The total fees associated with this option usually reach around 14 - 16% of the booking total, with no additional credit card processing fees. This entire fee goes to Airbnb.
It’s also worth noting for hosts who implement very strict cancellation policies that fees tend to go up with these rules in place. Those with more flexible cancellation properties can save money and will also appeal more to guests who want to book accommodation without having to commit too early on. For these reasons, it’s advisable to be as flexible as possible when implementing your business’s cancellation policies.
Of course, there are some cases where a lot of notice is needed before a cancellation happens. You need to know your property is going to be occupied, especially if you are running a vacation rental property on a full-time basis. This is why there is the option for Airbnb hosts to extend the time required for free cancellations and the amount of money they retain in the event of a cancellation.
The host-only fee structure is highly appealing for travelers as they are not hit with surprise fees at checkout, making it much easier to budget for their trip. For this reason, some hosts opt for the host-only fee structure to attract more guests.
Vrbo Fee Structure
Vrbo offers a subscription service that is ideal for hosts that can rent out vacation properties on a full-time basis. The Vrbo subscription allows hosts to pay a flat annual rate of $499, roughly $42 monthly. This makes the most sense for hosts with a yearly income of over $10,000. However, there are other fee structures in place for those running vacation rental properties on more of a part-time basis.
For example, hosts can also pay Vrbo through their commission fee structure. Hosts pay 5% of the total booking as a commission to Vrbo. However, unlike Airbnb, Vrbo also charges a 3% credit card processing fee, meaning hosts could end up paying a lot more than if they listed their properties on Airbnb.
Properties on Vrbo do tend to go for a lot more than properties on Airbnb so one could argue that these fees could be swallowed by charging guests more. Of course, lower listing prices will attract more guests, but if the property has aspects of luxury, one can charge upwards.
Regarding travelers, the fees associated with booking on Vrbo are slightly less, with guests having to pay anywhere between 6% and 12% of the total booking. Unlike Airbnb, there are no options where hosts can absorb the entire fee. This makes Airbnb slightly more appealing to travelers. However, the fee structure on Vrbo is often more cost-effective for property hosts.
Customer Care and Host Support on Vrbo Vs. Airbnb
Both platforms have the challenge of catering to those booking accommodation through their web media platforms and those who list their vacation properties with them. Both aspects must be considered when implementing a sound customer care system. Airbnb and Vrbo have slightly different approaches when it comes to customer care as well as additional policies surrounding complaints and booking issues.
Customer Care for Vrbo
Generally speaking, the reputation of customer service with Vrbo is better than Airbnb, given that Vrbo puts a lot more effort into ensuring their hosts are taken care of. This is arguably because there are far fewer listings for them to worry about on the platform. In addition, the customer service line for both travelers and hosts is available on a 24/7 basis.
Vrbo offers their customers several channels to get in touch with them. Both hosts and travelers can contact Vrbo customer service online or by phone. This level of accessibility makes Vrbo a popular platform in terms of customer service.
Customer Care for Airbnb
There has typically been relatively negative feedback surrounding Airbnb’s customer service as they tend to favor the guests more than the hosts. This often results in hosts having to fork out unfairly for refunds. However, Airbnb will also consider the host's status. If a seemingly unreasonable claim is made against a host with a previously good record, further investigation will be conducted into the guest’s complaints.
As far as accessibility is regarded, Airbnb has a dedicated support line that travelers and hosts can contact whenever they need to. For refund inquiries and Airbnb’s mediation services, their resolution center is available to be contacted on a 24/7 basis. Mediation is usually brought in if the customer and the host cannot agree. This often happens if there are discrepancies about the state of the property or if the host did not meet the demands of the guests.
Travel Safety Using Vrbo Vs. Airbnb
One thing that all travelers look for when it comes to booking accommodation is the safety reputation of properties listed on these platforms. This is especially relevant for those traveling independently, as it can be risky for some.
Both of the apps take their safety seriously, especially for travelers. Each of the platforms has their own systems wherein this is ensured. In addition, both platforms also have strict data protection policies in place, which keeps the guests’ and hosts’ information safe. This is important as personal information like credit card details, contact details, and home addresses must be exchanged for properties to be listed and for travelers to book accommodation.
Vrbo Safety Features
Vrbo has a system whereby guests can rebook accommodation should their hosts make them uneasy. Further, Vrbo will take it upon themselves to conduct a thorough investigation of any reports or incidents that may have occurred.
In addition to this safety feature, Vrbo also has strict privacy policies that help prevent criminal activity such as fraud and harassment. For example, Vrbo hosts must inform the platform of all monitoring devices and software they may use daily. This prevents illegal data retention activities and helps keep travelers' details private and secure.
Airbnb Safety Features
Like Vrbo, Airbnb also has safety features focused on keeping travelers safe, arguably more stringent than Vrbo, given that the platform offers guests to book shared spaces. In addition, Airbnb offers users a feature in the app specifically for guests.
The Solo Traveler feature gives guests access to safety tips for traveling. These tips include good questions to ask hosts to assess them in advance and other information that will provide guests with helpful pointers to keep themselves safe.
Once the booking has been made, the guests also have the option to share their complete itinerary. This will allow travelers to send a copy of their booking with close friends and family so that their whereabouts are always known to others.
Although these safety features are only available for those that book shared spaces, the platform has plans to expand these features to their entire property rentals too.
Is Vrbo or Airbnb Better for Travelers?
Both Vrbo and Airbnb offer their benefits for travelers. It depends on the type of accommodation travelers need and their budget. From a safety perspective, Airbnb is the best option for solo travelers, given that they offer an in-app feature that provides safety tips for travelers. It’s also the best platform, as their complaints and refund policies tend to side more with the guests than the hosts.
Airbnb is also popular with new hosts and those looking to enter the vacation rental property market; therefore, accommodation rates are slightly lower than the options listed on Vrbo. There are also more property options for guests on Airbnb, meaning there is more opportunity to visit different places.
For those traveling with a group of friends or who want to book a family holiday, Vrbo is the better option, as these properties are geared toward those requiring an entire property for their stay. This is also good for those traveling alone and wanting to treat themselves to a larger property.
Both platforms have very comprehensive booking systems that are easy to navigate. However, depending on the fee structure selected by Airbnb hosts, some unexpected costs can be added to the booking right before travelers reach the checkout point. These may include service and clearing fees not listed on the original booking. This may deter some travelers, but the overall experience is better on Airbnb for those on a tighter budget.
Should I List My Property on Vrbo or Airbnb?
Listing properties on Airbnb and Vrbo is easy; however, hosts will want to see that they are being prioritized by the platform, given that these businesses make most of their money from the commission and fees charged for property listings. Therefore, hosts should consider several factors when choosing which platform to list their properties on.
Although there is nothing stopping hosts from listing their properties on both, should their vacation rentals match the criteria required for both.
From a fee perspective, Vrbo is the more cost-effective option for hosts as their flat-rate system means that there is a percentage set by the platform that they will collect from the property owners. With Airbnb, there are two fee options, as mentioned above, but the fees are higher for those listing their properties on Airbnb.
What Types of Vacation Rentals Are Usually Listed on Vrbo Vs. Airbnb?
The most significant difference between Airbnb and Vrbo is the types of properties that can be listed on each platform. Vrbo only allows entire properties to be listed on its site. Only hosts with private houses or apartments can use Vrbo, and no spare rooms or shared spaces are allowed.
Although this may be limiting, guests are usually drawn to having the entire property to themselves without having to share bathrooms and kitchen facilities with others. If you’re a host that can list an entire property, you can expect guests to have more of a budget for booking accommodation.
However, if you have a spare room that is not being used and wish to make some extra money, Airbnb is available to rent this space. It’s imperative that hosts are very explicit about the type of space they list and that their descriptions and tags are as accurate as possible. The last thing you want is a cancellation owing to false advertising, and you want to ensure that your guests get the type of property they think they were paying for.
Both of the platforms also have review systems that help in host rankings and therefore help to ensure your property is listed as desirable to stay in. It’s in the host's best interest to ensure they maintain a clean and pleasant space for guests to get good reviews and referrals.
Achieving Super Host status on Airbnb or Premier Host status on Vrbo is highly doable if you successfully run the property and have the amenities required for your guests. Several tips, tricks, and tools are available for hosts to use to help them manage a successful holiday rental business.
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