Airbnb vs. VRBO: Know the Differences

It's a question lots of hosts want the answer to! Should I be listing on Airbnb, VRBO, Homeaway, or all of the above. Lifty Life lists on all these channels but in the fight against giants: Airbnb vs VRBO? Which is best? How are they different? How are they the same?

Airbnb and VRBO (aka Homeaway) are the two main vacation rental marketplaces they share a lot in common but have some key differences that every host should know. Some of the key differences are related to fees, number of users, and cancellation policies.

The recent response to Covid19 has really demonstrated the differences between these organizations. Airbnb chose to violate the cancellation policy of hosts without consulting it's host partners, this resulted in a sour taste in the mouths of hosts and major financial losses. VRBO on the other hand took an approach that worked with hosts and guests to find solutions that worked for every party. VRBO has since been praised for being a better partner to it's hosts especially during the pandemic. VRBO's connection to Expedia is likely a major factor that influences it's partnership approach. Expedia has a long history of working with hotel and resort partners, unlike Airbnb who is new to the industry.

Differences in Fees

Both marketplaces charge guests and hosts percentage fees on the value of the reservation. Airbnbs fees are guest heavy while VRBOs are host heavy. Both structures equate to about the same but hosts tend to prefer the low host fee structure offered by Airbnb. Most hosts listing on both channels often inflate the nightly rates on VRBO to reflect the higher cost of acquisition (COA).


Host Fee3%8%
Guest Fee 8-12%6-12%


Although this is the conventional pricing strategy both marketplaces have recently started exploring moving to a fully host model. Host fee models follow the traditional hospitality industry model of putting the fees fully on the property manager, hotel, resort etc. This makes it much easier to maintain price parity among channels.

Differences in Market Reach

Airbnb has a larger user base than VRBO. Which also means Airbnb can be much more competitive as a host. VRBO can be great because you can compete against fewer listings in your market. Kelowna, BC for example has a total of 1,118 active vacation rentals, 55% are only listed on Airbnb, 23% are only listed on VRBO, and only 22% are listed on both.

Secondly because VRBO is part of the Expedia Group which means your listings can be listed on the Expedia extended network. The extended network includes Expedia, Homeaway, Canada Stays, and Hotwire, among many more!

Users150 million
Listings7 million2 million
Extended NetworkLuxury Retreats, Hotels TonightHomeaway, Expedia, CanadaStays


Differences in Cancellation Policies

Cancellations on Airbnb are much more friendly to guests than the cancellations of policies of VRBO. Accommodating the highly flexible cancellation policies on Airbnb can be a big challenge for hosts. If you are interested in having a favourable host cancellation policy it may be best to list on VRBO rather than AIrbnb. New to Airbnb is a non-cancelable rate that lets guests book at 10% off with no refund upon cancellation.

The below tables outline the cancellation policies available on both sales channels.

Airbnb Cancellations:

Days Before Check-InRefund to Guest
Flexible24 hr100%
> 24 hr100% except 1st night
Early CheckoutNights not spent
> 450% except 1st night
Early Checkout50% of nights not spent
> 70%


VRBO Cancellations:

Days Before Check-inRefund to Guest
> 70%
 > 7 0%
> 300%

Although it can be challenging to manage listings on multiple sales channels it undoubtedly will help your listing performance. Increasing your online presence will help you maximize both your average daily rates and occupancy.

Diversifying your marketplaces can allow you to maximize occupancy and compete on less saturated channels. The key marketplaces for vacation rentals are Airbnb and VRBO. VRBO is part of the Expedia extended network which means that your listings can gain exposure on other vacation rentals sites such as Homeaway, Canada Stays and Expedia. Each sales channel has it’s advantages and disadvantages.

In short list on both! Don't worry about the question of Airbnb vs VRBO. They both are great channels that will help grow your business.