Airbnb vs. VRBO vs. Homeaway vs. Hotel: Which Is Better for You?

Mihir Patkar 22-08-2018

When you’re traveling to a new city, your choices today aren’t limited to hotels alone. Sites like Airbnb, Homeaway, and VRBO let homeowners rent their spaces to travelers. Which one is right for you though?


Airbnb is now the biggest of these sites to find a place to stay. But HomeAway and VRBO, both part of the Expedia network, aren’t too far behind. Each has its own pros and cons, but the one thing they have in common are the security threats you need to know Security Threats All Airbnb Users Need to Know About It might offer flexible accommodation for good prices, but Airbnb can be a security nightmare for those renting. So what can you do about it? Read More .

What Sets Airbnb Apart

Airbnb vs. VRBO vs. Homeaway vs. Hotel: Which Is Better for You? airbnb 3399753 1920

Generally speaking, an Airbnb listing will be cheaper than hotels and serviced apartments. It’s perfect for backpackers. But booking a room on Airbnb over a hotel gives you several benefits that you probably didn’t think about.

  • You will meet, stay, and hang out with locals. Get a well-rated host and you’ll find someone happy to show you around the city, give you great ideas, and generally make your stay awesome.
  • Your costs are flexible. Go grocery shopping with your host and cook up a dinner at home. You might end up saving some money.
  • The small comforts of a home will add up to awesomeness. Hotels will charge for every small amenity or service. On the other hand, your Airbnb host usually won’t mind you borrowing everyday household items.

We’ve looked at more Airbnb basics What Is Airbnb and How Does It Work? What is Airbnb? How does Airbnb work? Use this if you are a homeowner or a traveler who wants to save some money on your next trip. Read More if you need a primer.

Airbnb vs. HomeAway

Airbnb vs. VRBO vs. Homeaway vs. Hotel: Which Is Better for You? homeaway


HomeAway and Airbnb operate in the same number of countries. HomeAway has roughly two million listings, compared to Airbnb’s four million. Based on pure numbers, HomeAway is Airbnb’s largest competitor.

Biggest Differences Between Airbnb and HomeAway

  • HomeAway has better reviews. While both sites only let actual renters post a review after successfully checking out, for some reason, Airbnb has a 14-day time limit. HomeAway lets renters write reviews up to a year from the time of booking. As a result, you tend to get more reviews, and better reviews, on HomeAway.
  • Don’t let the service fee matter. Yes, HomeAway’s guest fee is 6-12%, while AirBnB’s service fee is 0-20%. But while the percentages vary, the average fee comes to the same for similar listings.
  • HomeAway offers insurance against last-minute cancellation. Imagine landing in a new place and finding out your host has canceled your reservation. It’s a common problem on Airbnb, and the company makes you fend for yourself. Sure, you’ll get a refund, but a last-minute booking is going to cost a lot. On the other hand, HomeAway offers insurance with its Book With Confidence Guarantee. This includes not just a refund, but rebooking assistance in case of last-minute cancellations, so your costs don’t go up.

When to Use HomeAway Over Airbnb

I don’t think it’s a case of using one over the other. When you’re researching your travel plans, check the listings on both Airbnb and HomeAway. The listings don’t always overlap, and there isn’t a universal search aggregator.

Airbnb vs. VRBO

Airbnb vs. VRBO vs. Homeaway vs. Hotel: Which Is Better for You? vrbo

VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) looks and feels like a much more expensive site than Airbnb. What makes it one of the high quality alternatives to Airbnb 12 High-Quality Airbnb Alternatives for Any Budget Airbnb gives you thousands of rental properties to choose from---but it isn't perfect. Why not try one of these Airbnb alternatives instead? Read More is that VRBO caters to a slightly more upmarket crowd.


Biggest Differences Between Airbnb and VRBO

  • VRBO lets you rent only full houses, not a single or shared room. In a way, this is good because you know there are no hidden clauses about someone else sharing the space. It’s a persistent problem on Airbnb, with many travelers complaining about false advertising.
  • VRBO’s service fee is 6-12%, while Airbnb’s service fee is 0-20%. That said, Airbnb service fees reduce as the total rental cost increases. VRBO homes are generally more expensive than those listed on Airbnb, so the fee looks hefty for long stays.
  • VRBO cancellation policies are a little different from Airbnb. While both give you full or partial refunds, I found VRBO’s listings generally require you to cancel a month or more in advance for any sort of refund. Airbnb almost always gives you free cancellation in the next 48 hours from the time of your booking.

When to Use VRBO Over Airbnb

When you’re not on a budget and instead booking a vacation home for a family or a get-together, VRBO will be the better choice. The kinds of homes listed here are not available on Airbnb, which is a more mass-market site in some ways. VRBO’s listings look premium, and usually have price tags to match. But hey, you pay more for quality.

Airbnb vs. Hotels

Airbnb vs. VRBO vs. Homeaway vs. Hotel: Which Is Better for You? hotel room

While we’ve talked about the benefits of Airbnb The Risks and Rewards of Renting Out Your Apartment on Airbnb Are you thinking about renting your spare rooms out on Airbnb? Here's why you should, and also why you might think twice. Read More over hotels, it’s not for everyone. Hotels are a service industry, while Airbnb listings are about fending for yourself.

Biggest Differences Between Airbnb and Hotels

When to Use Hotels Over Airbnb

Do you want independence or do you want convenience? Anyone who wants independence while traveling should go with an Airbnb. Anyone who wants the convenience of a vacation should go with a hotel.


Looking for the Cheapest Stay?

For budget travelers, it doesn’t matter which service you use. It’s all about finding the best deal for a low price. There are sites like Tripping that let you search across every vacation rental listing apart from Airbnb.

Depending on what you want, start your search using these sites for finding free or cheap accommodation 5 Ways to Find Free or Cheap Hotels, Homestays, and Hostels Traveling on a budget? Use these smart sites, apps, and extensions to search for the best deals on hotels, homestays, and hostels. Read More . And take a look at the best places to add to your Airbnb wishlist How to Manage Your Airbnb Wishlist (And 10 Incredible Places to Add) Airbnb lets you create a wishlist of all the places you'd eventually like to stay at. Here are some great places to save today! Read More .

Image Credit: Syda_Productions/Depositphotos

Related topics: Airbnb, Travel.

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  1. Eric Blumenson
    March 25, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    The biggest difference is that air&b is honest and vrbo/homeaway dishonest. VRBO/Home Away claims to guarantee a refund or rebooking if the property advertised does not match the property in fact. In my case (ongoing), I rented what was advertised as a 3 bed, 4 person apartment that in fact has only one bed and can only accomodate two people. Not only is VRBO/Homeaway refusing to honor their guarantee; they are also saying that only their "legal department" can do so while refusing to give me any telephone number for them. I asked for this because I have written several emails to legal over many days and they do not respond. HOME AWAY and VRBO are totally dishonest organizations that should be investigated by state attorney-generals for fraud, as well as the federal Consumer Protection Agency and the Justice Department

  2. Ken Noyes
    August 22, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    We booked a vacation rental in Ensenada, Mexico that turned out to be an absolute dump - nothing like the pictures on the website. VRBO would do nothing for us and told us to "deal with the owner." They're happy to take your money but provide no customer service. I haven't used VRBO since.

  3. dragonmouth
    August 22, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    Even though it is very popular and spreading like wildfire, the entire Airbnb concept strikes me as very iffy. There are too many ways in which the interaction/experience can go south, both for the owner and the renter. And Ryan Dube's article " 8 Airbnb Nightmares and the Lessons You Can Learn From Them " is not making me feel any warmer or fuzzier.

    "Airbnb vs. Hotels"
    You forgot to mention a very big difference between the two - The lodging industry (hotels, etc) is regulated, Airbnb and the like, are not. In case of problems, you have a recourse with a hotel, very little with Airbnb. Also, in quite a few US cities (New York, for one), short stay private rentals (Airbnb) are illegal. Hotels, OTOH, are legal.