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Best Vacation Rental Websites: VRBO vs Airbnb vs HomeAway vs FlipKey vs Wimdu & More!

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Best for American Travel
HomeAway logo
Best for International Travel
Best for American Property Owners
AirBnb logo
 Best for International Property Owners
Wimdu logo

Planning a vacation but don’t want to go the hotel route? Vacation home rentals can be an ideal solution — you get the extra space, separate bedrooms, a kitchen and much more, often for a better price than a hotel. Millions of people use vacation rental websites, like VRBO or HomeAway, every day to find the ideal vacation rental and the best deals. But how do you know which websites provide the most legit vacation rentals? And if you’re a property owner looking to advertise your vacation home, which websites are the best to list with? Keep reading to find out the answers to these questions and more — and to see our picks for best vacation rental websites.

First, we’ll explore these websites from a traveler’s perspective and then move on to additional recommendations and pros and cons from a property owner’s viewpoint. Click here to jump to the Best Vacation Rental Websites for Property Owners.

Before we move on, be aware that HomeAway owns both popular vacation rental websites VRBO and VacationRentals.com. All three sites essentially share the same features, provide the same services and insurance and display many of the same listings across the board, so, for this article, we’re combining HomeAway, VRBO and Vacation Rentals.com into one “HomeAway” review.

Best Vacation Rental Websites for Renters

As a traveler, you have millions of rental options ripe for the picking on vacation rental websites. Some of these sites are very reliable and have your back in case things go wrong. Others, not so much. See our top picks for renters based on several factors: site search features, quantity and consistent quality of rentals, payment options, insurance availability, direct contact with the property owner (or rental agency), customer support and more.

How to Avoid Scams as a Renter

Reviews: Always read reviews posted by previous renters. If a rental property doesn’t have any reviews, it’s not necessarily a red flag, but you won’t have that third-party verification to put you at ease. And if a site doesn’t allow reviews, you probably want to steer clear.

Payment: Look for rentals that require a credit card, PayPal or another form of traceable payment. If they ask you to wire payment or pay in cash — red flag! Another red flag: if you’re asked to pay the full amount more than two months before your stay. Reputable vacation rental websites typically require an initial deposit, followed by payment in full one to two months before your arrival date.

Get the Facts: Confirm with the owners or agency that a “full kitchen” is, in fact, fully functional. Does the description say “three bedrooms?” Make sure all are full bedrooms instead of one being a sunroom, an open loft or another type of makeshift room. Get the skinny on any additional fees you could incur which the rental website may not advertise.

Property Conditions: What do you do if you arrive at your rental, and it’s not as advertised or is something not working that should be? If you’ve rented through an agency, ask for another property. If you’re dealing directly with property owners, take photos so you can compare them to what’s on the rental website. If you decide to stay, ask for a partial refund. If you don’t stay, ask for a full refund.

Best for American Travel: HomeAway & VRBO Review

HomeAway logoVisit Website

HomeAway, VRBO and VacationRentals are the best vacation rental websites for travelers, hands down. As mentioned above, HomeAway is the parent company to VRBO and VacationRentals.com, and they share the same features and rentals. With well over a million listings to choose from and the best search features out there, they knock their competition out cold. They also offer insurance policies that other sites just don’t match (although they charge some hefty fees). And their reach for listings is impressive, whether you’re looking for a regional U.S. beach vacation or to go abroad, Home Away and VBRO can deliver listings like no other site can.

If you’re a property owner or manager, HomeAway and its two companion websites are pricier to list rental homes compared to most other sites. You have two options: a $349 annual fee or a 10% booking fee with each rental (applies to all three websites), so you’re getting much better exposure than you would with any other vacation rental site.

Pros

Cons

  • More than 1 million listings across the globe
  • Secure payment for many listings (but not all)
  • Instant booking options
  • Among the best details we’ve seen for listings — largely excellent descriptions, tons of photos, availability calendar, interactive map and guest reviews
  • Rental guarantee, damage insurance and cancellation insurance available 
  • Mobile friendly
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Expensive listing fees – hosts have the option of paying $349+ annual listing fee or 10% per booking fee
  • Fees for rental guarantee, damage insurance and cancellation insurance can get really high
  • Service fees for guests

Best for International Travel: House Trip Review

House Trip logoVisit Website

HouseTrip has excellent listings and superb customer reviews. Acquired by TripAdvisor in April 2016, HouseTrip still remains a European based company at the time of writing this review. HouseTrip has a wide variety of listings, from single rooms and studio apartments to large homes and even castles. A majority of their listings are in Europe, but they do have a fair number in the U.S. — a total of 20,000 destinations around the world. HouseTrip gets excellent customer reviews for the quality of their rentals and ease of process; however, they offer no type of insurance to protect guests or hosts. They now offer TripAdvisor’s Payment Protection, which protects guests for up to $10,000 if denied access or the website substantially misrepresented the rental property. HouseTrip has pretty hefty guest booking fees (thanks to the acquisition) at 5% to 15%, but they charge a nominal 3% booking fee for owners. If you’re not concerned with damage insurance, we recommend you try House Trip.

Pros

Cons

  • Owner booking fee is a fairly low 3%
  • Secure payment through their website with payment protection
  • Instant booking options available
  • A decent number of listings (300,000 in 20,000 destinations)
  • Good detail about each rental with interactive map, comprehensive rental descriptions, lots of photos and guest reviews and availability calendars
  • Mobile friendly
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Guest booking fees can be expensive, ranging from 5%-15%
  • No insurance available for guests or hosts
  • Owners set cancellation terms, which aren’t regulated by the site
  • Owners can add-on additional processing fees

Best Vacation Rental Websites for Property Owners & Managers

See below for our top picks for best vacation rental websites for property owners/managers. We based our selections on several criteria: damage coverage, popularity/marketing reach of the site, listing fees, and more.

What Do You Need to Know Before You List Your Property?

Check on Your Local Ordinances: Many localities have rules in place for licensing a short-term rental as well as occupancy tax.

Neighborhood Associations: If you own a home and pay neighborhood dues, many Homeowner’s Associations have regulations against renting out your property or at the very least, some guidelines to follow.

Make Sure You’re Covered for Insurance: While some vacation rental websites offer damage insurance, make sure you’re covered for that as well as personal liability claims and theft of personal property like jewelry or artwork.

Cleaning and Maintenance: With most vacation rental websites, you’re in charge of setting up (and setting fees for) repairs and cleaning of your property before and during your guests’ stays.

Best for American Property Owners: Airbnb Review

Airbnb logoVisit Website

Airbnb is our top pick for best vacation rental website for hosts. What sets them apart? With a reasonable 3% booking fee for each rental and a free “Host Guarantee” that covers up to $1 million in damages to your property, you get a lot of bang for your buck. And Airbnb is another powerhouse vacation rental site, with more than 1.5 million listings, so you’ll reach a large audience of potential renters.

For travelers, Airbnb has easy, fairly thorough search filters and a cool feature that lets you know the percentage of rentals still available based on your search criteria (dates, location, occupancy, etc.). In other words, book now because your options are running out. You can even view the owner’s profile, which includes reviews from previous renters.

Pros

Cons

  • Excellent number of listings (1.5 million in 190 countries) leads to lots of potential guests
  • Fairly low 3% booking fee for hosts
  • Secure payment through their website
  • Good details for each listing, including interactive map, amenities, photos and guest reviews
  • Free “Host Guarantee” insurance covers up to $1 million in damages
  • Mobile friendly
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Cancellation policy determined solely by host
  • Fairly high 6-12% booking fee for guests compared to other sites  – which may lead to fewer guests
  • No availability calendar
  • Many consumer complaints (mostly travelers) about poor customer service

If you are new to Airbnb, get an exclusive $35 credit towards your first trip via this link.

Best for International Property Owners: Wimdu Review

Wimdu logoVisit Website

Another Europe-based company, Wimdu isn’t the site to find your regionally popular or lesser-known vacation sites within the U.S. But if you’re looking global, it’s worth giving it a shot — a majority of their listings are apartments in European cities. And you can find some magnificent deals! A double occupancy room in the heart of London for less than $50 per night? Score! If you’re considering a trip to Europe, we highly recommend you see what Wimdu has to offer.

And, if you own property, Wimdu allows you to list for free, and you only incur a 3% booking fee with each rental. Wimdu offers owners damage insurance up to 500,000 Euros (roughly 545,000 U.S. dollars) per claim, and owners are only responsible for 150 Euros for each claim. This liability insurance, however, doesn’t cover properties in the U.S. or Canada.

Pros

Cons

  • Fairly low booking fee for hosts at 3%
  • Decent variety of listings (300,000 in 100 countries) means good number of potential guests
  • Secure payment through their website
  • Instant booking options available
  • Damage insurance for hosts up to 500,000 Euros (excluding U.S. and Canada)
  • Good cancellation policies
  • Mobile friendly
  • 24/7 customer service
  • High 12% booking fee for guests – which may lead to fewer guests
  • Some consumer complaints about them being hacked
  • Customer feedback on quality of customer service is across the board

Other Vacation Rental Websites Reviewed

Although the following vacation rental websites didn’t make our top picks, they’re still worth considering as a vacationer and as a property owner/manager. Click on any that you’re interested in to jump straight to the review.

9flats | FlipKey | Roomorama | VacationHomeRentals.com

9flats Review

9flats logoVisit Website

A German company launched in 2011, 9flats has more of a global, large-city focus heavily concentrated in Europe. 9flats is not the vacation rental website for you if you’re looking for a lot of U.S. beach or smaller city destinations (although they do have a good number of rentals in Miami). Like Airbnb, you can rent a room in addition to larger properties — and they offer a wide variety, including castles, treehouses, igloos, etc.

Property owners get host insurance in case of damages, which covers up to 500,000 Euros (approximately $545,000 U.S. dollars), but they also incur a hefty host booking fee. Still, 9flats gets excellent customer reviews, largely from their European clients. So, if you’re looking for a great deal abroad, check out 9flats.

Pros

Cons

  • No booking fees for guests
  • Secure payment via website
  • Hosts get free damage insurance up to $545,000
  • Each listing has a lot of photos, availability calendar, interactive map and guest reviews
  • Some properties allow for instant booking
  • Good cancellation policy
  • Excellent reviews by customers
  • High 15% booking fee for hosts
  • Fewer listings than other websites (250,000)
  • No rental guarantee for guests
  • Rental property descriptions aren’t as thorough as many other sites we reviewed
  • Customer service only available Mon-Fri
  • Not mobile friendly

Flipkey Review

Flipkey logoVisit Website

FlipKey’s parent company is the hugely popular travel review website TripAdvisor, so you’ll find the most authentic guest reviews and more photos compared to other sites. FlipKey has an intuitive, search-friendly interface and even has a feature that tells you how many people have used FlipKey to book each vacation rental home you view. They also offer more daily deals than other sites. The downside? With roughly 300,000 rental properties in 11,000 destinations, they don’t have as much selection as their larger competitors. Their booking fees for renters are higher than most sites we’ve seen. And, although they offer a Payment Plan Policy, there’s a pretty strong consensus by customers online that FlipKey doesn’t have your back if things go wrong.

Pros

Cons

  • Hosts incur a reasonable 3% fee per booking
  • A decent number of rental properties (300,000 in 11,000 destinations)
  • Excellent listing descriptions and customer review sections, availability calendar, interactive map and photos
  • Damage protection insurance available for guests
  • Payment Protection Policy protects guests up to $10,000 (for inaccessible or major defect/differences with rental unit & deposit disputes, but you must pay via FlipKey’s website)
  • Instant booking available with many properties
  • Mobile friendly
  • Fairly high booking fees for guests, anywhere from 5-15%
  • Some listings allow you to pay via secure site, while with others you deal directly with the owner for payment (could cause problems in the event of a dispute)
  • No damage insurance available for hosts
  • No universal cancellation policy, so guests and hosts are on their own
  • Some consumer complaints about not being able to reach FlipKey’s customer support, even during open hours

Roomorama Review

Roomorama logoVisit Website

Singapore-based Roomorama is a much smaller scale vacation rental website, with only 120,000 listings in 5,000 locations worldwide. Their rental properties include rooms, apartments, houses and hostels, and the quality level varies more widely than other listing sites. The only things we found that set Roomorama apart is their $50 discount on a second booking and a perk program that gives you discounts on some travel related services, like car rentals, attractions, etc. Otherwise, Roomorama is pretty standard — and they don’t offer insurance for hosts or guests (although they do have a partnership with Proper Insurance for hosts to purchase damage insurance).

But if you’re a property owner, give Roomorama a try. It’s free to list, and you don’t incur any host booking fees.

Pros

Cons

  • No listing or booking fees for hosts
  • Secure payment through website
  • Instant booking options with some rentals
  • Listings have good descriptions, lots of photos, “about the host,” interactive map and a decent number of guest reviews
  • Mobile friendly
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Guests incur a hefty booking fee of 15% or more
  • Far fewer rental listings than many other sites (120,000 in 5,000 locations)
  • No insurance options of any kind for hosts or guests
  • No rental guarantee for guests
  • No availability calendar
  • Poor cancellation policy (guests don’t get refunded their booking fee no matter when they cancel)

VacationHomeRentals.com Review

VacationHomeRentals logoVisit Website

VacationHomeRentals.com is another vacation rental website owned by TripAdvisor, but unlike other TripAdvisor-owned sites, VHR is simply a place for owners to list their vacation rentals and connect with vacation seekers. VacationHomeRentals.com has the smallest number of listings (100,000) out of all the sites we reviewed. As a traveler, you’ll largely be dealing with the property owner for rental payment, cancellation and other terms of your agreement.

From a host/property owner perspective, you’ll incur an annual $399 fee for listing and booking (per property listing). And your listing will be featured on TripAdvisor’s site as well, which has a reach of 250+million travelers. It’s easy to give VacationHomeRentals a try — for hosts, they offer a 60-day free trial period, and there are no booking fees for renters. But you do need to pay attention to the details on this site.

Pros

Cons

  • No booking fees for guests
  • Excellent resource for guest/traveler reviews
  • Availability calendar, interactive map and photos
  • Mobile friendly
  • Host listing fee of $399 per year (but no additional booking fees)
  • Only 100,000 listings —  smaller than other sites we reviewed
  • Payment made directly to host, so you potentially aren’t as secure
  • No insurance offered for hosts or guests
  • Rental property descriptions aren’t as thorough as with many other sites
  • No instant booking options
  • No universal cancellation policy
  • Customer support through email ticket only

The Benefits of Using a Vacation Rental Website Vs Hotels?

The following video by HomeAway (our top pick for vacationers) illustrates the benefits of finding a larger rental space for you and your family — and how easy it is with sites like the ones we’ve reviewed.

So, You’ve Never Used a Vacation Rental Website Before?

For those of us who love to travel (especially off the beaten path), it’s a no-brainer to turn to a vacation rental website. More often than not, you can find any type of accommodation you desire at a more affordable price than staying in a hotel. It also allows you to experience your destination in a more realistically local setting than you would in a hotel. It’s obviously an appealing alternative. According to a recent TripAdvisor survey, an estimated 59% of U.S. vacationers have turned to the vacation rental route. If you’ve never tried a vacation rental website, you’re certainly missing out. We hope this overview serves as a useful guide to help you discover a whole new vacationing world!

Which websites do you rely on to find the best vacation rentals?


About Sally Jones
An international traveler since she was under 10 years old, Sally loves exploring the world’s mysteries first hand. Her favorite destinations? Greece and the British Virgin Islands. She grew up learning to question, explore, and discover new things and ideas — it’s probably why she went into journalism as a career! She loves what the Internet has brought to research and exploration, but she still hits the ground to travel whenever she gets the chance.
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14 Comments on "Best Vacation Rental Websites: VRBO vs Airbnb vs HomeAway vs FlipKey vs Wimdu & More!"

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Linda Donahoe
Linda Donahoe

After reading the comments, Im just not sure which service to even use.

LadyG0726
LadyG0726
I would strongly suggest that the author and all readers of this article read the recently revised AirBnB Terms and Conditions. It places the onus of renting a room or dwelling squarely on the shoulders of the renting parties (the host and the guest[s]). AirBnB accepts no liability – legal, professional, fiduciary or otherwise. All policies that exist are meant solely to favor AirBnB, the renter (guest) and not the renting party (host). Mind you, renters can damage property, cause harm or stay past their agreed upon, contractual amount of time (squatters) and you are left in the lurch as… Read more »
Linda Donahoe
Linda Donahoe

What platform did she migrate to?

Sadie Cornelius
Admin
Sadie Cornelius

Lady G, thanks for letting us know and that’s too bad to hear – hopefully they’ll revisit/revise their terms to protect both parties soon!

Guy

Seems most of the blogs I’ve read lately that pose the same question, opted for VRBO but most comments were from a year ago. Now it seems Airbnb is the Android or Apple and VRBO/Homeaway is the BlackBerry. Am I correct? We host on Airbnb but wondering if its a good idea to host on another platform to get other clients. Homeaway makes it difficult for non US / UK or EU countries to host – is there a work around for people like me sitting in Cape Town or say Rio, or Zanzibar?

ucantmakeitup
ucantmakeitup
Expedia’s Homeaway/VRBO/vacationrentals as well as Airbnb are basically vacation rental middlemen and they are so big and corporate they really aren’t interested in creating a good experience for both the homeowner and the traveler. They just want to facilitate a booking and collect fees. However, they are the only choices for the individual homeowner and so we must learn to work with them. Another big Con with these companies is they are insisting that the homeowner offer instant booking because it is good for the traveler (and to hell with the homeowner). They forget that I am not a hotel,… Read more »
K Pen
K Pen
AirBNB does NOT have its hosts backs. Check the fine print – you must file a claim with the “guarantee” before the next guest checks in AND you must have supporting documentation and photographs and the whole bit. How in the world are you supposed to make these calculations and get this documentation together, and draft a narrative letter and such, in a 3 hour window in which you are supposed to be cleaning for the next guest? As another commenter noted below, customer service is basically useless (the word Kafkaesque comes to mind). They just copy and paste the… Read more »
Sadie Cornelius
Admin
Sadie Cornelius

K Pen, thanks for sharing your personal experience with us to further help our readers!

L Dem
L Dem

Airbnb still owes me thousands of dollars as a host. I found that when you actually need help, customer service is basically useless when it comes to money. I will not be doing Airbnb again.

Sadie Cornelius
Admin
Sadie Cornelius

L Dem, so sorry to hear that’s the case with you and you had a bad experiencing hosting on Airbnb. Thanks for letting us know and good luck getting your money!

Richard Hill
Richard Hill

Hi Sally,
Thanks for the great info on the various homesharing sites. Here’s an update: HomeAway and its subsidiaries was recently bought by Expedia. They’ve decreased the pay per visit fee for owners, but have added a booking fee for travelers. Best, Rick

Sadie Cornelius
Admin
Sadie Cornelius

Rick, thanks so much for letting us know! We appreciate it!

Richard Hill
Richard Hill

Got your acknowledgment a month ago, but the latest email of the article still says that HomeAway doesn’t charge a booking fee. Check it out- they definitely DO now charge a booking fee. Yours for consumer service, Rick

Kimberly Alt
Admin
Kimberly Alt

Thank you Richard, we have updated it. It may take a day or two to show up on your end do to caching. Thanks for staying diligent and notifying us and our apologies for not updating it the first time! Have a great weekend!

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