Travel & Adventure

Best Vacation Rental Sites In 2024: Vrbo vs Airbnb vs FlipKey vs Wimdu & More

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House rental search screen on laptop, sitting on table with hands on keyboard
You’re pumped for your upcoming vacation! Don’t spoil it by staying in a dump. Use a reliable vacation rental site to book your next experience.

Planning a vacation but don’t want to go the hotel route? Vacation home rentals get you extra space, separate bedrooms, a full kitchen, and much more, often for a better price than a hotel. Millions of people use vacation rental websites, like VRBO or Airbnb, daily to find the ideal vacation rental and the best deals.

But how do you know which website provides 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 under? Keep reading to discover the answers to these questions and to see our picks for the best vacation rental websites.

New To Peer To Peer Home Rentals?

As hotel rates continue to soar, travelers increasingly seek alternatives offering larger, private accommodations. For those 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 stellar accommodations at a more affordable price than staying in a hotel.

Home rental allows you to experience your destination as a local might. While you won’t get a hotel’s daily housekeeping and room service, vacation rentals are advantageous for those needing additional space, privacy, and lower costs. It’s an appealing alternative.

Companies like Vacation Rental By Owner (Vrbo) have existed since the mid-nineties, but recent years have seen a spike in families using home rentals during travel. Despite the pandemic, Airbnb had another record year in 2022, hitting 6.6 million global active listings. Travelers aren’t just booking home rentals more frequently but staying longer too. Vrbo’s 2022 trend report shows a 68% increase in 21 to 30-day stays, increasing the average length of stay for vacation rentals.

Best Vacation Rental Websites For Renters

Young woman with yellow suitcase arriving at blue door of condo, surrounded by pink spring blooms.
Here you are, finally at your vacation destination. Will it be as lovely on the inside as advertised on the vacation rental website?

As a traveler, you have millions of rental options ripe for the picking on vacation rental websites. Some sites are very reliable and have your back if things go wrong. Others, not so much.

See our top picks for top vacation rental websites based on six key factors:

  1. Site search features
  2. Quantity and consistent quality of rentals
  3. Payment options
  4. Insurance availability
  5. Direct contact with the property owner (or rental agency)
  6. Customer support

Best For American Travels: Vrbo Review

Vrbo logo

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Pioneering the home vacation rental industry, Vrbo continues to hold its own and is an excellent choice for American travelers. Initially created in 1995 by retired teacher David Clouse to rent out his Breckenridge ski condo, Vrbo grew from a single rental to over two million vacation rentals worldwide. Austin-based HomeAway acquired Vrbo in 2008, then acquired by Expedia Group in 2015. Through acquisitions and rebranding—Vrbo (pronounced “Ver-Boh”) began as VRBO (pronounced “V-R-B-O”)—it has remained a leading competitor in the world of vacation rental listings.

Vrbo offers insurance policies other sites don’t match (although it charges some hefty fees). And its reach for listings is impressive; whether you’re looking for a regional U.S. beach vacation or going abroad, Vrbo can deliver listings as no other site can.

ProsCons
More than 2 million listings in 190 countriesExpensive listing fees—hosts have the option of paying a $449 annual listing fee or pay-per-booking fee that adds up to 8% (3% processing fee and 5% commission fee)
Secure payment through website with payment protection and emergency rebooking assistanceFees for the rental guarantee, damage insurance, and cancellation insurance can get high
Instant booking optionsService fees for guests varies between 6% to 15%
Among the best deals 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
Mobile friendly
24/7 customer support

Best For International Travels: Holiday Lettings Review

holiday lettings logo 250

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HolidayLettings (formerly HouseTrip) has excellent listings and great customer reviews. Acquired by TripAdvisor in April 2016, HouseTrip began as a European-based company but has since been folded into Trip Advisor’s HolidayLettings brand. HolidayLettings has a wide variety of listings, from single rooms and studio apartments to large homes and even castles.

With the addition of the HouseTrip acquisition, thousands of European listings are available to browse. The site gets excellent customer reviews for the quality of its rentals and ease of the process. However, it offers no type of insurance to protect guests or hosts. It now provides TripAdvisor’s Payment Protection, which protects guests for up to $10,000 if denied access or the website substantially misrepresents the rental property.

HolidayLettings has pretty hefty guest booking fees (thanks to the acquisition) at 8% to 16%, but it charges a nominal 3% booking fee for owners. If you’re not concerned with damage insurance, try HolidayLettings.

ProsCons
Owner booking fee is a relatively low 3%Guest booking fees can be expensive, ranging from 8% to 16%
Secure payment through their website with payment protectionNo insurance available for guests or hosts
Instant booking options availableOwners set cancellation terms, which aren’t regulated by the site
A decent number of listings (700,000+ across 160 countries)Owners can add additional processing fees
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

4 Ways To Avoid Scams As A Vacation Home Renter

Old haunted abandoned house
Have you booked an updated modern mansion in a sunny location? What are the odds of showing up and seeing this instead? Tilt the odds of vacation success in your favor with our tips on avoiding scams.

1) Read Previous Renters’ Reviews

Always read reviews posted by previous renters. If a rental property has no 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.

2) Payment Forms Matter

Look for rentals that require a credit card, PayPal, or traceable payment. If they ask you to wire payment or pay in cash—red flag! Another red flag is if you’re asked to pay the total 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.

3) 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.

4) Property Conditions

What do you do if you arrive at your rental and it’s not as advertised or defective? If you’ve rented through an agency, ask for another property. If you’re dealing directly with property owners, take photos to 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 Vacation Rental Websites For Property Owners & Managers

See below for our top picks for the best websites for vacation rentals by owner. 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 Ordinances: Many localities have rules for licensing a short-term rental and 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 responsible for setting up (and setting fees for) repairs and cleaning your property before and during your guests’ stays.

Best For American Property Owners: Airbnb Review

Airbnb logo

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Airbnb is our top pick for the best vacation rental website for hosts. What’s the main difference between Airbnb and Vrbo? Its listings are usually where people currently reside, versus Vrbo’s trend towards second homes and unoccupied locations.

What sets it apart? With a reasonable 3% booking fee for each rental and a free “Host Guarantee” that covers up to $3 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 6 million listings, so you’ll reach a large audience of potential renters.

For travelers, Airbnb has easy, fairly detailed 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.

In 2019, Airbnb acquired HotelTonight, the popular App for booking last-minute hotel deals at high-end boutiques. If you are new to Airbnb, get an exclusive $35 credit towards your first trip via this link.

ProsCons
Excellent number of listings (6.6 million in more than 220 countries) leads to lots of potential guestsHigh booking fee for guests compared to other sites—typically under 14.2%—but can reach as high as 20%
Superhost statusSome hosts may pay a fee of 14% to 16% if they work on a host-only fee basis
Relatively low 3% booking fee for hosts
Secure payment through website
Good details for each listing, including interactive map, amenities, photos, and guest review
Free Host Guarantee insurance covers up to $3 million in damages
Mobile friendly
24/7 customer service
Cancellation policy determined solely by the host

Best For International Property Owners: 9flats Review

9flats logo

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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 U.S. beaches or smaller city destinations (although they have many rentals in Miami). Like Airbnb, you can rent a room in addition to more significant properties—and it offers 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 also incur a hefty host booking fee. Still, 9flats gets excellent customer reviews, mainly from their European clients. So, if you’re looking for a great deal abroad, check out 9flats.

ProsCons
No booking fees for guestsHigh 15% booking fee for hosts
Secure payment via the websiteFewer listings than other websites
Hosts get free damage insurance up to $545,000No rental guarantees for guests
Each listing has photos, availability calendar, interactive map, and guest reviewsRental property descriptions aren’t as thorough as many other sites we reviewed
Some properties allow for instant bookingCustomer service is only available Monday-Friday
Good cancellation policyNot mobile friendly
Excellent reviews by customers

What About FlipKey And Wimdu?

Although the following vacation rental websites didn’t make our top picks, they’re still worth considering as a vacationer or property owner/manager.

FlipKey | Wimdu

Flipkey Review

Flipkey logo

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FlipKey’s parent company is the hugely popular travel review website TripAdvisor, so you’ll find the most authentic guest reviews and more photos than other sites. FlipKey has an intuitive, search-friendly interface and a feature that tells you how many people have used FlipKey to book each vacation rental home you view. It also offers more daily deals than other sites.

The downside? With roughly 830,000 rental properties in 190 countries, it doesn’t have as much selection as its larger competitors. And, although FlipKey has TripAdvisor’s Payment Protection, protecting guests for up to $10,000 if denied access or the website substantially misrepresents the rental property, you must pay through FlipKey’s website.

ProsCons
Hosts incur a reasonable 3% fee per bookingHigh booking fees for guests, anywhere from 8% to 16%
A decent number of rental properties (830,000 in 190 countries)Some listings allow you to pay via a secure site, while others you deal directly with the owner for payment
Excellent listing descriptions and customer review sections, availability calendar, interactive map, and photosNo damage insurance available for hosts
Damage protection insurance available for guestsNo universal cancellation polity
Payment Protection Policy protects guests up to $10,000 (for inaccessible or major defects/differences with rental unit & deposit disputes, but you must pay via FlipKey’s website)Some consumers complain about not being able to reach FlipKey’s customer support, even during open hours
Instant booking available with many properties
Mobile friendly

Wimdu Review

Wimdu logo

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What started as a promising vacation rental site—backed by $90 million in funding from investors Rocket Internet and Kinnevik—turned into a property search engine after Wimdu’s closure in September 2018.

Wimdu was launched in Germany in 2011. Just a month after its launch, Wimdu received major funding and was on the path to being a top vacation-rental site. By 2012, Wimdu had 100,000 listings in 150 countries; however, Wimdu was unable to effectively manage its growth. In 2014 Wimdu’s founders left, and by 2016 Wimdu had merged with 9flats in an attempt to compete with rival Airbnb.

Wimdu was eventually acquired by Platinum Equity in February 2018. By September 2018, Wimdu announced it was closing due to “significant financial and business challenges.”

Today, Wimdu functions as a property search engine. Wimdu gathers listings from across the internet into one easy-to-view location. Looking for a stay in London? Wimdu will show you available rentals on Vrbo, HomeToGo, Hostelworld, Expedia, and more.

The Benefits Of Using A Vacation Rental Website vs Hotels

The following video by Ben Thoennes Dream Vacations illustrates the pros and cons of vacation rentals vs. hotels.

What’s The Best Travel Booking Website?

We hope this best vacation rental site overview is a helpful guide to help you discover a whole new vacationing world! And next time you plan a trip, compare it to hotels, and you might be pleasantly surprised to see what you find and how much you can save.

Thanks to booking aggregators, you can find a travel deal in seconds. Punch in your approximate dates and desired destination, and let the websites spit out results that help you find the best fit for your needs, destination, and preferences. Our experts compare the best travel booking sites.

Is Travel Insurance Worth It?

When you’re checking out with a travel booking site, a vacation rental site, or even a hotel site, you’ve probably been greeted with the now familiar “would you like to insure this trip” line. Is it worth buying the extra travel insurance? Does your credit card or bank already cover it? Our experts answer these questions and more in our analysis of whether travel insurance is worth it.

Which websites do you rely on to find the best vacation rentals? Let us know in the comments!

Sally Jones

While attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s graduate school for journalism and public relations, Sally began a long career researching and writing about hard-to-understand topics, such as insurance and finance. Her additional experience in marketing, fundraising, public relations and financial planning at various foundations and nonprofit organizations over the years has given her the practical tools to inform consumers about making the smartest business and personal financial decisions. Her work has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, People, Forbes, Huffington Post, and more. Speaking of smart living — growing up in the (at-the-time) per-capita murder capital of the U.S. (Richmond, VA) taught her a thing or two about the need for personal and home safety. Sally stays on top of all the latest gadgets and services to protect her and her teenage daughters from potential predators and thieves. And she brings this knowledge to every article she writes.
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