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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?
- Best Vacation Rental Websites For Renters
- 4 Ways To Avoid Scams As A Vacation Home Renter
- Best Vacation Rental Websites For Property Owners & Managers
- What About FlipKey And Wimdu?
- The Benefits Of Using A Vacation Rental Website vs Hotels
- What's The Best Travel Booking Website?
- Is Travel Insurance Worth It?
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
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:
- Site search features
- Quantity and consistent quality of rentals
- Payment options
- Insurance availability
- Direct contact with the property owner (or rental agency)
- Customer support
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.
|More than 2 million listings in 190 countries||Expensive 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 assistance||Fees for the rental guarantee, damage insurance, and cancellation insurance can get high|
|Instant booking options||Service 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|
|24/7 customer support|
Best For International Travels: Holiday Lettings Review
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.
|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 protection||No insurance available for guests or hosts|
|Instant booking options available||Owners 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|
|24/7 customer service|
4 Ways To Avoid Scams As A Vacation Home Renter
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.
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.
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.
|Excellent number of listings (6.6 million in more than 220 countries) leads to lots of potential guests||High booking fee for guests compared to other sites—typically under 14.2%—but can reach as high as 20%|
|Superhost status||Some 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|
|24/7 customer service|
|Cancellation policy determined solely by the host|
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.
|No booking fees for guests||High 15% booking fee for hosts|
|Secure payment via the website||Fewer listings than other websites|
|Hosts get free damage insurance up to $545,000||No rental guarantees for guests|
|Each listing has photos, availability calendar, interactive map, and guest reviews||Rental property descriptions aren’t as thorough as many other sites we reviewed|
|Some properties allow for instant booking||Customer service is only available Monday-Friday|
|Good cancellation policy||Not mobile friendly|
|Excellent reviews by customers|
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’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.
|Hosts incur a reasonable 3% fee per booking||High 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 photos||No damage insurance available for hosts|
|Damage protection insurance available for guests||No 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|
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 following video by Ben Thoennes Dream Vacations illustrates the pros and cons of vacation rentals vs. hotels.
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!Tagged With: