Vacation rental services such as Airbnb and Vrbo are often considered a passport to a bargain place to bed down when traveling. But how realistic is that?
U.K. consumer site Which? scanned the globe and found hotels were cheaper than Airbnb or Vrbo rentals in 38 of 50 international destinations including New York and San Francisco. “When launched, private holiday rentals from platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo offered a cheaper alternative to hotels, but our research found that is no longer true in most countries,” wrote the consumer site’s senior researcher and writer Claire Webb.
Hotels were cheaper in 24 of the 30 big cities considered, with the average price of a one-bedroom rental per night around $82 (£60) more than a hotel – with service fees extra. The consumer site used data from AirDNA and Kayak for the rental rates (cleaning fees were factored in, but not any additional service fees) and hotel prices (five-star hotels were excluded), respectively.
Airbnb told Which? that its rentals typically include kitchen and living spaces, not always comparable to hotel rooms. “This data is wrong and based on flawed methodology,” the company said in a statement sent to USA TODAY. “It overstates prices on Airbnb, and compares standard hotel rooms to entire places. There is something for every budget on Airbnb and nearly half of guests say booking on Airbnb saved them money. A quarter say they specifically chose Airbnb over other types of accommodation to save money.”
Vrbo did not respond to a request for comment about the Which? analysis.
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What is the better deal: Rent on Airbnb or Vrbo or get a hotel room?
That really depends on a case-by-case basis.
A 2022 NerdWallet analysis of 1,000 U.S. Airbnb reservations for 2022 or 2023 found “in some cases, Airbnb rentals are still a good deal compared to hotels. Other times, they’re far from it.” Some pointers:
- Party of four? Or six? Larger traveling parties can probably save with an Airbnb or Vrbo, according to Nerdwallet, which compared hotel rooms with a maximum capacity of two adults with home rentals in the same city. The average Airbnb for six was 33% cheaper than booking three hotel rooms, but the average hotel room was 29% cheaper than booking an Airbnb for two, Nerdwallet found.
- Here for a short stay? Home rentals typically cost more for short stays, due to cleaning fees and lack of multiday-stay discounts. So those making travel reservations “under the assumption that Airbnbs are always the best deal, reconsider your strategy,” Nerdwallet reporter Sally French wrote.
- Traveling solo? You can really save when you rent a “private room,” places to stay “in a closed-off section of the house to sleep, relax, and brush your teeth unaccosted by the owner who remains on-site throughout your stay,” wrote Alex Miller, founder and CEO of the Upgraded Points travel news site. When the site compared one-night stays in hotels with private rooms offered by Airbnb – shared-space rental options are not offered on Vrbo – the Airbnb rooms were cheaper in every city with the biggest differences in Las Vegas ($269 cheaper) and Boston ($206.30 cheaper). But hotels came out cheaper in 46 out of 50 cities analyzed when compared with whole-unit Airbnb rentals – the largest difference was found in Los Angeles ($328.10), he said.
Last year, Airbnb updated its listings to include a full price with all service fees, discounts, and taxes before travelers confirmed bookings. This week, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said many of its listings had lowered cleaning fees and that hotel prices were rising as Airbnb prices had fallen slightly.
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How much more may an Airbnb or Vrbo rental be than a hotel room?
The average price of a one-bedroom Airbnb or Vrbo listing was about $158 (£120), about 19% more than the cost of a hotel room (about $124 on average), according to Which?. (Note: in comparison, travel booking site Hopper says U.S. hotel prices are averaging $204 per night.)
Some of the best hotel savings could be found in Amsterdam and London where a hotel room costs, on average, $82 and $74 less, respectively, than a one-bedroom rental, Which? said. Hotels in San Francisco and New York were $44 and $21 cheaper than one-bedroom rentals, respectively, the site said.
Over a week-long vacation, travelers could pay as much as $600 more staying in a rental, compared to a hotel.
The lesson? “When planning your next trip, don’t assume a hotel will cost more, but instead check rates across different platforms,” said Which? Travel editor Rory Borland in a statement. “For larger groups that need more rooms and space, private rentals are still likely to beat hotels on price.”
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