Holidaymakers often assume that Airbnbs and Vrbo rentals are cheaper than hotels – but that’s generally not the case, Which? has found.
The watchdog compared the cost of thousands of hotels – excluding five-star hotels – with 300,000 one-bed listings on Airbnb and Vrbo around the world, from San Francisco to Southwold, and found the price for rentals outstripped the average cost of a hotel in 38 of 50 destinations.
Private rentals are almost a fifth (19 per cent) more expensive on average – £120 ($148) a night compared to £101 ($125) for hotel rooms.
In some destinations, holidaymakers could be spending an extra £80 per night by choosing to stay in a private rental over a hotel, the consumer champion reveals. This could set travellers back hundreds of pounds more for a rental over a week-long stay, even before accounting for Airbnb and Vrbo’s service charges, which were not included in the watchdog’s price analysis.
The biggest price difference could be found in Santorini, where a one-bed rental on Airbnb and Vrbo is £203 a night on average, 71 per cent (£84) more than a hotel stay (£119). Over the course of a week, the savings for hotel guests could be substantial, with holidaymakers cutting their costs by as much as £588 on average, Which? notes.
Holidaymakers often assume that Airbnbs are cheaper than hotels – but that’s generally not the case, Which? has found. The biggest price difference is in Santorini, where a one-bed rental on Airbnb and Vrbo is £84 per night more than a hotel stay
Which? compared the cost of thousands of hotels – excluding five-star hotels – with 300,000 one-bed listings on Airbnb and Vrbo. The hotel prices are indicated with a bed symbol and the rentals with a circled head and shoulders
In the Portuguese town of Almancil, meanwhile, travellers could save as much as £81 per night by choosing a hotel (£63) over a private rental (£144) – making it the second-biggest price gap in the study.
The third biggest saving to be had is in the picturesque seaside town of Southwold in Suffolk, which draws thousands of visitors every year.
At an average of £155, the cost of a hotel room in Southwold is among the priciest the consumer champion found in the UK. However, this is still significantly cheaper than the average cost of a listing on Vrbo or Airbnb in the town, which sits at a hefty £223 per night, an increase of 44 per cent (£68). Over the course of a week-long stay, holidaymakers could stand to save as much as £476 by opting to stay in a hotel.
Which? found that private rentals are almost a fifth more expensive than hotels on average – private rental listings are £120 on average, compared to £101 for hotel rooms
In the Portuguese town of Almancil (above), travellers could save as much as £81 per night by choosing a hotel over a private rental
The fourth biggest price gap is in Amsterdam, where one-bed Airbnb and Vrbo listings are 58 per cent more expensive per night on average at £183, compared with £116 a night for a hotel. That means travellers could pay as much as £496 more on average over a seven-night stay (£67 per night).
In the U.S, the biggest price gap is in San Francisco, where hotels are £53 ($65) per night and private rentals are £163 ($202) – making a hotel stay £36 ($44) cheaper.
And the most significant discrepancy in Australia is in Sydney. There, private rentals are priced at £121 per night, whereas a hotel stay is £87 – a saving of £34.
Hotels work out cheaper on average in all four of the UK’s capital cities. In Greater London, an Airbnb or Vrbo stay costs almost 59 per cent more (£60 per night) at £162, than the average hotel stay (£102).
In the U.S, the biggest price gap is in San Francisco, where hotels are £53 ($65) per night and private rentals are £163 ($202) – making a hotel stay £36 ($44) cheaper
In the picturesque seaside town of Southwold in Suffolk, holidaymakers can save £68 per night by choosing a hotel over a private rental
In Edinburgh, meanwhile, holidaymakers could save £22 per night, with the average cost of a hotel stay coming to £104, compared to £126 for an Airbnb or Vrbo rental.
In Cardiff and Belfast, savings are more modest, but could still see holidaymakers make savings over the course of a week, with hotel rooms costing £5 less on average in Belfast (£99 versus £104), and £11 less in Cardiff per night (£108 versus £119).
Which? found that hotel rates in many Asian cities are also comparatively cheap when contrasted with listings on Airbnb and Vrbo. In Hong Kong for example, one-bed listings are 85 per cent (£45) more expensive on average, setting travellers back £98 per night, compared with just £53 for a hotel room, with similar findings in Singapore and Dubai.
That said, hotels aren’t cheaper everywhere. For instance, in France, which has one of the largest supplies of private rentals in the world (the number of listings for France is second only to the U.S, Which? notes), Airbnb and Vrbo listings are cheaper or the same price as hotels in five of the seven destinations researchers looked at. A one-bedroom rental typically cost less than a hotel room in Antibes, Biarritz, La Rochelle and Avignon, while they are the same price in Nice. However, rental listings in Bordeaux and Paris are more expensive on average, the watchdog adds.
In Amsterdam, one-bed Airbnb and Vrbo listings are 58 per cent more expensive per night on average at £183, compared with £116 a night for a hotel
Which? notes that holiday lets rose in popularity during the pandemic, and continued demand has likely played a role in rising prices.
It says that although a hotel stay may be more cost-effective than a room rental in many destinations, hotels have also seen their prices rise rapidly, with UK room rates up 11 per cent on average last year when compared with 2019, and U.S rates up 14 per cent, according to hospitality analyst CoStar.
The watchdog notes that private rentals can still offer good value, however – and larger groups are more likely to save when compared to booking into a hotel.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said: ‘Many holidaymakers may be surprised to discover that the average cost of hotels in many destinations is cheaper than one-bedroom holiday lets, which are often promoted as a popular option for travellers trying to save money.
‘When planning your next trip, don’t assume a hotel will cost more, but instead check rates across different platforms. For larger groups that need more rooms and space, private rentals are still likely to beat hotels on price.’