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Airbnb vs Renting - What’s More Affordable?

Let’s compare the pros and cons, and ALL the costs, in this complete guide.

Writing about Why I Live In Airbnbs, one benefit I touched on was the Airbnb lifestyle being ‘lighter on the pocket’ — it’s cheaper. At least for me. But I still get asked all the time…

“Isn’t it really expensive to live in Airbnbs?”

“… How can you afford to live like that?”

Time to share some truths & dispel some myths

We’ll cover the costs of living in Airbnbs and the costs of more traditional renting. I know it sounds simple, but there’s obvious costs, and not-so-obvious costs.

Here, we’ll cover both, along with what those costs mean in practice — how they actually impact life.

Finally, I’ll talk about — and this is the crucial part, where opinions will differ — what I perceive as pros and cons of both renting and living in Airbnbs.

Before all that though. It’s important, and healthy, to recognise the luxury we’re afforded in even having this choice. Not everyone has an option. Housing is not guaranteed. Look around. Be thankful for your home, wherever or whatever it is.

Now, let’s get into it…

Airbnb Costs

Obvious costs

A one off payment. The cost of the Airbnb. This typically includes utilities (gas/water/electric), and wifi, so there’s no additional bills to pay. The good ones even come with a Netflix login.

I tend to budget between £500–£700 (670–940 USD), for each month I spend in an Airbnb.

‘Hidden’ costs

Travel! You have to get to the location of your new — temporary — abode!

Travel costs can really vary. I’ve spent as little as £15 (20 USD) for flights around Europe, and as much as £400 (540 USD) on long haul flights.

Then there’s transport in location. You likely don’t have your own vehicle wherever you’re headed, which means either walking (free), renting a car or motorcycle, or taking public transport/cabs.

Where you are makes a huge difference. In the US or Australia? Rent a car. Europe? Most cities are walkable and for anything that’s not, public transport infrastructure is good(and cheap) enough. Plus, if you really want to go somewhere ‘remote’ you can rent a car for the day. If you’re in Asia you can rent a scooter for 3 months for around £150 (200 USD), but if you’re not into that, there’s very cheap Uber equivalents like Grab or Gojek.

We’ll budget £100 (135 USD) a month for transport in location (this is a BIG budget).


I tend to spend 2–3 months in a place — never more than 5 locations in a year. If I’m going long-haul, I’m inclined to make it a longer (3 month) stay.

Think about the flight cost as spread over the number of months you’re in a spot — whilst you likely pay it upfront, I find this way gives me a better representation of the ‘real’ cost to be in a place.

The alternative, in a scenario where you stay somewhere for 3 months, is to track 1 very expensive month, and 2 much cheaper months — which makes it very easy to believe you spent less than you did!

It’s possible for me to live like this because I can work remotely from anywhere in the world (wifi dependent!)

I have an excellent travel insurance policy (which includes winter sports) which costs me £50 for the whole year, but let’s round that up to £5 a month (7 USD) while we paint the monthly picture.

One last consideration: I always travel with hand luggage only. I never check a case.

The Numbers

Average Airbnb spend per month: £600 (800 USD)

Average flight spend per TRIP / DESTINATION: £100 (135 USD)

Remember: To get a ‘real’ monthly cost, we’ll consider the number of months spent in a place, and divide the flight cost — If I’m there for 2 months, and the flight was £100, I’ll attribute £50 (67 USD) to each ‘monthly budget’.

Public transport budget: £100 (135 USD)

Travel insurance: £5 (7 USD)

Total: £755 (1,009 USD) per month.

How does that compare to your rent, utilities, and transport costs? Seriously, get in the comments and let me know. I’m curious…

Renting Costs

The cost of renting varies so much around the world. I haven’t rented everywhere in the world. So I’m going to make the comparison to where I have rented. London, UK.
For those readers lucky enough to have avoided the London rental market, I’ll say this: It’s notoriously expensive. Just check out VICE’s ‘London Rental Opportunity of The Week’ to see what I’m talking about.

For that reason, I’m going to run 2 comparisons (got to keep this fair, right?). One for renting in London, and one for renting in the UK in general. It’s been a years since I actually rented, so again, in the name of fairness, I’ve sourced averages.

Obvious costs

London Average Monthly Rent: £1,572 (source) — 2100 USD

U.K. Average Monthly Rent: £1,007 (source) — 1357 USD

Already, it looks like renting is considerably more expensive. But let’s continue!

‘Hidden’ costs

The ranges for these costs represent the difference in prices from London and the rest of the UK.

Utilities like gas, water, electric will come to something like £100-£150 a month (135–200 USD)

Then there’s internet and satellite TV packages, which tend to range from £30-£80 (40–108 USD)

Oh, and then there’s the ‘stuff’’ you need to buy when you rent.

Unless it’s a completely furnished (or serviced) apartment, you’ll also want to make a healthy handful of one-off or infrequent purchases, for things like: furniture, technology (TV, speakers, etc), homeware and soft furnishings, kitchenware, artwork, home security systems… the list goes on…

These are purchases you don’t make when living in Airbnbs.

You can probably spend much more, but we’ll estimate somewhere between £1,000–£1,500 a year (1,350–2,030 USD). Certainly for the first year, with that reducing, or even vanishing for the couple of years that follow. In the Numbers section below, we’ll divide this by 12 to get a monthly cost.


For renting, I’ve focussed only on housing-based costs. The reality is, when you’re based in one place, you’d likely have a car, too. It’s just the convenient thing to do. With insurance, and fuel, you might expect to pay something like £200 a month (as a minimum, and excluding any deposit/downpayment).

As you’re based in one location, you might also like to ‘get away’ at some point in the year. Whether you’re after 2 weeks of sun drenched beaches, or a couple of short city breaks through the year, going away costs money.

A really very conservative estimate here: £500 (681 USD).

Hang on a minute, a car? Trips away? I know, I know… These things aren’t a necessity for everyone, you might even consider them a luxury. That’s why I’ve excluded them from the numbers below. But the note remains: they were considered.

The Numbers

London Rent: £1,572 per month (2,127 USD)

U.K. Rent: £1,007 per month (1,362 USD)

Utilities and other bills: £130–£230. Let’s say £180 (240 USD)

One off costs divided by 12 (months): £83–£125. Let’s say £100 (135 USD)

Total London Costs: £1,852 (2,502 USD)
Total UK Costs: £1,287 (1,737 USD)

Living In Airbnbs Is Cheaper Than Renting

Why Is Living In Airbnbs Less Expensive?

Here’s how the costs stack up.
Total monthly spend to live in Airbnbs: £755 (1,009 USD)
Total monthly spend to Rent in London: £1,852 (2,502 USD)
Total monthly spend to Rent across the UK: £1,287 (1,737 USD)

Living in Airbnbs you save at least £532 a month (720 USD)

At best, you can save over £1,000 a month (1,353 USD)

That’s a saving of at least £6,384 a year. Six thousand, three hundred and eighty four. Pretty staggering if you ask me. And certainly leaves room for you to spend a little more on a few long haul (generally more expensive) flights each year.


WHY the cost difference?

Remember, Airbnb is a marketplace. Hosts are largely targeting short term rentals and holiday lets, but they can also set various discounts.

Available discounts include the, early bird discount (when booking in advance), monthly discount and long-stay discount (when booking for a month or more).

Airbnb has over 7 million listings, and not all of them are discounted, so they can be hard to find. But they are out there. These days, I dedicate myself to finding these deals, and share a selection of the best offers from around the world, in a monthly newsletter. We’re talking about insane deals like 44% off a 1 month stay in Bali, 76% off a 1 month stay in Lisbon, and more.

Pause here and take a moment to imagine calling your landlord and asking for a 70% discount on your rent. Fun game, right?

You see, in a space where all the hosts are targeting short term or holiday lets, longer bookings actually make commercial sense for the host. They spend less time and money ‘turning over’ the property (getting it cleaned, getting fresh bedding, replenishing the toilet roll…).

So that’s how it’s possible. I can appreciate though that it’s not always about money…

Pros & Cons Of Living In Airbnbs


Travel, see the world, meet people, learn about them and their cultures. Make memories. Do all of this, and save money in the process. Money you can save, spend on a lifestyle otherwise financially out of reach, or some combination of both.


Having less of the stuff you want, and no base, being away from ‘home-friends’ and family for longer than usual. You can forget about having your favourite artwork up on the walls, or getting a pet.

Pros & Cons Of Renting


Gives you a stable base, where you can style your home, build a social circle, and a routine.


Dealing with landlords and agents isn’t always fun. The same goes for utilities providers (ever been stuck on hold?), local councils and town halls.

Home-making can take a lot of effort and you might be restricted to what changes or improvements you can make, all of which needs to be repeated when you move out.

Money is complex

Often we don’t talk about it as much as we should. It means different things to different people.

So renting is more expensive. That doesn’t mean you should rush to live in airbnbs — not unless you really want to.

Focus on the pros and cons of each way of living. Think about what fulfils you.

If you’re happy to forego some of the pros of renting to access benefits of living in Airbnbs, why not give it a go?

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