Quantum algorithms for quantum dynamics simulations are traditionally based on implementing a Trotter approximation of the time-evolution operator. This approach typically relies on deep circuits and is therefore hampered by the substantial limitations of available noisy and near-term quantum hardware. On the other hand, variational quantum algorithms (VQAs) have become an indispensable alternative, enabling small-scale simulations on present-day hardware. However, despite the recent development of VQAs for quantum dynamics, a detailed assessment of their efficiency and scalability is yet to be presented. To fill this gap, we applied a VQA based on McLachlan's principle to simulate the dynamics of a spin-boson model subject to varying levels of realistic hardware noise as well as in different physical regimes, and discuss the algorithm's accuracy and scaling behavior as a function of system size. We observe a good performance of the variational approach used in combination with a general, physically motivated wave function ansatz, and compare it to the conventional first-order Trotter evolution. Finally, based on this, we make scaling predictions for the simulation of a classically intractable system. We show that, despite providing a clear reduction of quantum gate cost, the variational method in its current implementation is unlikely to lead to a quantum advantage for the solution of time-dependent problems.