A Detailed Explanation Of The Difference Between Hotel Vs Motel

What is on your list when you prepare for a vacation? Clothes, travel tickets, passport, visa, other personal apparatus,… of course accommodation. Accommodation is a concern of every traveller. When looking for a place for lodging, everybody tends to waver on array of options such as hostel, homestay, bed and breakfasts, car camping, hotel and motel. Needless to say, the winner are hotel vs motel. However, only few travelers are familiar with the difference between hotel vs motel. Are motel vs hotel synonymous? In which aspects are hotel vs motel different from each other? If you are curious, let read our comparison below to find out the answer to the question: “What is the difference between a hotel and a motel?”

What Is The Difference Between Hotel And Motel?

1. Definition And History

Let’s start with hotel. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, hotel is “An establishment providing accommodation, meals, and other services for travelers and tourists.” Where does this word stem from? Its origin goes all the way back to the Old French word hostel, later transitioned into hotel and adapted by the Middle English. But hotels as we know them today only started to appear around the 18th century, although the beginning of the hospitality industry goes all the way back to the ancient Greek and Roman culture. Back then mostly the rich, the traders and the politicians were the main customers for the early hotels.

Difference between hotel vs motel

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan – The world’s oldest hotel

Meanwhile,”Motel” came along much later. As large highway systems began to be developed in the 1920s, long-distance road journeys became more common, and the need for inexpensive, easily accessible overnight accommodation sites close to the main routes led to the growth of the motel concept. “Motel” is the contraction of “motor” and “hotel”. As defined in Oxford dictionary, motel is a hotel for people who are travelling by car, with space for parking cars near the room. Motels are often individually owned, though motel chains do exist.

Difference between hotel and motel

“Motel” is the contraction of “motor” and “hotel”

2.  Location

When looking at the definition, everyone can figure out at least one difference between hotel and motel. It is their location. Most of the hotels are located in busy tourist spots where thousands of people arrive every day. They are also located near airports and railway stations to give quick lodging option to the people.

hotel vs motel

Most of the hotels are located in busy tourist spots where thousands of people arrive every day.

When it comes to motels, they are located on highways. Stretches of open roads are the ideal locations motel because you fill find the motorists there.

motel vs hotel

Motels are located near high ways.

3. Size And Architecture

Hotels are also more commonly right in the middle of the action at an already-popular tourist destination. Hotel architecture varies from place to place, but a basic hotel,regardless of level of quality, is often multi-storied. When entering a hotel, visitors have to pass the reception hall in the ground-floor, grab an elevator ride before arriving their room. As mentioned earlier, the parking lot is not accessible to your room but often in a separate space underground the surface.

hotel vs motel

A basic hotel,regardless of level of quality, is often multi-storied.

Motels are typically constructed in an “I”-, “L”-, or “U”-shaped layout that includes guest rooms; an attached manager’s office; a small reception; and in some cases, a small diner and a swimming pool. A motel was typically single-story with rooms opening directly onto a parking lot, making it easy to unload suitcases from a vehicle. A second story, if present, would face onto a balcony served by multiple stairwells.

What is the difference between a hotel and a motel?

Motels are typically constructed in an “I”-, “L”-, or “U”-shaped layout.

4. Duration Of Stay

A motel is targeted toward those travelling on the highway who want a break from their journey, so short stays are expected. On the other hand, a hotel is targeted at all sorts of people, such as business people, travelers, students, etc with a variety of purposes, so the duration of stay is flexible. Even so, few hotels such as ones near beaches or other tourist attractions will turn away long-stays, as they only serve seasonal visitors.

Difference between hotel and motel

Stay duration of hotel is flexible while that of motel is often short.

5. Service

Service is another nuanced difference between hotel and motel that helps you figure out what type of accommodation you are staying in. Motels are geared more for one- or two-night stops along a journey, so they only cater only some basic room services. While A hotel may provide facilities for restaurant swimming, gyms, spa treatments, and other recreational needs like casinos and theaters, as well as rooms for business/conference needs.


6. Price

Hotels are costlier than motels. This is because of the hotel vs motel services and quality differences. 

While hotels provide lots of services like room services, bars, restaurants etc, their price increases as the number and quality of services increases. Also, The price of hotel rooms can vary depending on the tourist seasons. Hotels tend to increase their tariff in some particular months of the years when the flow of tourist is high in that region. Increasing the room tariff overall increases the cost of your stay at the hotels.

hotel vs motel

A hotel room with luxury service and decoration

On the other hand, motels provide a cheap lodging option. They are much cheaper than the hotels as they don’t provide much facilities and services. They provide basic facilities to sleep, relax and get ready for next day travel.

hotel vs motel

A motel room with basic decoration

7. Comparison

Now, let’s compare these two kinds of accommodation. Below is a comparison table and some additional information about the difference between hotel vs motel

DefinitionAn establishment that provides paid lodging and provides numerous amenities to guests which may increase their lodging satisfaction.An establishment that provides lodging, usually located with good access to the national road network but with less guest comforts.
ArchitectureSingle, Multi-storied, or Varies; has rooms that open to interior of the building.Single, or double storied building with connected rooms; has open walkways, exterior entrances.
Duration of stayFlexibleShort (often)
ServiceMore amenities- like 1 or more pools (indoor and/or outdoor), jacuzzi, fitness center, arcade/game room, banquet/meeting facilities, business center, WI-fi, different room levels (standard, premium, family suites, jacuzzi suites, etc), among others.Basic room service, Wifi
CostUsually More expensive than Motels- however prices range with star-ratings, room types, amenities, location, nicer accommodations/rooms, etc.Often Less expensive than Hotels due to lack of amenities, basic rooms, locations, etc
LocationSituated anywhere within a city or village. Often near business districts, airports, downtown areas, attractions, freeways, vacation areas, within/near casinos, sports arenas, and other places.Usually situated on highways, but can also be found near outskirts of towns, many places where you would find hotels, rural areas, and other places.

Frequently asked questions about the difference between hotel vs motel:

1.When should I book a motel instead of a hotel?

There are a number of situations where it makes more sense to a motel than a hotel. Here are a few of them.

  • If you’re looking for the best value and don’t care about property amenities, motels can be cheaper. They are unlikely to provide services such as room service, laundry, a gym or spa.
  • If you’re on a road trip, motels are a convenient option because they can give you a cheap place to get some shut eye after a long day of driving.

2. When should I book a hotel instead of a motel?

Although motels are cheaper than hotels, you may want to spend the extra money and stay at a hotel in these situations.

  • If you’re looking for property amenities and a comfortable vacation, then chooose hotels as they feature more luxurious accommodations, room service, fitness centers, spas and more. 
  • When you’re traveling to an area you are not familiar with, hotels tend to have more staff like receptionists and concierges who can assist you in planning activities or provide local information. 
  • If you’re hoping to be in the middle or popular attractions, hotels are usually found in desirable downtown locations.
  • If you’re visiting a conference, hotels commonly feature sit down restaurant service for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so you can have a hassle-free schedule. 

3. Besides motel vs hotel, what are other kinds of accommodation that travellers prefer?

  • Hostel, homestay, bed and breakfasts, car camping, ect.

Final words

Now you’ve found out the answers to the questions “What is hotel?”, “What is motel?” and “What is the difference between hotel and motel ?”. If you want to know more information about motel vs hotel, feel free to leave a comment below and then we will discuss further.

About Yuu Sato

Yuu Hiasa has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.

One Response

  1. James Borst says:

    I like your recommendation to book a motel when you just need a place to sleep after driving all day. My wife and I are planning our vacation for our annual vacation without the kids. We may consider booking a motel and focus most of our time and money on tours and experiences.