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Hotel vs. Motel: What's the Difference?

By Aimie Carlson & Harlon Moss || Updated on October 11, 2023
A hotel is often a larger establishment offering various amenities, whereas a motel, short for "motor hotel," typically has rooms with external entrances and offers basic accommodations.

Key Differences

The word "hotel" generally conjures images of larger establishments, often luxuriously appointed and providing numerous amenities to their guests. Conversely, a "motel" usually indicates a smaller, road-side establishment, originally designed to cater to motorists, with minimal amenities and often, direct access to individual rooms from the parking area.
Hotels often boast a wide range of room types, from single rooms to suites, all accessible from interior hallways. Motels, traditionally, provide one or two types of rooms, and guests can often access their rooms directly from the outside, which provides ease of access to parked vehicles.
Hotels usually have a wide array of amenities like restaurants, gyms, and concierge services. Motels, by contrast, tend to offer fewer amenities, focusing on providing a simple, clean place to stay, sometimes with additional features like a small pool or complimentary breakfast.
Hotels often have a broad pricing range, accommodating various clientele, from budget-conscious travelers in basic rooms to those seeking luxury in high-end suites. Motels generally target budget-conscious travelers, providing fewer luxuries and hence, often, at a lower cost.
Hotels can be found in a multitude of settings, including city centers, near airports, and tourist destinations, catering to tourists, business travelers, and more. Motels are commonly located alongside highways, designed to provide a night’s rest for road trippers.

Comparison Chart

Definition & Purpose

Larger, with varied amenities, catering to diverse clientele.
Smaller, roadside, aimed at motorists.


Rooms accessed via internal hallways.
Direct external access to rooms.


Multiple amenities like restaurants, pools, etc.
Limited amenities, perhaps a small pool.


Diverse pricing, from budget to luxury options.
Typically budget-friendly.


Found in various locales, from cities to tourist spots.
Often situated alongside highways.

Hotel and Motel Definitions


Hotels can also cater specifically to certain activities or needs, like conference hotels, spa hotels, or family hotels.
The conference hotel had ample meeting spaces and a well-equipped business center.


Motels commonly feature rooms with doors that open directly to the outside, rather than an internal hallway.
They could hear the gentle rain outside the door of their motel room.


Hotels are often categorized by their level of service, amenities, and accompanying price, such as luxury hotels, resorts, or budget hotels.
The five-star hotel provided exceptional service and dining options.


The term “motel” originates from “motor hotel,” emphasizing its utility for travelers with vehicles.
The motel provided easy parking, allowing them to unload their car with ease.


A hotel is a commercial establishment offering lodging and, often, meals and other services for travelers and tourists.
The hotel offered a beautiful view of the ocean from its luxurious rooms.


Motels often provide basic accommodation with less emphasis on luxury amenities, compared to hotels.
The motel had clean rooms, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary breakfast but no on-site restaurant.


In culinary terms, a "hotel" can also refer to a hotel pan used in restaurants to cook, store, and serve food.
The chef placed the freshly roasted vegetables in a hotel pan for the buffet.


A motel is a roadside hotel designed primarily for motorists, typically having the rooms arranged in low blocks with parking directly outside.
After a long day of driving, they stopped at a modest motel with a neon sign.


In a broader sense, a hotel can refer to an establishment that provides paid lodging on a short-term basis.
We booked a hotel near the airport for its convenience.


In motels, functionality and convenience for road travelers, such as proximity to highways and parking facilities, are prioritized.
The motel, situated just off the highway, offered a convenient resting spot for night-weary travelers.


An establishment that provides lodging and usually meals and other services for travelers and other paying guests.


An establishment that provides lodging for motorists in rooms usually having direct access to an open parking area. Also called motor lodge.


A type of hotel or lodging establishment, often located near a major highway, which typically features a series of rooms the entrances of which are immediately adjacent to a parking lot to facilitate convenient access to automobiles parked there.


A low-cost short-stay hotel, often with hourly rates rather than daily rates, and notorious for permitting illicit sexual activities; love hotel.


To stay in a motel or motels.


A motor hotel


What defines a motel?

A motel, or “motor hotel”, usually provides basic accommodations with direct outdoor room access, typically catering to motorists.

Do all hotels have restaurants inside?

Many hotels feature one or more restaurants, though it’s not a universal feature, especially in smaller or budget hotels.

Can I book a hotel room for a few hours?

Some hotels offer hourly rates or day-use rooms, while traditionally, rooms are booked per night.

Are motels cheaper than hotels?

Generally, motels are budget-friendly and tend to be cheaper than hotels, though exceptions can exist based on location and quality.

Can hotels and motels refuse service to a customer?

Yes, hotels and motels can refuse service based on factors like overbooking, disruptive behavior, or inability to pay.

What is a hotel?

A hotel is a lodging establishment offering various amenities and typically has rooms accessed via internal hallways.

Are motels only found along highways?

While motels are commonly found along highways, they can also be located in towns or tourist areas.

Do hotels usually have more amenities than motels?

Typically, yes. Hotels often offer a wider range of amenities, such as room service, gyms, and pools, compared to motels.

Is it common for motels to have a swimming pool?

Some motels may feature a swimming pool, though it’s not as universally common as it is in hotels.

Are motels safe for overnight stays?

While many motels offer safe accommodations, it's wise to check reviews and possibly choose chain motels with a reputation for safety and cleanliness.

Can I get a room at a motel without a reservation?

Often yes, motels often accommodate walk-ins, though availability isn't guaranteed without a reservation.

What is the check-out time in motels?

Check-out times can vary but are commonly around 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. in many motels.

Do hotels have minimum stay requirements?

Some hotels, especially during peak seasons or special events, might impose minimum stay requirements.

Is it common for motels to offer free parking?

Yes, motels typically offer free parking, providing convenient access to rooms.

What does a hotel offer for business travelers?

Hotels may offer business centers, conference rooms, Wi-Fi, and other facilities to cater to the needs of business travelers.

How does hotel star rating work?

Hotel star ratings typically indicate the level of services, amenities, and room quality, with more stars indicating higher quality.

Are motels pet-friendly?

It varies—some motels are pet-friendly while others may not allow pets.

Do hotels provide transport services?

Some hotels offer transport services like airport shuttles, though this is not universal.

Do hotels offer discounts for group bookings?

Many hotels offer discounts or special rates for group bookings, though policies can vary.

Do hotels offer loyalty or rewards programs?

Yes, many hotel chains offer loyalty programs, providing rewards like discounted rates or free nights to frequent guests.
About Author
Written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.
Co-written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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