It’s an age-old question — old as the digital age, that is. Will an Airbnb or hotel be cheaper? Which is the better option for your next trip?
Airbnbs offer unique and budget-friendly options for adventurous travelers, while hotels shine when it comes to amenities, consistency and rewards programs.
At a glance
- Hotels include housekeeping and offer a traditional check-in process.
- Airbnb charges a mandatory fee for cleaning the property after your departure.
- Most hotels let you pay upon check-in, and have flexible cancellation policies.
- Airbnb charges you when you book, and cancellation policies are much stricter.
Choose an Airbnb if you’re a solo traveler on a budget or a family in need of a vacation rental. Opt for a hotel if your priority is overall ease, or if you’re a frequent traveler that could benefit from racking up points. But compare prices before you make a choice.
Airbnb vs. hotels
|Read our full review of Airbnb (Guest)||HotelsGo to Hotel deals|
|Locations||A large portion of Airbnbs are in suburban areas or off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods, which can mean longer journeys to top tourist spots.|
- 660,000 Airbnb listings in the US
- Operates in 81,000 cities across 191 countries
|Hotels are strategically placed around the city’s best attractions to increase appeal and to make them desirable.|
- Over 5 million hotel rooms in the US, at more than 54,200 properties
- 169 hotel chains in the US
- Superhost program indicates hosts with top ratings and a history of satisfied guests
- All users are vetted and monitored
- Secure payments
- Reviews show honest feedback
- 5-star-rating system
- Hotel chains come with well-known reputations
- Read reviews from past travelers for any given location
- Interact with paid employees rather than independent hosts
- Not usually, though some hosts choose to offer breakfast
- You can typically book a room that includes continental or sit-down breakfast
- Yes — frequent travelers can earn free nights with popular rewards programs like Hilton Honors and Radisson Rewards
|Check-in and checkout|
- Some listings allow for self check-in, while others require you to meet the host in-person
- Expect a traditional front-desk experience, complete with a concierge
- Most properties offer free Wi-Fi
- Nearly all hotels offer free Wi-Fi
- Some listings are pet-friendly
- Select Pets Allowed underHouse Rules to filter your search.
- 75% of hotel chains are pet-friendly, including Motel 6, Best Western and Extended Stay America
|Family-friendly||While many Airbnbs are family-friendly, you’ll want to read each property’s description or inquire with host to confirm. You can filter your search by high chair and crib to find rentals best equipped for little ones.||All mainstream hotel chains are family-friendly. Most hotels lend out cribs and high chairs — but you should call in advance to confirm|
|Payment ||Your payment method is charged as soon as you book|
- Credit and debit cards
- Apple Pay
- Google Pay
|Choose between paying online in advance, or in person upon check-in|
- Credit and debit cards
- Some hotels accept checks
- Varies — but always less than 14.2%
- No — daily room service is included in the price
|Age to book|
|Security deposit |
- Sometimes, depending on the host
|Long-term rentals |
- Monthly rentals available
- Discounts of 15% to 50% off for longer stays
- Call to negotiate a monthly rate
|Towels and shampoo |
- Depends on the host — some include towels and shampoo
|Price match |
- Yes — most hotels offer price matching for online bookings
|Changes and cancellations|
- Determined by the host — but you can can generally find options with flexible policies
- Most hotels let you cancel for a full refund up to 24 hours in advance
- Smoking is allowed in some properties
- Smoking is allowed in some hotels, in select rooms
|Book||Go to Hotel deals|
Is Airbnb or a hotel cheaper?
Airbnb is almost always cheaper than a hotel if you’re a budget traveler, because it’s usually feasible to book a room in a shared space for $50 to $75 nightly. Families also get more bang for their buck with Airbnb, since you can often book an entire house — including a kitchen, laundry facilities and separate rooms for the kids — for the same price you’d pay for a hotel room.
However, there are a few scenarios when a hotel room may be cheaper than an Airbnb:
- Single travelers or couples that don’t want to stay in a shared space
- In an upscale area consisting of mostly luxury listings
- Smaller cities or towns that have fewer Airbnbs to choose from
Many hotels have become more competitive since Airbnb interrupted the hospitality industry. It’s always a good idea to shop around, because you might stumble on a major deal.
And, Airbnb doesn’t offer a rewards program, so frequent travelers can’t earn free or reduced stays. Hotels may be worth it in the long run if you travel enough to rack up points.
Which is safer during the COVID-19 pandemic?
This one’s a toss-up. Airbnb and hotels around the US have instituted stricter safety protocols, adhering to CDC guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19. If you’re concerned about catching coronavirus, but can’t postpone traveling, chat with your doctor about which is the best choice for you. While Airbnbs offer privacy from other people, and can be a feasible way to self-isolate in safety — especially if the host has an Enhanced Clean indicator — hotels come with the peace of mind that a large brand name can establish, and the accountability of a corporate team, rather than an independent host.
You can also compare the coronavirus responses in the description of each Airbnb listing and on the website of the hotel you’re considering.
Hotels win when it comes to cancellation policies during COVID-19, since most allow you to cancel more than 24 hours before check-in for a full refund, while Airbnb policies — which vary by host — tend to be much stricter.
Any other differences worth noting?
Hotels are the clear winner when it comes to number of available rooms across the US, and in fact the world. So if you’re booking last-minute and only see slim pickings on Airbnb, a hotel may be the better choice.
Additionally, hotels often have a leg up in big cities when it comes to proximity to key attractions, which could be worth paying extra for. For example, there are only a handful of Airbnb rooms near the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, while there are hundreds of hotel rooms less than a block away. You’re likely to find a similar situation near Times Square in Manhattan, or Los Angeles — and might even save money staying at a hotel in areas with high property value, especially if you consider a budget option like Motel 6.
Finally, hotels can be comforting in their familiarity. If you have a stressful trip planned, staying at a hotel means you have fewer details to take care of, because housekeeping is included and a concierge is there to serve you. Airbnbs, on the other hand, are an experience in and of themselves — a bonus for the adventurous wanderer, but possibly overwhelming during a high-stakes business trip.
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