‘Motel' vs 'Hotel': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on November 20, 2023

Are you looking for an explanation of the difference between 'motel' vs. 'hotel?' This guide will help!

Here is the short version, in case you are in a rush: 

  • 'Motel' is a noun that means an establishment that provides guests with lodging and parking and that typically has guestrooms that are accessible from the parking lot or outside entrances. 
  • 'Hotel' is a noun for a place that provides guestrooms, entertainment, food, and other amenities like parking and room service. 

The answer above gives you a brief description of the difference between the terms, but there is much more to learn. So, keep reading.

What is the Difference Between 'Motel' vs. 'Hotel?'

'Hotels' and 'motels' are both businesses that provide lodging to guests. However, a 'motel' is usually a smaller business with fewer amenities. Most 'motels' have one or two floors, and the rooms are accessible by doors that open up to the parking lot.

A 'hotel,' on the other hand, usually offers food, room service, a concierge, and sometimes entertainment. Furthermore, 'hotels' usually have a lot more rooms and floors, and most of the time, the rooms are accessible through interior hallways.

While there are 'hotels' and 'motels' of all kinds, the former are usually on a higher scale. Additionally, 'motels' can be run by large corporations. However, more 'motels' are also sometimes owned and operated by individuals, while most 'hotels' are corporately owned.

So, if you are looking for inexpensive lodging, you will likely find the cheapest price at a 'motel.' And if you want to impress your girlfriend or boyfriend with a fancy weekend getaway, your best bet is a high-end 'hotel.'

Definition of 'Motel': What Does 'Motel' Mean?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines 'motel' as a noun that means:

  • An establishment that rents rooms by the night or week with parking and rooms that are typically accessible from the parking lot

Synonyms and Similar Terms to 'Motel'

  • Hotel
  • Spa
  • Resort
  • Lodgings
  • Campground
  • Motor Inn
  • Inn
  • Travel lodge
  • Motor lodge
  • Boardinghouse
  • Hostel
  • Hospice
  • Bed and breakfast
  • Lodging house
  • B and B
  • Guesthouse
  • Dorm
  • Bunkhouse
  • Roach motel
  • Lodge
  • Public house

Definition of 'Hotel': What Does 'Hotel' Mean?

The same resource defines 'hotel' as a noun that means:

  • An establishment open to the public that offers lodging and amenities like entertainment, housekeeping, concierge service, food, and other personal services

It can also mean:

  • A code word for the letter used in communications

Synonyms and Similar Terms to 'Hotel'

  • Hostel
  • Tavern
  • Inn
  • Resort
  • Spa
  • Auberge
  • Dorm
  • Public house
  • Hostelry
  • Dormitory
  • Rest
  • Tourist court
  • Rooming house
  • Bed and breakfast
  • B and B
  • Court
  • Bunkhouse
  • Motor Inn
  • Motor lodge
  • Travel lodge
  • Motor court
  • Apartment hotel
  • Lodge
  • Flophouse
  • Motel

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Motel' vs. 'Hotel'

You just learned the definitions and differences between 'motel' and 'hotel.' Now, take a moment to ensure that you know how to pronounce these terms. Learning the correct pronunciation of each will give you confidence to use them in verbal communications and when you are speaking in front of crowds.

So, here is a pronunciation guide for 'motel' vs. 'hotel.' 

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'motel':


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'hotel':


When and How to Use 'Motel' vs. 'Hotel'

Even after learning the meanings of these words, it may be confusing to decide when and how to use them. So, here are a few tips:

  • Use 'motel' when talking about a smaller, one or two-story place that rents rooms by the night with access from the parking lot.

For example, you might say:

Have you ever seen the beachside motel with the mermaid sign? 

  • Use 'motel' for a business that offers inexpensive lodging and parking but few, if any, other amenities.

So, you could say:

I do not mind staying in a motel as long as it is clean. It is not like I am going to be spending a lot of time there. 

  • Use 'hotel' for a business that rents rooms by the night that are accessible through a main lobby.

As an example, I might say:

Waiting for the elevator to reach the ground floor took forever in the enormous hotel.

  • Use 'hotel' for a business that offers amenities like dining, room service, dry cleaning, and concierge services.

For example, you can say:

It is definitely worth the extra money to stay in a hotel that makes your vacation more comfortable and enjoyable. 

Sample Sentences Using 'Motel' vs. 'Hotel'

Now, here are some sample sentences that will help you remember these terms and learn different ways to use them.


  • I will never stay at that motel again. It was filthy!
  • When we visit Pensacola, Florida, we always stay at the same beachside motel because it is clean and the staff is friendly.
  • If you are staying at a dingy motel, you might want to check for bed bugs. Otherwise, you might get bitten, or even worse, you could bring them back to your house.
  • Do you remember staying in that motel with the heart-shaped tub?
  • If you are hungry in the morning, the motel serves cereal and bagels in the lobby.


  • I know it is expensive, but there is nothing like staying at a hotel like the Four Seasons.
  • One of my favorite hotels is the Hotel Del Coronado. It is a historic site, and some people say it is haunted.
  • The problem with staying at a high-end hotel like the Ritz Carlton is that you don't want to leave your room.
  • What hotel do you want to stay at when we go on vacation to Hawaii?
  • The hotel serves a delicious breakfast each morning with fresh coffee, pastries, omelets, and pancakes.


  • You can save a lot of money by staying at a motel instead of booking a room at a luxury hotel and spa.
  • I saw the pictures of the motel you sent, and it looks okay. But I would rather stay at a nicer hotel.
  • I prefer staying at hotels, but I also like staying at quirky roadside motels.

Review of the Difference Between 'Motel' vs. 'Hotel'

You should be an expert on the difference between these terms now. However, we covered a lot of information. So, here is a recap of what you learned about 'motel' vs.' hotel': 

  • A 'motel' is a modest establishment that offers lodging and parking with rooms that are accessible from the parking lot.
  • A 'hotel' is a higher-scale business that offers amenities and lodging with rooms that are typically accessible from a main lobby or interior hallways. 

If you would like to learn about other terms like these that are frequently misused, misspelled, or mispronounced, check out the confusing words section here before you go.

You will find hundreds of guides like this that explain the difference between the terms trying to improve your writing and communication skills.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

Add new comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WritingTips.org Newsletter
Receive information on
new articles posted, important topics, and tips.
Join Now
We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.