When Airbnb first came onto the scene in 2008, it was a huge help for budget-conscious travelers. True, you couldn’t use your Marriott Bonvoy loyalty points (well, especially since Marriott Bonvoy wasn’t a thing until 2019…but you get my point. Get it? “Point?” I’ll be here all week. Try the veal!) or Hyatt Globalist status. But if renting out a whole house or even someone’s mother-in-law apartment was cheaper than renting a room or two at a Doubletree by Hilton or an IHG property like Holiday Inn Express, well, there was something to be said about that.
Over the years, Airbnb has introduced more and more fees. Cleaning fees, for example, weren’t really much of a “thing” when Airbnb began, but they sure are now! (to be fair, about 15% of Airbnb listings in the U.S. still don’t have cleaning fees…but 85% of them do!)
Hotels, of course, have also gone up in price since 2008 (although they went down during the pandemic when people were going to Airbnb to “get away” but also stay further away from others. Which? did suggest that hotel rates since the “worst” years of the pandemic simply haven’t caught up with Airbnb and Vrbo pricing yet.).
Of course, when comparing renting a hotel room to an Airbnb, you’re often talking about apples vs. oranges.
- A hotel room is usually just a room, or, at best, a suite
- An Airbnb is oftentimes an apartment, if not an entire house
- A hotel may offer amenities such as a gym, pool or BBQ
- An Airbnb may offer some or all those, as well as potentially free use of in-house laundry facilities, use of bicycles, a free crib, a kitchen, and the list goes on and on
- A hotel may or may not offer daily housekeeping
- An Airbnb offers no housekeeping and oftentimes asks guests to take out the garbage, strip the beds, load and turn on the dishwasher, etc., before they leave, as part of their agreement with the Airbnb owner
- Hotels are generally accepted in most commercially-zoned areas
- Airbnbs have been accused of ruining neighborhoods, making rentals for locals more difficult, etc. It got to the point where Barcelona put its foot down in 2021 and became the first European city to ban Airbnb. Many cities followed suit, and the first European country banned Airbnb in early 2023. New York City’s stringent rules on the platform just went into effect earlier this month. And Scotland will have much more restrictive licensing rules for short-term rentals that go into effect on October 1st.
But when it comes to the basics – a place to sleep for the night, both hotels and Airbnb offer that. And it seemed that, overall, somewhere in the past few years, many Airbnbs suddenly seemed to cost more, sometimes significantly more, overall, than hotels. A company in the United Kingdom decided to see how much more.
Which? is a brand name that’s been around the U.K. since 1957. It promotes informed consumer choice in the purchase of goods and services by testing products, highlighting inferior products or services, raising awareness of consumer rights, and offering independent advice. It’s been compared, in some ways, to Consumer Reports in the United States.
Which? recently did a survey to compare prices of Airbnbs and hotels in the same cities. And guess what? Airbnbs generally aren’t any cheaper than hotels in most destinations. In fact, the study found that a one-bedroom short-term rental from a platform such as Airbnb is more expensive than a hotel room in 38 of the 50 destinations they surveyed. Here are some examples from different parts of the world (their original prices were in Pounds Sterling; we’ve converted them to American Dollars):
- The average price of a one-bedroom Airbnb in Amsterdam is $224. The average price of a hotel room is $143.
- The average price of a one-bedroom Airbnb in Auckland is $118. The average price of a hotel room is $84.
- The average price of a one-bedroom Airbnb in Barcelona is $172. The average price of a hotel room is $116.
- The average price of a one-bedroom Airbnb in Berlin is $123. The average price of a hotel room is $95.
- The average price of a one-bedroom Airbnb in Dubai is $157. The average price of a hotel room is $87.
- The average price of a one-bedroom Airbnb in Hong Kong is $121. The average price of a hotel room is $65.
- The average price of a one-bedroom Airbnb in Greater London is $200. The average price of a hotel room is $126.
- The average price of a one-bedroom Airbnb in Paris is $174. The average price of a hotel room is $135.
- The average price of a one-bedroom Airbnb in Rome is $135. The average price of a hotel room is $119.
- The average price of a one-bedroom Airbnb in San Francisco is $201. The average price of a hotel room is $157.
- The average price of a one-bedroom Airbnb in Singapore is $174. The average price of a hotel room is $100.
Oh, and Which? discovered that not only were Airbnb in NYC more expensive than equivalent hotel rooms, but they were also almost all illegal according to the city’s new rules (but Airbnb still has them up).
Which? asked both Airbnb & Vrbo about the price differences. The consumer information company said that both platforms:
…pointed out that holiday lets typically include kitchen and living spaces. Airbnb added: ‘This data is wrong and based on flawed methodology.’
Well, OK then.
The Which? study concluded that a bigger Airbnb might still be better value for a larger group since the cost of a larger rental unit (say, a house) is often less money than the combined cost of several hotel rooms. Many families also prefer the space and flexibility offered by Airbnb.
But if you’re only looking at cost alone, especially for a party of 1 or 2, a hotel room will be less money than an Airbnb rental in most cases.
We compared the average cost of hundreds of thousands of hotel stays and 300,000 listings on Airbnb and Vrbo over 12 months in 50 cities and coastal destinations. Data analytic AirDNA supplied the average cost of one-bed Airbnb and Vrbo from May 2022 to May 2023 excluding service fees. Comparison site Kayak provided the average cost of a hotel room for the same 12-month period excluding five-star hotels.
Go to this page of Which? to see the full results of their study.
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