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America's favorite budget hotels

When we hit the road, here's where we like to stay if saving money is a priority.

By Jul 23, 2014 1:07PM
This post comes from Christine DiGangi at partner site on MSN MoneyTraveling and frugality are often at odds with each other. As much as you want to get away, planning a trip can quickly become stressful as you search for affordable options. Everyone wants to save money, but few people want to stay in a dumpy motel.

Hotel maid © Simon Jarratt/CorbisIt's difficult to determine a hotel's quality based on price alone, so it helps to base decisions off past experiences or others' recommendations. Consumer reviews are a great resource, as well.

The best consumer-rated budget hotels

J.D. Power released its 2014 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study last week, ranking hotels from The Ritz-Carlton to Motel 6 based on customer feedback. The ratings use a 1,000-point scale and are determined by satisfaction in seven areas: reservation; check-in and check-out; guest room; food and beverage; hotel services; hotel facilities; and cost and fees. The average hotel received 784 points, up 24 points from the past two years.

Of course, the most luxurious hotels had the highest scores (Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts, 886), but there are great options for the cost-conscious consumer, as well. In addition to the consumer-review-based points scale, J.D. Power classified hotels on a scale from 2 to 5 (Power Circle Rating), to put rankings in perspective by category: a 5 means the hotel is among the best in its class, 4 is better than most, 3 is about average, and 2 is everything else.

You can't expect ratings in the 800s for a cheap hotel, but that doesn't mean an inexpensive place is an unpleasant one. Here are the scores for the 11 hotels in J.D. Power's economy & budget segment, from best to worst.

1. Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham
Consumer satisfaction: 751
Power Circle Rating: 5

2. Red Roof Inn
Consumer satisfaction: 723
Power Circle Rating: 4

3. Days Inn
Consumer satisfaction: 710
Power Circle Rating: 4

4. Super 8
Consumer satisfaction: 697
Power Circle Rating: 3

5. Howard Johnson Express
Consumer satisfaction: 695
Power Circle Rating: 3

6. Travelodge
Consumer satisfaction: 694
Power Circle Rating: 3

7. Americas Best Value Inn
Consumer satisfaction: 692
Power Circle Rating: 3

8. Econo Lodge
Consumer satisfaction: 691
Power Circle Rating: 3

9. Motel 6
Consumer satisfaction: 690
Power Circle Rating: 3

10. Rodeway Inn
Consumer satisfaction: 652
Power Circle Rating: 2

11. Knights Inn
Consumer satisfaction: 645
Power Circle Rating: 2

How to find hotel happiness

The average budget hotel received 697 points on the consumer satisfaction scale, and among all hotel guests, the biggest impact on their experience was the cleanliness of the room. Problems with the Internet have become an increasingly prevalent issue for hotel guests, though travelers should exercise caution when accessing a public network like those offered in hotel rooms.

According to the survey, fewer people identify as Price Buyers, meaning they choose their hotel mostly because of its price: 12 percent of respondents were considered Price Buyers in 2014, down from 19% last year. These guests are among the least satisfied hotel-goers, the survey found.

On the other hand, more people are taking time to thoroughly research their hotel options (J.D. Power calls them Scrutinizers). Last year, 7 percent of the sample was made up of Scrutinizers, but that jumped to 10% this year. Scrutinizers tend to be extremely brand loyal.

No matter your criteria for evaluating lodging options, research should be a part of the process. Frugality is important, but so is the quality of your stay. Travel expenses have a huge impact on your bottom line, so you'll want to be confident in your choices and prepared for all associated fees, so you don't end up busting your budget on an unsatisfactory vacation. Travel debt can have a big impact on your credit if you put large expenses on your credit cards, since credit utilization (your total balances compared to your total limits)  is a credit scoring factor. 

More from

Jul 23, 2014 4:36PM
I spent the first 5 years of my career on the road 250+ nights a year.  My biggest complaint about the budget hotels is that they are so inconsistent in quality.  Some Super 8s are great, with indoor corridors, nice pools, great rooms and decent breakfast options.  Others are complete dumps that you could probably rent by the hour.  This goes for all budget chain hotels - you never know what you're going to get.  At least when you reserve something at the vast majority of Holiday Inns or Marriots or Hampton Inns, you know what you're getting into.
Jul 23, 2014 4:36PM

I clicked on the story for the 10 worst motels in America.

Most of these motels were on that list, WTF ??

Jul 23, 2014 5:45PM

It all depends on where the budget hotel is located. Stop in a small city with upscale homes and higher than average income and these hotels will be 3 and 4 star quality. Stay at one in or near a big city and it will be a dump.

Jul 23, 2014 4:31PM
my company put me up in a cheap hotel.when i called the front desk to tell them i gotta leak in my sink,they told me to go ahead.
Jul 23, 2014 2:24PM

"12 percent of respondents were considered Price Buyers in 2014, down from 19% last year. These guests are among the least satisfied hotel-goers, the survey found."

The reason why is because many expect too much from budget hotels.  If you want better quality at a hotel, then you're going to have to spend more.  I find the Limited Service hotels tend to be the best.

Jul 23, 2014 5:24PM
I think Best Westerns and great, and moderately priced. Comfort Inns are also good, though there can be some variation by location.
Jul 23, 2014 4:31PM
Used to stay at Motel 6 all the time. Then they started charging for internet access. Deal breaker. Now, it's Super 8. Decent rooms, free internet and fair price.

Sorry "6" shot yourself in the foot.
Jul 23, 2014 4:31PM
Try skipping the "budget" places and look for the local Mom and Pop Bed and Breakfast Inns, check with the local Chamber of Commerce as many small places do not show up on the big hotel sites.  Usually no pool, no arcades, no gym or spa, but almost always cleaner, quieter and good homemade food.
Jul 23, 2014 7:43PM
The super8 that I stayed in was in New Mexico at Carlsbad this place reeked of urine  and made my skin crawl the only reason I stayed was because everything was booked up in town and I was so tired I could not safely drive and further. What a smelly dump and when I complained to the Corp office the Dump offered me a free night stay in the same Dump.I had a big can of Lysol that we sprayed all over the filthy place. Stayed three hours and got out after taking another shower.Would never stay at any Motel 8 again
Jul 23, 2014 6:00PM
Day's inn and Motel 6?? you don't pay extra for roaches.. bed bugs extra cost... never again would I stay in these two, I'll sleep in the car first..
Jul 23, 2014 6:43PM
I tried some Super 8's.   They were trash.   I tried different ones, from Motel Six to Best Western to Comfort Inns.   Obviously there is a difference in amenities in the rooms.  But since I don't stay long, or I am traveling with two dogs on working outings I do Motel 6.   The majority of them are good, sparse but clean and good.   I booked a Comfort Inn only to find it next to the freeway, in a bad area of town.  While you don't always know.   I would rather stay in a "cheap motel" in decent section then an upgraded one in  an area where I am more afraid of being robbed or my car stolen.   If I don't make a reservation, and stop by.   I can tell with three sentences of whoever is at the desk whether I want to stay there or not.
Jul 23, 2014 8:22PM
what are budget motels, the first thing I think of is the cost....usually the cost is between 42 dollars per night up to 87 dollars per night, depending on the location....but most are around 50 dollars... second thing I look at is the service, some come with breakfast,while others do not...some have swimming pools, while some do not...Since I do not smoke,i get a smoke free room, which in most cases, I think someone has smoked in them. I stay at a lot of hotels, since being a professional driver, I like to get out of my rig at times...I have stayed at most ever budget hotel from motel 6 and so on....and I do not find any to be out standing...usually I find smelly rooms, linen sometimes were not changed, smoke burns in the covering, lighting poor, and in the morning when the maids come to clean up the rooms, they do not knock and walk in on me....most do not speak English...also being a driver, I get a big discount on rooms, so now I stay at nicer hotels,which cost me a little more but well worth it...I like Little America in downtown,Salt Lake City, Utah..and some of the other nicer hotels around the United States...They treat me a lot nicer...I hope this comment helped...
Jul 23, 2014 5:37PM
Recently, Motel 6 started to renovate their motels completely --new furniture, completely new bathrooms, flat screen TV's, etc.  I stayed in one, so I would say the best value for your money now is Motel 6.
Jul 23, 2014 8:04PM
How in the world did Days Inn make the score that's listed. We stayed in Days Inn (Mt Vernon WA) and we forfeited the second night (prepaid) because it was such a dump.
Jul 23, 2014 6:36PM
Lately in my travels I have had the best luck with the Super 8 chain.  Of course just like anything else that is franchised you can find the pits even in the best of the best.  If you need to spend less than a hundred dollars a night I recommend the Super 8 chain though in general.
Jul 23, 2014 7:02PM
Too easy!
Price-line or Hotwire take the 3 stars for 60$
Jul 23, 2014 7:29PM
Easy to see that nobody has tried the Red Roof Inns in the state of Texas.  Arrrrggghh!
Jul 23, 2014 10:03PM
Wow, I guess it is the bedbugs that keep the rating down and the prices up... 
Jul 23, 2014 4:06PM
 (J.D. Power calls them Scrutinizers). Who died and made JD Power God of all the evaluators. Since they seam to rate everything from Space Stations to Ant Food. They got to be taking money to lie somewhere or about something. I listen to ratings and go by experience. One thing I learned the hard way was never to put All your Eggs in one Basket.
Jul 23, 2014 7:05PM
Why pay for a hotel when you can stay in your parents' basement for free?
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