Are you planning a road trip and looking for accommodations? Have you heard the term ‘motor hotel’ and wondering what it means?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: A motor hotel, or motel, is a lodging establishment designed for motorists and usually located near a major highway.

In this article, we’ll discuss the history of motor hotels, their features and amenities, and how they differ from other types of lodging.

History of Motor Hotels

Motor hotels, commonly known as motels, are a type of lodging that originated in the United States in the early 1920s. The concept of motor hotels was born out of the need for a convenient and affordable place for travelers to stay while on the road. Unlike traditional hotels, motor hotels were built along major highways and had rooms that faced a parking lot, making it easy for guests to park their cars directly in front of their rooms.

  • Origins of the Motor Hotel: The first motor hotel was the Motel Inn, which opened in San Luis Obispo, California, in 1925. The motel was designed by Arthur Heineman, who came up with the idea of building a motor hotel after noticing that many of his customers were tired and needed a place to rest while on long road trips.
  • Growth and Popularity in the 1950s and 60s: The 1950s and 60s were the golden age of motor hotels. With the rapid expansion of the interstate highway system, motor hotels became a popular choice for travelers. They were affordable, convenient, and offered many of the same amenities as traditional hotels. Many popular hotel chains, such as Holiday Inn and Best Western, got their start as motor hotels during this time.
  • Decline and Resurgence in the 21st Century: Unfortunately, the popularity of motor hotels began to decline in the 1970s and 80s with the rise of budget hotels and the decline of the interstate highway system. Many motor hotels fell into disrepair and were abandoned. However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in motor hotels, particularly among younger travelers who are looking for unique and authentic experiences. Many former motor hotels have been renovated and rebranded as boutique hotels, offering a blend of modern amenities and retro charm.

It is worth mentioning that the history of motor hotels is closely tied to the development of the American highway system and the rise of car culture. Motor hotels played a vital role in making travel accessible and affordable for millions of Americans, and their legacy can still be seen today in the many roadside motels that dot the country’s highways.

Features and Amenities

Motor hotels, also known as motels, are a popular type of lodging for travelers. They offer convenience, affordability, and a range of features and amenities. Here are some of the key features and amenities that you can expect to find at a motor hotel:

  • Location and Design: One of the main features of a motor hotel is its location. Typically, motor hotels are situated near highways, major roads, or other transportation routes, making them easy to access. In terms of design, motor hotels are often one or two-story buildings with rooms that open directly to the outside, allowing guests to park their cars right outside their doors.
  • Room Types and Layouts: Motor hotels offer a variety of room types and layouts to accommodate different needs and preferences. Standard rooms typically include a bed, a bathroom, and basic amenities such as a TV and Wi-Fi. Some motor hotels also offer suites or apartments with additional features such as a kitchenette or separate living area.
  • Parking and Access: As mentioned, parking is a key feature of a motor hotel. Most motor hotels offer free parking for guests, with spaces located near their rooms for easy access. In addition, many motor hotels have designated spaces for larger vehicles such as trucks or RVs.
  • Services and Facilities: Motor hotels offer a range of services and facilities to enhance guests’ stays. These may include a continental breakfast, a swimming pool, a fitness center, or a business center. Some motor hotels also have on-site restaurants or bars, and many offer 24-hour front desk service for customer convenience.

It is worth mentioning that the amenities and features of motor hotels can vary widely depending on the specific property. Some motor hotels may offer more basic accommodations, while others may have more luxurious amenities such as spas or golf courses. When booking a motor hotel, it is important to research the specific property to ensure that it meets your needs and preferences.

Differences from Other Lodging Types

Motor hotels, also known as motels, are a type of lodging that is designed for motorists who need a place to stay during their travels. Unlike traditional hotels, motor hotels typically have rooms with exterior entrances that allow guests to park their vehicles directly outside their rooms. They also tend to offer more affordable rates than hotels, making them a popular choice for budget-conscious travelers.

Hotels vs. Motels: The main difference between hotels and motels is their size and amenities. Hotels are typically larger and offer more amenities such as on-site restaurants, room service, and fitness centers. In contrast, motels are smaller and offer limited amenities, often only including a bed, bathroom, and small fridge or microwave. Hotels are usually located in urban areas, while motels are often found along highways or in rural areas.

Bed and Breakfasts vs. Motels: Bed and breakfasts are similar to motels in that they offer a more intimate and personalized experience than hotels. However, bed and breakfasts are typically housed in historic homes or buildings and include breakfast in the room rate. In contrast, motels are designed for convenience and affordability rather than luxury or ambiance.

Airbnbs vs. Motels: Airbnb is a popular alternative to traditional lodging options, and it differs from motels in several ways. Airbnb accommodations are often private residences or apartments that are rented out by the owner. They offer a more home-like experience and often include a kitchen, living room, and other amenities. In contrast, motels are designed for short-term stays and are meant to provide a place to sleep and rest during travel.


In conclusion, motor hotels have a rich history in American culture and continue to be a popular choice for travelers seeking convenient and affordable lodging. Whether you’re on a road trip or just looking for a comfortable place to stay, a motor hotel may be just what you’re looking for.

We hope this article has provided you with a better understanding of what a motor hotel is and what it has to offer. Happy travels!

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