Personal Finance

America’s Favorite Budget Hotels

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Traveling 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.

It’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 on Wednesday, 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% 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% 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. You can see where your credit utilization stands and get two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

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