The reason is pretty obvious – if you are only going to stay in cheap hotels (let’s say under $60 per night) in a major city like Los Angeles or Phoenix, reviews won’t really help you find them because the price alone will do that. However, reviews can help you uncover the part of town they are in or how safe the neighborhood appears to be. The problem is that cheap motels are almost uniformly found in the least desirable locations – near freeways (dirt and noise 24 hours), under the airport runways (major noise) or along railroad tracks, less desirable parts of towns (where personal and car safety become an issue) and there is much value in knowing that. Reviews will therefore help in that aspect.
From the hundreds of reviews I have ‘reviewed’, most often the comment made about a $50 motel is “You get what you pay for” which is code for don’t expect much. It always astounds me when a guest rips a cheap hotel for being noisy or dirty – did they not think there might be a reason it was cheap? Cleanliness is almost always an issue commented upon. In my view, you can’t expect top notch service or maintenance in a cheaper property since the majority are only interested in renting rooms every night and to do that, the price has to be half what a normal hotel goes for.
Nonetheless, there is value to all reviews if you know how to read them. You might see postings where a party says they got a Marriott or Hilton for $50 on Hotwire. Though my experience is that mostly the $50 per night motels take the Priceline and Hotwire ‘offers’ far more often than a Hampton or Hyatt does, you might get lucky. Then again, you may end up listening to train whistles outside your window all night. Reviews can point these out and therein lies their value, even for cheap properties.
If you read enough reviews, you’ll soon see how to separate “the wheat from the chaff” and this increases your chances of finding a property you are happy with. The key is in understanding reviews by trying to discern which reviews are valid and which are garbage. Though experience will help a lot, you can also learn tips and tricks for spotting reviews to ignore and those you want to pay closer attention to. For more about this, see my Resource box.