Hotel Star Ratings: A Comprehensive Guide

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Accommodation is a huge factor when booking vacations. But too often, travelers focus on price rather than the hotel star ratings.

With all things being equal, does the star rating matter?


In this post, we explain the hotel star rating system, what do star hotels offer, and how the hotel stars are determined.

What is a Hotel Star Rating System

hotel room with double beds and art above the beds

Hotel star ratings are a method of classifying properties in the hospitality and tourism industry.

The hotel classifications differ in subtle ways that may not be apparent at first glance.

In short, the hotel star ratings system provides a standardized way to assess hotels based on their quality and amenities.

So, when booking a hotel, you should always know what are the hotel star ratings.


Comparing properties in the same classification, or star rating, is the best way to know you are getting a good hotel deal.

Read further for a guide to understanding the hotel stars ratings, hotel pricing, and the brands of hotels you can expect in each hotel classification.

How are Hotel Stars Determined

If you have certain expectations on rooms, amenities, and location, the stars will matter.

Also, note that low hotel ratings do not mean guests are dissatisfied or have poor experiences. Nor does it refer to the quality of the bed, cleanliness, and security.

For this reason, you can find a 2 star hotel with high reviews from a guest because of great service. Alternatively, you can also find a 5 star property with bad reviews due to a bad experience.

Prices tend to increase as the hotel star ratings increase because you are spending extra dollars for extra conveniences (like an in-room fridge, or gym equipment).

No matter how many stars a hotel has, you should expect the following — room cleaning service, soap, towels, tv, electrical outlets, lights and lamps, pillows and blankets, and basic security.

A Guide to Hotel Star Ratings

single twin bed
West Side YMCA, NYC

What is a 1 Star Hotel

When planning a trip, it’s important to consider the hotel star ratings to ensure your expectations align with the level of service and comfort provided.

A one-star hotel is in the family of budget hotels. The rooms are inexpensive, and the traveler’s needs are quite basic.

This type of accommodation is typically not a chain hotel, instead, it is a business owned by an individual.

A room in a one-star hotel must have at least 120 square feet in the room, a bed, sufficient lighting, a wardrobe (clothes storage) with three hangers, and bed and bath linens.

The rooms are modest and contain a bed and bathroom. There are no restaurants on-site, but there may be one within walking distance of the hotel.

In short, it’s just enough to lay your head down.

1 Star Brands

1 star hotels are usually hostels. The West Side YMCA is a good example of a 1 star hotel.

What is a 2 Star Hotel

motel with orange windows and doors

A 2 star hotel has the same requirements as a one-star hotel.

In addition, it will have an attached bathroom with a minimum of 30 sf with water-based facilities (tub and/or shower, sink, toilet).

You may have a few amenities like access to an ice machine, an iron, and an ironing board.

2 Star Brands

2 star hotels with this rating will be motels, or properties not in a chain. You will find a few like Motel 6, Days Inn, Super 8, and Travelodge in this category.

And it is a great way to cut down on your travel expenses.

What is a 3 Star Hotel

hotel lobby with modern fixtures

At 3 star hotels, the quality of the furniture and linens are relatively nicer, the bathrooms are slightly larger, and you’ll find more amenities like a pool, free wi-fi, and onsite breakfasts.

Hotel brands are different and set the standard for their organization.

However, you’ll find that more is offered for the comfort of the guests, like ice machines, telephones, and outdoor spaces to enjoy.

3 Star Brands

3 star hotels include more well-known hotel chains, such as Marriott, Radisson, Best Western, and Comfort Suites.

What is a 4 Star Hotel

hotel exterior with floral entrance

In this category, the quality is more upscale. Air conditioning is required throughout the building and the minimum size of the bedroom (excluding the bath) must be 140 square feet.

There are also requirements for mattress thickness and space criteria for suites.

You’ll also find more amenities like a minibar and fridge, in-room safe, hairdryers, drinking water, direct dial telephones with intercom, stationery with desk space, a separate business center, and conference rooms.

These hotels typically have an on-site restaurant and room service, and some provide live entertainment.

You’ll also notice nicer finishes in the bath area, like marble countertops and tile, and multi-head shower sprinklers.

Other property amenities encompass an indoor and/or outdoor pool, spa, fitness centers, laundry and cleaning services, and staff services like valet parking, concierge, concierge, and bellhops.

4 Star Brands

4 star hotels include Hilton, JW Marriott, Sofitel, Fairmont, W Hotels, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, and Westin.

What is a 5 Star Hotel

woman standing in hotel lobby

A 5-star hotel offers luxurious accommodations and unforgettable experiences. Guests’ needs are the highest priority.

The cost may not be realistic for the average Joe, so these hotels are chosen for special occasions (honeymoons, wedding venues, etc.) by those who cannot normally afford them.

Neil Patel chose to live in 4 or 5-star hotels for several reasons — the people, the room service, and the gyms.

And if you can afford it, why not? The property says glam from corner to corner with architectural works of art, cutting-edge interior design, and affluent furnishings.

Among the amenities offered at a 5-star hotel are a dedicated concierge, a 24-hour room service, a butler, gourmet restaurants, valet parking, a spa with personal trainers, saunas, and steam rooms, an expert massage service, salons for hair, nail, facial, and body care, live entertainment, babysitting, designer linens, bathrooms, and more!

5 Star Brands

5 star hotels are Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, The Langham, Waldorf-Astoria, and the Ritz-Carlton.

What is the Difference Between Hotel Star Ratings

bedroom at Hotel al Duca di Venezia

1 Star vs 2 Star Hotel

The primary difference between a 1 star and 2 star hotel is that you will have a telephone and a TV.

It is common for 2-star hotels to be a chain so there will be multiple locations, whereas the 1-star hotel does not have locations in multiple cities.

2 Star vs 3 Star Hotel

When evaluating a 2 star vs 3 star hotel, the difference lies in the room quality and amenities.

2 star rooms are more basic, with standard amenities like a TV, phone, and basic toiletries.

3 star rooms are more upgraded with amenities like luxury bedding and bath products, robes, slippers, a safe, coffee maker, and often have more space.

Pro Tips:

Hotel rating systems take into account factors like room quality, cleanliness, facilities, and customer service to determine the overall score.

When planning a trip, it’s important to consider the hotel star ratings to ensure your expectations align with the level of service and comfort provided.

Keep in mind that hotel star ratings may vary between countries or regions, so it’s advisable to research specific rating systems for your intended destination.

3 Star vs 4 Star Hotel

The difference between a 3 star and 4 star hotel is the on-site property activities.

Three star hotels are concerned about your comfort, while four-star hotels give regard to comfort, relaxation, and enjoyment.

3 star hotels may offer a pool, but in contrast, a 4 star hotel will provide several options such as an indoor pool, outdoor pool, spas, and a gift shop.

Instead of targeting business travelers, 4 star hotels endeavor to reach vacationers.

Thus, the rooms are designed to accommodate additional beds or sleeper sofas, and the properties are in well-desired locations.

Also, the size of the room may vary.

For example, the size of a room in Idaho may be larger than a room in New York City.

4 Star vs 5 Star Hotel

The difference between a 4 star hotel and a 5 star hotel is the level of indulgence and personal attention that guests can receive.

While both offer on-site dining and activities, a 5 star hotel will take the guest experience above and beyond to make it rare and unique.

Choosing higher hotel star ratings can provide peace of mind and ensure a more luxurious and enjoyable stay.

Luxury hotels are geared toward celebrities and wealthy clientele, whereas 4-star hotel targets family and couple vacationers.

The lobby in a 5-star property is posh and extravagant (and you definitely won’t have to share the elevator with housekeeping).

Final Thoughts on Hotel Star Ratings

suite in Yosemite lodge

I am pretty sure in my decades of traveling that I have stayed in every star hotel that exists. However, when given a choice, I prefer 4 star hotels.

I think 1 star hotels are great when traveling and you don’t want all the frills or have high expectations.

I usually stay at these hotels when I am traveling alone. When I am with my family, the 4 star hotels perfectly meet our needs.

Now that you know what hotel star ratings provide, the difference between them, and what to expect, you may change your mind and be a bit more flexible when it comes to travel accommodations. There are plenty of hotel options that will suit your travel.

The first step is to decide on what you need and how you want to experience the accommodation!

Safe travels!

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  1. Such an interesting read! I remember just adding an elevator can change the rating of the hotel. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Elevators are in most US hotels with 3 or more floors. I imagine it is different in the UK because the buildings may be more historic.

  2. simplyjolayne says:

    What a great post. I never knew all of the reasons for the differences in the star rating (but I did know I liked 4 and 5 star hotels a lot!).

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      I like the 4- 5- star hotels too! Those conveniences are hard to give up!

  3. Fantastic guide to understanding the system of the hotels in the US, I like sometimes to spoil myself with some nice hotels with a view, but occasionally, I just need a room with just a bed and a closet since I spend so much time exploring! thanks for sharing!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      I often book a 4-star for the conveniences. But sometimes it hard to justify the cost when you are hardly in the room. You really have to think about the kind of travel experience that you want. Thanks for reading!