Airbnb vs Hotels: A Price Comparison

June 17, 2013 | Permalink

Price of Airbnb vs Hotel by US City

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Size of bubble corresponds to number of Airbnb listings (logarithmic scale)

At Priceonomics, we like to get more for our money. Typically, there is a trade-off between cost and quality; the higher the quality of a product or service, the more it costs. So when you find superior quality at a cheaper price than existing alternatives, that’s pretty great. In fact, figuring out whether something is a good deal is the whole point of Priceonomics.

Whenever we travel, our preference is to stay at an Airbnb instead of a hotel. For those of you unfamiliar with Airbnb, it’s a website that lets travelers stay at apartments they rent from hosts. Sometimes you rent the whole apartment, sometimes just a private room in the host’s home.

Arguably, the experience of staying at an Airbnb is better than staying at a hotel. (But really that’s a matter of personal preference.) At an Airbnb, you get access to a kitchen, you can stay in a neighborhood with character (hotels tend to congregate around touristy areas), and you can stay at some pretty unique places.

But is it actually less expensive to stay at an Airbnb than a hotel? Can you rent an entire apartment for less than the cost of a hotel? We suspected that Airbnb rentals are less expensive than hotels, but are they really?

So, we decide to find out. We looked at every major city in America and compared the cost of a hotel to the cost of renting an apartment on Airbnb. We discovered that Airbnb apartment rentals cost 21.2% less than staying at a hotel. And if you’re on a budget, you can save 49.5% if you decide to stay in a private room at a host’s house instead of staying in a hotel.

Cost Savings of Staying at an AirBnB vs. Hotel

Renting an entire apartment on AirBnB.
Renting just a private room on AirBnB.

Let's dive into the details.

The Cost of Staying at a Hotel

Staying at a hotel can be expensive in America, but not all cities are equally pricey. The first thing we wanted to figure out is how much hotels cost in the most popular cities in America. By looking at the median price of a hotel room for two people (a one night stay, booked a month in advance) by city, we built an index of the most expensive cities in America to stay at a hotel this summer.

Not surprisingly, New York City handily beat out San Francisco and Boston as the most expensive city in America to stay at a hotel.

Most Expensive Cities for Hotels

Median Hotel Rate by City

See Full Ranking >

The Cost of Renting an Apartment on Airbnb

Next, we calculated the median cost to stay at an Airbnb for all cities with enough data available. We looked at the option of “whole apartment” since it’s most comparable to staying at a hotel. We also only considered “active” listings that met our minimum number of reviews threshold.

Here Boston takes the top spot, narrowly beating New York City. Notably, it’s not always cheaper to stay at an Airbnb apartment than a hotel, especially in smaller cities with less Airbnb inventory. However, it’s almost always much cheaper to stay in a private room than a hotel. For a frugal traveler, this is a great way to extend your travel budget.

Airbnb Price Index

Most Expensive Cities in America to Rent an Apartment

See Full Ranking >

Where in America is Collaborative Consumption Most Embraced?

Collaborate consumption refers to the trend where people rent out their under-utilized assets to others. This include assets such as your home (Airbnb), car (RelayRides, Uber), and time (TaskRabbit, etc). So where in America are citizens most embracing this trend of collaborative consumption? We can use this dataset to measure which cities have embraced collaborative consumption, at least as indicated by how many people rent out space in their homes.

Bigger cities have more Airbnb listings, but we wanted to know which cities in America are into sharing, even if they’re not that large. So we looked at how many Airbnb units are available for rent per 100,000 people who live in the city (per capita Airbnb listings).

Collaborative Consumption Index

Airbnb Listings per Capita by City (LPC)

See Full Ranking >

Here you see some smaller cities like Berkeley, Cambridge, Portland and Austin are really embracing this trend. This chart could be a roadmap for other collaborative consumption startups to plot where they launch next.

Let’s Drill Down Into Neighborhoods

Finally, we were curious which neighborhoods are most popular when people want to “travel like a local.” So we investigated the most popular neighborhoods for Airbnb in San Francisco and New York.

San Francisco: Most Popular Airbnb Neighborhoods

Active Airbnb Listings

San Francisco: Most Expensive Neighborhoods

Median Price of Airbnb Apartment


The Mission has the greatest supply of Airbnb units. Perhaps it’s related to the delicious burritos? As for cost, Fisherman’s Wharf, a neighborhood catering more to tourists than locals, is the most expensive neighborhood for Airbnb.

Next, turning our attention to New York City, you can see the most popular and expensive neighbhorhoods to stay. Holy moly Tribeca!

New York: Most Popular Neighborhoods

Active Airbnb Listings

New York: Most Expensive Neighborhoods

Median Price of Airbnb Apartment



Go forth and travel! You can tool around with this tool below to compare Airbnb versus hotel pricing by US city. May you roam the world seeing interesting things and not spending very much money.

Hotel vs Airbnb Prices by City

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