Hotels vs. Airbnb in NYC: What's the Difference?

Hotels vs. Airbnb in NYC: An Overview

When you visit NYC, you can choose between staying in a hotel or an Airbnb, and there are pros and cons for each.

In New York City, there are hundreds of hotels to choose from, and as of September 2021, over 36,000 Airbnb rentals—both rooms to rent in occupied homes or entire apartments or townhouses. Like New York City itself, its hotels and Airbnb rentals are diverse, unique, and come with a sliding scale of price points from $1,000 a night to under $100.

New York City offers a wide swath of hotels all over the city, from budget to high-end luxury options that may offer amenities like daily cleaning, workout rooms, and concierge service that you can't get by staying in an Airbnb.

While an Airbnb may be cheaper than a mid-sized hotel in Manhattan, short-term rentals mean staying inside someone's home unless you are renting an apartment solely used as an Airbnb, which is becoming more commonplace.

Key Takeaways

  • Hotels can be costly in New York City. However, the amenities offered by a hotel are not typically provided by Airbnb hosts. 
  • There are 30,000 plus listings on Airbnb for New York City as of September 2021.
  • Renting a room for a few days in someone's home via Airbnb may be cheaper than renting out the whole apartment.
  • Hotels can be part of your experience in NYC, especially if you stay at a historic, landmark hotel.
  • Airbnbs in New York City may allow you to experience off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods. 
  • In New York City and elsewhere, some Airbnb listings may be illegal under local laws. 

NYC Hotels

In NYC, there are hotels for every price point and aesthetic. There are hotel chains, like the Hampton Inn and Suites, the W Hotel, Sheraton, the Four Seasons, and DoubleTree, to name a few. There are boutique hotels across the Big Apple, like the Crosby House and the Soho House downtown, the High Line Hotel in Chelsea, and tourists who want some NYC history with their hotel stay could consider a trip to the Carlyle, Grammercy Hotel, Waldorf Astoria, the Algonquin, and The Plaza.

New York City hotel prices vary depending on the location, season, amenities, and length of stay, and it's impossible to give a range due to the vast swath of options, but suffice to say, most rooms start at approximately $100 a night and go up from there.

NYC Airbnb

There are approximately 36,230 Airbnb listings in NYC as of Sept. 10, 2021, and approximately 15,900 are in Manhattan. Some are long-term stays. Others are per night. For example, in October 2021, there are over 300 listings available in Manhattan from an entire apartment in Battery Park City in lower Manhattan for $235 a night or a private room in Times Square in Midtown, Manhattan for $90 a night.

Airbnbs offer tourists a way to experience New York City living in actual New Yorkers' homes. Airbnbs, like hotels, in Manhattan, can be upscale in apartment buildings with amenities like swimming pools or simply a bedroom in a stranger's apartment. You can rent an entire apartment or house in a non-touristy neighborhood, or you can spend more to stay in popular neighborhoods like Greenwich Village or Chelsea.

Airbnb offers "Superhost" listings for some apartments and homes whose hosts have stellar reviews and go above and beyond the required necessities of an Airbnb listing. Like anywhere, if you are staying in a stranger's apartment, there are risks involved, and it is important to read the reviews of any Airbnb you are considering renting.

Key Differences

When you visit a hotel in New York City or elsewhere, you are guaranteed some or a lot of amenities, depending on the hotel, and employees who can help you if you lose your room key, suggest a local restaurant, or help you navigate the intricacies of the subway. Some hotels offer room service, swimming pools and spas, workout rooms, and on-site bars and restaurants.

Some Airbnb hosts provide amenities, but most, are simply renting out a room in their apartment, and unlike a hotel, if you lose the "key," you may find yourself in a difficult situation. Airbnb rentals may be in luxury apartments, but affordable rentals in NYC may be simply short-term stay apartments in walk-up buildings.

Outside of Manhattan, Airbnb properties may offer tennis courts, swimming pools, and large outdoor spaces, but these amenities are far and few between in a city setting. Of course, visiting New York City is often about culture, dining, shopping, and visiting historic sites like Central Park and the Statue of Liberty, so you may not have time to indulge in on-site hotel amenities.

There are many critical differences between an Airbnb and a hotel in Manhattan. Choosing between them often comes down to what makes a visitor comfortable and where they can afford to stay. A pull-out couch in an occupied apartment will be less expensive than staying in a high-end hotel in midtown. However, staying at an Airbnb, assuming you are not renting a room, can offer privacy and an opportunity to experience a New York neighborhood. Your host may be able to suggest great local restaurants, coffee shops, and galleries that are not in your guidebook.

Many Airbnb listings in New York City are one-room rentals within an apartment, meaning you may be sharing common spaces, including a bathroom, with the lease-holder or homeowner.

Special Considerations

For the last few years, home-rental companies, including Airbnb, have been struggling with regulations in major cities like New York. Airbnb critics have often raised alarms that instead of individuals renting out rooms or homes for personal income, commercial outfitters have bought up large swaths of apartments in cities and used them as illegal hotels for visitors.

Especially in major cities, tourism has taken a large hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, and NYC is no exception. During the start of the pandemic in March 2020, revenue from city-based Airbnbs dropped by 50%, according to data released by AirDNA, and hotels took a financial hit as well. For example, in December 2020, the occupancy rate for NYC-based hotels was down over 35%. However, according to Airbnb, NYC is the No. 1 destination for long weekends in the U.S.

Some New Yorkers object to Airbnb, claiming that it’s illegal to rent out rooms in your apartment and that many hosts are commercial operators. (When the owner/renter continues to occupy the space, short-term rentals are not illegal, although some buildings/leases may not allow them.) 

The real fear is that landlords will seek to cash in on Airbnb by converting affordable rental apartments to hotel rooms, thus diminishing the city’s already tight housing market. Some landlords do not allow their tenants to rent out their rooms or apartments as essentially short-term sublets to guests.

New legislation around the legalities of short-term stay rentals in NYC continues to gain momentum in the New York City Council. Airbnb insists that their service benefits both hosts and guests and that this service helps New Yorkers afford the rising costs of housing in the city.

The Bottom Line

When you visit New York City, there are many ways to enjoy your stay. Airbnb offers (mostly) affordable rates for travelers, but hotels may provide amenities and immediate assistance if you run into trouble during your stay, making your vacation more relaxing.

In the "city that never sleeps," the wide range of short-term rentals and hotels offer something for everyone's budget. Hotels versus Airbnb usually come down to the experience you seek and how much you can afford to spend. Both options offer opportunities to explore, discover, and enjoy New York City,

Is Airbnb or a hotel cheaper in NYC?

If you rent a room in an occupied apartment, an Airbnb will be cheaper than most hotels. If you rent an entire apartment or townhouse in a desirable neighborhood, it might cost more than a budget hotel room.

Should I stay in an Airbnb in NYC?

Airbnbs in NYC can allow tourists to live like New Yorkers for a brief period of time. A good host may share tips on the best local haunts in the neighborhood, you may have more room for your family than a single hotel room, and you can cook some meals to save money.

Should I stay in a hotel in NYC?

New York City is home to a wide variety of hotels. There is somewhere for nearly any traveler's budget plus the city is home to landmark hotels offering four-star service, amenities, and onsite restaurants and bars. Staying at a hotel in New York City can be a memorable part of a vacation.

Article Sources
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  1. Inside Airbnb. "New York City."

  2. Airbnb. "Vacation Rentals in Manhattan."

  3. AIRDNA. "Covid-19 Update, March 20, 2020. Growing Impact on STRs."

  4. USA Today. "New York Hotels Enjoy Their Busiest Week Since the Start of the Pandemic."

  5. Airbnb. "Extended Weekend Stays and Scenic Cities Top Fall Travel Plans."

  6. The Real Deal. "City Council Bill Would Tighten Screws on Airbnb."

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