Motels are typically at 2-star level with few shared amenities. The guest rooms typically have designated parking spaces, and the lobby and community areas are absent, or very basic. If there's a pool, it will be outdoors and (depending on the climate) usable only seasonally. A minority of these properties have a restaurant on-site; there is no room service. Typically, rooms have a private WC, wash handbasin and shower/bath with direct access from the bedroom ("en suite"), but see France below.
Motels were associated with the expansion of highways in the United States and Canada during the 20th century, as an icon of motoring culture. The original motel architecture (with outside corridors open onto a car park) was popular in the 1950s and 1960s as these properties represented a lower-cost alternative to the grand old hotels of the railway era. Most were independently owned, although some chains exist. Increasing land cost and the growth of cost-competitive economy, limited service hotel chains in the late 1970s and 1980s has led to few new motels being constructed, but many existing properties remain in operation.
Has pioneered the use, in budget chains of motels, of common ablutions that are cleaned automatically by built-in machinery after each use.
In these budget motels, the rooms are typically very basic and small with a small desk, a television (with cable and international channels dependent on location), a double bed (or a double bed with a single bunk above), and a sink. There is no toilet or shower in the room; facilities are provided by single-person showers and toilets accessible from the common hallways which are automatically self-cleaned after every use.
Most motels in Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji and New Zealand include a kitchenette equipped with cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery together with a table and at least two chairs, a microwave, cooking rings, toaster and fridge.
In North America these type of motel rooms which offer opportunities for self-catering are called "efficiencies".
In Central America and South America, a "Motel" (in Mexico, Motel de paso) is often associated with extramarital encounters and rented typically for a short time (15 min to 12 hr depending on the participants' stamina). In Ecuador and Brazil, for example, any lodging with the title "Motel" is probably specialising in extramarital encounters.