What Airbnb Ratings REALLY Mean


If you travel enough you’ll inevitably stay in an Airbnb. I like Airbnb for the most part, it can be a great way to meet people and a cheaper alternative to hotels. But one thing I don’t like about it is how inflated the ratings are. My rule of thumb is: Don’t stay anywhere with less than 4.5 stars. Which is ridiculous. Four point five stars should mean amazing! Four point five stars should mean your expectations were exceeded, the bed was perfect, you were greeted with fresh mint tea, you made friends for life, and had the kind of experience you’ll remember forever. But these days 4.5 stars means nothing. Five stars almost means nothing. Airbnb ratings are pretty much like Uber ratings: If the driver gets you there without killing someone or killing you or verbally harassing you, you give them five stars.

Thus, for the sake of clearing things up a bit, I’ve created this guide: What Airbnb ratings really mean.

5 stars:

The place is probably pretty good, and could even be great. But, due to rating inflation, there’s no way to tell. Until the place I’m staying in right now in Guadalajara which reminds me of a prison cell but still somehow has 5 stars, I’d never been disappointed by a place with 5 stars. Usually 5 stars is pretty solid (especially considering it couldn’t get more solid).

4 stars:

If a place has four stars it means at some point something significantly bad happened to one of the guests. Maybe the host wasn’t in town to receive the guest. Maybe the pictures in the ad showed a completely different place. Maybe there were cockroaches. In the letter grade scale 4 stars should be at least a B, but on Airbnb it’s a D. Again, my rule: never stay anyplace with less than 4.5 stars.

3 stars:

If you see a 3-star you’re in for a treat, but not one that comes from staying there. Instead, read the comments. You’re almost guaranteed to come across, at some point, the following elements: insane accusations, personal attacks, acid-like sarcasm. Something like, “The host seemed pretty nice at first but then he stayed outside my room all night making slurping noises and yelling the words, ‘Mi piace!’ in Italian.” You’re also usually guaranteed a similarly hostile rebuttal from the host/hostess. A 3-star rating is enough to ruin a property.

2 stars:

Someone died in this apartment.

1 star:

I’ve never seen a 1-star rating. I don’t think it exists. If a place did have a 1-star rating it would probably be removed from the Airbnb website. However, just for the sake of this post, let’s pretend you did somehow manage to book and stay at a 1-star property. I imagine your stay would go something like this:  You open the door to the apartment/chalet/house/cabin. Someone promptly bludgeons you over the head. Two hours/days later, you wake up in a basement chained to a ventilation pipe, where you’re forced to watch episodes of the Big Bang Theory/have bamboo shoots shoved under your fingernails until you divulge some kind of information and/or die.

If you’re like me you now want to explore the Airbnb site just so you can see how low a rating you can find and what kind of comments there are. I wouldn’t recommend it. The internet comment world is dark and dingy and smells like aftershave. When in doubt, stick to my rule: 4.5 stars and above: OK. Anything less: Keep looking.

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