My priorities are safety – medical and criminal – and then dollars.
I want a clean place that won’t make me sick with bug bites, soiled sheets – yuch! – or filthy carpets. (And yes, I’ve seen them all, and left them immediately and refused any billing for a night I did not stay for those reasons.)
And I want a safe place in a reasonably nice-looking neighborhood with locks that work on windows, sliding glass doors, if any, and main door. And I want a well-lit parking lot with an available space visible from the front desk.
A security guard patrolling the parking lot is not a good sign.
“Park at your own risk” signs, however, are the norm but do not necessarily absolve the hotel from responsibility. If something happens to your car in their parking lot, consult an attorney. Don’t just take their word for it.
Speaking of which, my cardinal rule is to empty the visible parts of the car at night. Leave absolutely nothing inside where it can be seen.
That rule comes from a stay at a Hampton Inn in an otherwise safe-looking neighborhood in Memphis Tennessee. We emptied our car as per the above but the cars on either side did not. In the morning, their windows were smashed, ours were not.