Looking for a cheap but clean (decent) place stay in Shanghai? I revisited this issue and have the following observations.
1) Home Inns, Jinjiang Inn, Motel 168 and Hanting Hotels are not the cheapest. But they offer the best value in terms of location (near metro station or major business center). I have stayed in Home Inns (Rujia) and Jinjiang Inn, they are both good. Motel 168 usually has bigger room, but not as efficent or cozy as the Rujia or Jinjiang. Never stayed in Hanting but they are growing very fast (recently they got another around of VC money, $85 m). Hanting should also be good because its founder Ji Qi is a person into details (hint: he is from Jiangsu province).
2) There are so called “Zhao Dai Shuo”, and their prices are slightly lower compared to the big four. But they are not as nice as the big four. Some have smaller rooms; some need to share the bath room, etc. They will exist in the market as long as there are some customers want to save a little, and their service is not too bad.
3) Hostels: we found this Maggie International Youth Hostel on Tianshan Rd., it was set up in a senior living compound. We checked out the room. Both 4 bed room (50 Yuan per night) and the double bed room (160 per room) are clean. From budget point of view, this is probablly the best deal 50 Yuan can buy in Shanghai.