Here are the top hotel booking sites
Booking.com remains the top direct booking site. It smokes all competition when it comes to the sheer number of city-center lodgings for under $200. (If your budget stretches well beyond that, Booking’s corporate cousins Agoda and Priceline edge it out on total number of central lodgings). At first it appeared Booking.com had fallen from grace, as it seemed in our tests to rarely beat the competition on prices for specific hotels in Europe.
Agoda.com takes the award for most improved booking site. Two years ago, Thailand-based Agoda was known for being the internet’s top specialist in Asia—but only Asia; the site ranked number seven overall. Since then, this Priceline-owned booking engine has massively increased its offerings around the world.
Priceline.com rules the middle-of-the-road booking engines, and has vastly improved on nearly all metrics since the last time we tested it. In fact, along with Agoda (which it owns), it was the king at finding the most lodgings in city centers, and returns more results in any given city than Expedia, Hotwire, or Hotels.com. Although Priceline’s performance is only solidly average on finding the lowest prices, its patented “blind booking” options (“Express Deals” and “Name Your Price”) can save you anywhere from 18% to 60%—so long as you are willing to know only the neighborhood and star rating (but not the hotel’s name and address) before booking.
Hotelscombined.com was at the top of the heap last time we ran our tests, but has since slipped to number four. It remains by far the best meta-search engine, and the best at ferreting out the best prices on specific hotels—so long as it’s able to find those hotels. In our tests, HotelsCombined.com fared only modestly at producing lodgings in city centers, and equally modestly at rounding up hotels under $200.
Hotwire.com‘s hotel search results used to be identical to those of corporate parent Expedia, but while they often hew closely, they no longer mirror one another all the time. More usefully, Hotwire offers its “Hot Rate” blind booking service, similar to Priceline’s, in which you can specify a star rating and a neighborhood, but don’t get the hotel’s name until after you pay. In exchange you get savings of up to 60%.