This is the worlds leading source of financial content on the web, ranging from market news to retirement strategies, investing education to insights from advisors.
Forex Forever!

Priceline Vs. Hotwire: Which One To Choose? (PCLN, EXPE)

Author: Christopher Smith

Hotwire and Priceline have become the first stops for millions of vacationers and business travelers planning a trip. The two widely used travel booking sites have a lot in common, including how much they claim they can save you. But they also have some key differences.

Priceline

The older of the two sites, Priceline (NASDAQ: PCLN) was established in 1997, making it something of a venerable institution by Internet standards. It is probably best known for its Name Your Own Price feature and second-best known for its goofy TV ads with the actor and Star Trek icon William Shatner.

Priceline's Name Your Own Price allows consumers to indicate how much they're willing to pay for a hotel room, flight or rental car and see if any travel providers will take the deal.

To assist in the bidding, the site provides some useful clues, including a Not Sure What to Bid? Click here link that will take you to a list of local hotels and tell you what their rooms normally go for. If the first bid you type in appears too low, the site will warn you that, Based on recent data, your price has almost no chance of being accepted, before you go any further.

Until you've accepted an offer, the company you're doing business with is opaque. That is, you won't know the exact provider, such as a particular hotel, although you can specify some parameters, such as an approximate location and a star rating in the case of hotels. (For more, see Why do Priceline & Hotwire Hide Hotel Names?)

If bidding isn't your thing, Priceline has other ways to shop. You can search its listings of hotels, flights, rental cars, vacation packages and cruises to find the best price; with that type of search, the providers are named, rather than opaque, so you know exactly what you're getting.

For hotels, it also offers a third option, called Express Deals, which lists hotels by price. Once again, you'll see a general location and star rating, but the actual hotel name is withheld until you've agreed to the deal.

Although one of the major motivations for travel providers to partner with sites like Priceline is to move their hotel rooms, plane seats, rental cars and other perishable inventory that would otherwise go unsold, Priceline generally has a large selection to choose from even months ahead. For example, a recent search of Chicago-area hotels for a three-day weekend two months in the future came up with 188 choices, starting at $48 a night (and going all the way up to $730). As to getting there, a traveler flying from LaGuardia Airport in New York City to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, for example, had a choice of 63 nonstop flights, starting at $140 a ticket.

Overall, Priceline promises savings of up to 60% on hotels and 40% on flights and rental cars.

Hotwire

Launched in 2000, Hotwire is part of a portfolio of travel sites that also includes Expedia.com (NASDAQ: EXPE) and Hotels.com. In contrast to Priceline, it doesn't have a bidding option. In fact, it makes a virtue of that difference, stating on its website, Unlike other discount travel sites, our posted price model makes it easy for our customers to find a great deal. No bidding. No hassle. No games.

Like Priceline, Hotwire allows consumers to price-shop for named hotels, flights, rental cars and vacation packages. However, it doesn't list cruises.

Hotwire also has a second way to shop for a hotel room: Secret Hot Rate Hotels, with provides a general location and star rating, but the actual hotel names are opaque until later.

As with Priceline, Hotwire has no shortage of offerings. For the same Chicago-area weekend that we searched on Priceline, Hotwire came up with 198 hotels to choose from, starting at $47 a night and going up to $445. For flights from LaGuardia to O'Hare, it offered a selection of 47 nonstops, starting at $141.

Also similar to Priceline, Hotwire recently promised savings of up to 60% on hotels, 40% on flights and 40% or more on rental cars.

Which Is Better?

Independent ratings services give them close grades but differ as to which one belongs on top. Here's how they have stacked up lately.

J.D. Power's 2014 Online Travel Agency Satisfaction Report gave Hotwire 795 points and Priceline 792 points, out of a possible 850. Both were judged Better Than Most. The highest scorer was Travelocity, with 804 points.

Reviews.com's 2015 travel website ratings gave Priceline five stars and Hotwire four stars, out of a possible five.

Top Ten Reviews gave Priceline 8.88 points and Hotwire 7.53 points, out of a possible 10, putting them both in the Good category. In this case, the highest scorer was Orbitz, with 9.50.

The Bottom Line

Hotwire and Priceline offer similar services and are judged by outside reviewers to provide comparable levels of quality. So try them both and see which you are most comfortable with. That's likely to be a matter of personal preference, including whether you're much of a William Shatner fan.

(For more on travel savings, see Top Cheap Travel Websites, Best Ways To Purchase Cheap Airline Tickets and Top Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fee.)

last five articles

#765 Budgeting Tips: Living in Panama on $1,000 a Month

Author: Matthew Jackson

As a land of sunny ocean beaches and warm highland rainforests, cosmopolitan cities and quaint mountain towns, Panama is a popular destination for retirees and others seeking a comfortable lifestyle in a tropical paradise. The cities of Santa Fe and Boquete are beautiful highland destinations, wh... see more

#1827 Black Friday: How the Shopping Day Got Its Name

Author: Michael Davis

As Thanksgiving approaches, you might be gearing up to stuff yourself with turkey and dressing, spend some time with the family and watch a little football. Then again, if you're a die-hard bargain shopper, turkey is the farthest thing from your mind. That's because you're too busy making a plan ... see more

#1354 6 Ways To Jump-Start Your Savings Account

Author: Christopher Williams

While American households have succeeded at paying down some of their debt over the past three years, the median household's total savings have declined when adjusted for inflation. That's according to the latest Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances, an extensive study collected every thre... see more

#327 How Women In Transition Should Mind Their Finances

Author: Michael Smith

Enlisting a financial advisor for investing and retirement planning is only the first step in securing your financial future as a couple. Staying engaged in the planning and execution is as essential as it is tedious, and like most tasks in a relationship, one party may take the lead. But this co... see more

#1769 Cheapest Airports for Flying to America

Author: Andrew Smith

During 2014, nearly 14 million travelers from Europe visited the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of Travel & Tourism Industries. One way to save money on your trip is to be a bit flexible in deciding which airport to use. In many cases – if you have some... see more