PROS / Hotwire offers lower average prices on hotels than any other service we evaluated.
CONS / While you can save money with the Hot Rate Hotels feature on Hotwire, you won't know the name, location or pictures of the hotel until you've already booked.
VERDICT / If you're adventurous, you can save a lot of money with the best deals on Hotwire, but the best deals are also rather mysterious.
Like all the best hotel booking sites, Hotwire gives you the means to sort, filter and organize thousands of hotels around the world. It provides all of the same sorting options as the two best hotel booking services, and at a lower price on average than all of the others we evaluated. Although Hotwire is missing a few features, like a loyalty program, and doesn't save your searches, it's still one of the best sites for hotel bookings, earning our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award.
Hotwire's default search provided the lowest average price in our test, but if you choose the Hot Rate Hotels option, it's at a cost. The Hot Rate Hotels searches show a split screen with a map of the city and a list of hotels. The map has highlighted blotches representing popular neighborhoods and suburbs where the hotels are located. Using this feature, the rates are deeply discounted, even in areas like New York and Las Vegas.
But there’s a catch. Hotwire withholds information about these discounted hotels until you book and pay for a room. Instead of the hotel's name, the site only provides you with the area it is located, like Redondo Beach or Times Square. In addition, Hot Rate Hotels profiles don't show images or specific guest reviews, although you can see basic amenities, TripAdvisor ratings and the hotel's booking policies. You'll only receive the missing information after you book. If you're not willing to take this gamble on a hotel, you can still search for lodgings with standard rates, and those rates are still lower, on average, than those on the other sites we evaluated – by 30 percent in most cases.
In addition to star rating, amenities, proximity and other common specifications, Hotwire lets you sort your results by accommodation type or whether a hotel has disability-friendly facilities. You can even search more specifically for hotels with rooms accessible to guests who are hearing or sight impaired.
The standard-rate hotel profiles show photos of the properties, but they're small, so you may not catch everything you want to see. As with the Hot Rate Hotels, you can see amenities and other information about the hotel, like available rooms, occupancy limits, policies and standard rates. Be sure to read the fine print at the bottom of the page to catch essential information like cancellation policies.
Whether you book a hotel via Hot Rate Hotels or standard rates, Hotwire provides a trip summary upon booking. This summary includes your hotel's rate per night, the number of nights you booked, taxes you'll be charged for the room, your travel dates and room type. To book a room, you are required to enter your name, contact information, and billing and card information at the bottom of the page. You can also opt for trip insurance in case the hotel you book doesn't offer free cancellation.
Trip insurance is a good safeguard if you opt for the Hot Rate Hotels booking. It costs less than $10, so you won't be spending the money you saved booking with Hot Rate Hotels, and it guarantees a refund if you don't like the hotel you book. In addition to hotels, you can also book flights, rental cars and vacation packages on Hotwire. Hotels are the only booking option for which the Hot Rate feature is available. Hotwire doesn't offer a loyalty program like many other well-known hotel booking sites do, so you can't earn rewards through hotel bookings with Hotwire. The site doesn't save your searches either, so you can't refer to them again later.
You can expect to find several answers to common questions in Hotwire's FAQs. If you don't find what you're looking for, you can contact its support team via email or phone. Hotwire doesn't offer a live chat option, though.
Hotwire is the cheapest hotel booking service we tested, and it's especially economical if you don't mind booking blindly with its Hot Rate Hotels deals. You can still reserve hotel rooms the traditional way, but the deals aren't as sweet.