When looking for a good hotel deal, starting with a hotel comparison site is a good idea to get a wide choice of hotels and prices from many different web sites. I have reviewed Trivago, hotelscombined and TripAdvisor to show how they work. For most people booking hotels, the location and price are top considerations, so today I will compare which of the three hotel search engines will find the best price for you. Every one of them is a better choice vs Expedia, Agoda or Booking. But the overall winner, the one site to rule them all is hotelscombined! But there are some caveats, so read my full review for all the details!
Everybody wants a “good deal” without spending all day finding it. And while the internet has given us unprecedented access to information, sorting through it is not so easy. Even if you have found a good deal on a hotel booking site once, none of the sites is always the best! Trivago, TripAdvisor and hotelscombined help by pulling deals from many different web sites, for example agoda, hotels.com, booking.com or Expedia and comparing their prices for you, similar to what Kayak does for flights. My individual reviews give you an idea how to use the web sites, features to sort and filter the hotels, display guest reviews and check prices. You can read my reviews of TripAdvisor, Trivago and hotelscombined for that. Today, I will compare how many hotels each of the sites finds for a location, who offers the best price and whether or not it makes sense to go to the hotel’s web site directly to book!
How I compared them: For many people, the most important information is the price – and while they all promise you to find the “best price”, there can only be one winner. So, I compared the prices of 4 hotels in three cities for different dates, across the three meta-search engines as well as the hotel’s own web site. I picked hotels in cities I’m very familiar with to avoid exceptional prices (high or low). Because Trivago and hotelscombined don’t allow you to book directly with them, I clicked through to the booking sites to ensure the shown price is actually available. I ignored any differences that were just +/- $1 as currency conversion differences – if paid in local currency, they will be the same price. If you want to know all the details, you can find them at the end of this post!
The best price: Overall, hotelscombined is the winner, finding the overall best prices for each city and across all my searches. Trivago lost this comparison, returning the highest price total in each city and across all searches, on average 7.5% higher than hotelscombined, which is enough to care about! TripAdvisor came in 2nd place and booking hotels directly, despite all the “Best Price Guarantees” was third.
The most hotels: While last when it comes to prices, Trivago lists the most hotels by far. It searched a total of 6,683 hotels in the three cities, while hotelscombined looked at 5,464 hotels and TripAdvisor at 1,737 hotels only! TripAdvisor uses a very odd categorization into “Hotels”, “B&B and Inns” and “Specialty Lodging”, which often doesn’t make sense. There is no way to search across all categories, so you are more likely to miss out on some independent gems.
Issues and oddities: Hotelscombined searches some less known hotel booking sites that will turn up better prices in some cases – but also can cause more problems. Quite a few times, I clicked through and the deals shown on hotelscombined couldn’t be booked – the actual price was higher, often exactly what the other search engines found. This reduces the reliability of the search as well as the usability.
Part of why Trivago lost is that they often show higher prices for the same booking sites. For example, TripAdvisor or hotelscombined will show a slightly lower price for Agoda than Trivago does. I don’t know if these sites pass along some of their commission to the end-user or get better prices from the booking sites.
The case for booking direct: The big, American hotel chains are spending a lot of effort to convince customers to book directly with them, so they can save the commissions for hotel booking engines and build greater customer loyalty. They are underpinning those efforts with “Best Price Guarantees”, promising to always have the best price on their site. And they indeed in all cases of this research had the same or better price compared to the search engines: I indeed found a better “members only” price (available to anybody signing up for their free loyalty programs) on their sites. Independent hotels didn’t do nearly as well, sometimes charging drastically more than the Online Travel Agents (OTA). So, if you are planning to stay at big US chains, make sure to check and book direct. If you are staying at independent hotels, don’t book directly without checking at least one of the big search engines!
Bottomline: Each one of the meta search sites is better than going directly to a booking site like Hotels.com, Expedia, Agoda or Booking.com. While that is easy and might be a habit, it’s not going to get you the best price consistently.
If you want to find the best deal for a hotel, hotelscombined is the most likely to find that price for you, consistently across different regions of the world. And the price advantage of 7.5% on average is big enough to notice.
I still like Trivago for the best user interface, allowing you to see prices and ratings all on one map! And I like TripAdvisor for the in-depth reviews that allow me to better understand a numerical rating of a property. But if you don’t want to spend as much time as I do on researching hotels and only have room for one search site in your browser bookmarks to find the best prices, make it HotelsCombined – it offers the best prices on average around the world!
After continuing to use all three hotel meta search sites following this research – and continuing to see similar results, I decided to put my “money were my mouth is” and became an affiliate of hotelscombined.com. If you click on a HotelsCombined link on my site, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting my blog!