Hotwire was founded in 2000 by a small group of people and six major airlines. Unlike online travel agencies that allow bidding on hotel rooms and flights, Hotwire takes an opaque method to listing prices and selling services. The opaque method also means that you may not know what company you’re using until after you pay for your reservation. Hotwire keeps the company names secret to limit competition between its travel partners. Since Hotwire only works with brand-name travel companies, the opaque method can get you an extremely low price with a well-known airline.

Hotwire operated independently until it was acquired by Expedia for $663 million in 2003. Expedia purchased several online travel agencies during this time. Most of the companies were transformed into replicas of Expedia. Although the companies have unique brands, their websites work and feel like Expedia’s site. Hotwire has remained more independent.

How Does Hotwire Work?

Hotwire makes it extremely easy for you to browse, compare and purchase travel services. When you navigate to Hotwire website, choose whether you want to search for hotel rooms, rental cars or flights. You can also bundle flights and hotel rooms, hotel rooms and rental cars, flights and rental cars and flights, hotel rooms and rental cars. The more you combine, the more money you can save.

If you’re renting a hotel room, you ask Hotwire to search your destination city for openings during your travel time. You can provide a check-in date, check-out date and how many people will join you. The website searches your destination city and gives you a list of options available during your preferred time period. You can click on each hotel to learn more about its accommodations, location and other details.

If you’re searching for a flight, you must tell Hotwire your departure city, arrival city, departure date and return date. The website searches your options to give you a comprehensive list of flights heading to your destination city. You can organize the list by factors such as price, number of stops and total travel time. Organizing the flights by factors that matter to you will make it easier to find a flight you enjoy.

Hotwire works similar with rental cars. You choose where and when you want to rent a car. The site gives you options. You tell Hotwire which one you like most.

No matter what type of service you buy, you can pay for it online without leaving the Hotwire website.

What Makes Hotwire Stand Out?

A couple of small features make Hotwire stand out from other online travel agencies. For instance, when you search for hotel rooms in a certain city, Hotwire will show you a map of the area and where each hotel is located. Few websites do that. Instead, you have to get the address and look up the location on another site. Hotwire gives you all of the information that you need to know how convenient a hotel is for your plans.

Hotwire also stands out for refusing to enter the bidding market. Bidding on hotel rooms and flights might help you save money, but you rarely know what you’re getting until after the auction finishes. Hotwire’s opaque pricing strategy also keeps some information from you, but you know that you will always get a reservation with brand name hotel or airline. There isn’t a chance that you will end up in a hotel you’ve never heard of. That’s entirely possible with bidding sites.

Common Reviews of Hotwire

Hotwire gets a mixture of positive and negative reviews from its customers. Negative reviews often focus on what some people refer to as “false advertising.” These reviewers read about specific hotels on Hotwire, reserved rooms and discovered that the hotels didn’t offer the advertised accommodations. Obviously, this could infuriate anyone after a full day of travel.

In reality, Hotwire doesn’t have much control over what hotels and other companies say about themselves. A hotel that wants to rent more rooms may say that it has accommodations and services that it doesn’t offer. Hotwire won’t know about the ruse until customers start to complain.

Companies that post inaccurate information could get removed from Hotwire’s system. Still, it will take a while before offenders get caught and reported.

A few customers complain that Hotwire has overcharged them for services. Even when Hotwire finds the mistake, it can take several weeks to receive a refund, according to a couple of unhappy reviews, at least.

Happy customers love Hotwire because the company saves them money on travel services. They also like using Hotwire because the company often has last-minute deals that help people save money on emergency travel. When it comes down to it, people using online travel agencies just want to find good deals. Hotwire delivers, so it has plenty of grateful customers.

Can I Get Deals on the Hotwire Site?

Hotwire gives you several opportunities to save money on hotel rooms, flights and rental cars. When you visit the site, click on the Deals section to see the latest deals from Hotwire. You can choose to hunt for deals in specific cities or you can browse by themes like “4-star hotels under $59” and “sunny destinations from $45.” Some themes even focus on recreational activities like skiing and golfing.

You’ll get the best offers from Hotwire after you become a subscriber. The company will send you emails so you can review the latest deals. If you find something that appeals to you, take the discount and enjoy your travels. You won’t see something tempting every day, but you will find good deals often.