Usually I'm loyal as a labrador. But after years of using HotelsCombined.com to suss out hotel pricing, I've stumbled upon a worthy competitor in Trivago.com. (It will be interesting to see whether Google's new hotel finder, which is still in development, will soon knock these two off their pedestals).
True, Trivago isn't all that different than HotelsCombined; both are "aggregator" sites, meaning that they aggregate prices from a number of online travel agencies, as well as from the hotels chains directly, displaying broad overviews of what the market has to offer.
Which finds the lowest rates? That's an open question. In the searches I did (looking at three American cities: NYC, Las Vegas and Minneapolis), Trivago came out cheapest (by just a dollar in each case) in 3 out of the 7 searches I did. HotelsCombined won in the other cases, though again, only by $1-$2 a night.
Trivago seems the clear winner, however, when it comes to design. Neatly boxed information, set in two columns, is the norm here. And Trivago allows users to slice and dice their info in a number of innovative ways. Looking for pet-friendly spa hotels with connecting rooms, cosmetic mirrors, and indoor swimming pools? Trivago can find that for you, and it seamlessly compartmentalizes those searches into areas for "room features", "hotel features", "sports facilities", "hotel type". It will also narrow the search to the hotels that are best for "party people", "families", "honeymooners", etc.
To be fair, HotelsCombined.com has all those search features--and it even allows users to search only for hotels with pillowtop mattresses, raising the level of finicky searches a notch higher than Trivago. But it displays the information in unweildy columns, as opposed to nicely broken up little boxes, making it a hair less easy to navigate.
Will I dump HotelsCombined altogether? No way, not when its clearly the price leader in many destinations. But I will add Trivago to my list of go to sites in the future, which also includes Hipmunk (a site with a wonderful interface, in terms of location, which uses HotelsCombined results for its pricing--or so I've been told).