*Please note this is only my opinion and experiences using Priceline.
Priceline is one of the best travel deals out there. With a little research you can save hundreds of dollars and never stay in a "cheap" hotel again! Now Priceline is not for everyone. You have to be somewhat flexible and need to do your research but you can truly get a 4 star hotel for a 2 star price. Below I will explain the best tips and tricks I know to bid successfully. First I will discuss the pros and cons of bidding.
I do not recommend it if you have a specific location in mind. Usually the Priceline map breaks down into areas of around 5 miles. Each city is different though so make sure you study the map closely.
Also, if you need specific bed requests. Priceline will not guarantee 2 doubles or 1 king. For families I know this is an issue for fear of only having 1 bed. In my experiences we have only had one issue with this when we where unable to have a room with a king like requested. Keep in mind, worst case scenario you could ask for a trundle which usually cost $10 in most hotels. I just call the hotel directly the day before arrival and ask. Some hotels will go ahead and take my request and others make you wait until check in.
Priceline reservations are usually the lowest category room in the hotel. On occasion we will be upgraded but it's unlikely. However I would still rather stay in the lowest room of a 4 star than the best of a 2 star but that's just me.
I save a lot of money. Usually I average about 50-70% off the nightly rate.
I am able to experience nice hotels without the concern of high cost.
How to get the best deal-
First open two tabs on your browser. One for priceline and one for www.betterbidding.com. On Priceline input your information as if you were just booking through them, not bidding. This allows you to see roughly what hotels and star level they are working with. Keep in mind they do have a clause in the fine print that says when bidding the hotel does not have to be one that has a nightly rate but I have never seen that happen. Then I go to betterbidding and type in the city. Do not put the state too just city name. It will pop up with a forum of bidders who have made successful bids in that city using both priceline and hotwire. This is a great tool to not only see how much people are winning the hotel for but also to see which hotels are frequently appearing.
Second go back to priceline and choose a star category and location. VERY IMPORTANT if there is a hotel in that category that you do not want to stay in do not bid. Change your criteria or don't use priceline. I can not tell you how important this is. Even if there are 14 other hotels in that category and only 1 you would hate the odds are that is the one you will get. Remember priceline is nonrefundable so you need to be wise in your bidding. I can say a couple of times this happened to me where there was one I didn't like so I bid very low. Of course I got that hotel but I was ok with it because I knew I paid so little that it was a good choice.
Third, know the tricks. Priceline will only let you do the same bid once every 24 hours so if you try again you need to either add a location or a star level. Research before about where the star levels are. For example when looking at Sacramento it is broken down to 6 areas. Only 2 have a 4 star hotel. This means that I can keep my 4 stars but add new areas to bid again since I know there aren't any other 4 stars in those places. Also keep in mind that whatever star level you choose the higher levels will be chosen automatically. If you choose 3 star, 4 will also be chosen so always start at the highest and then work your way down if necessary.
Fourth don't worry if your first bid is not accepted. Sometimes it will take me days before mine gets accepted because I am trying to get the lowest possible price so I am only going up maybe $3 each time.
Fifth the bigger the city the better the chances. The more hotels in that city increases your odds of getting a good deal. If you are looking at a small town with only a couple hotels Priceline usually isn't much help.
Hotwire- I don't use hotwire because I find that I can get something on Priceline for less. Also, I think Hotwire rates there hotels higher than they actually are. On average they say their hotels are 1/2-1 star higher than any other site would say. I feel like its more of a gamble but I do know lots of people who use it and are happy with it.
My averages on Priceline
3 star $61
3 1/2 star $65
4 star $74