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J.D. Power report ranks independent travel websites

We are a price-sensitive bunch, we travelers, and we tend to be most satisfied with online travel sites that we perceive as offering the best prices.

That’s among the (less-than-earth-shattering) findings of a new report from J.D. Power and Associates. Released on Friday, the 2012 Independent Travel Website Satisfaction Report surveyed 2,009 consumers who had purchased a plane ticket, hotel room, rental car or vacation package on a third-party website in the last 12 months.

“While other factors certainly affect overall satisfaction, 75 percent of online travel website consumers indicate price as a primary purchase reason,” said Sara Wong Hilton, director, strategies and product management, “so there is no denying price greatly impacts the overall website experience.”

So, who’s providing the most satisfaction? With an industry average of 798 (on a 1,000-point scale), the 10 sites surveyed scored as follows.

Above average:

  • 816
  • 813
  • 808
  • 799
  • 798

Below average:

  • 795
  • 793
  • 785
  • 785
  • 777

(, it should be noted, is owned by Priceline; Hotwire and are owned by Expedia.)

While many Americans may be unfamiliar with, it is, in fact, the world’s largest online hotel-booking site by room nights sold. Hotwire and Priceline, on the other hand, offer a variety of opaque or semi-opaque deals, in which users can save money by booking a hotel without knowing its name (Hotwire) or placing a bid that’s below posted rates (Priceline).

The survey also parsed the data by the type of booking (flight, hotel, vacation package, etc.) and the age of the respondents. Among the former, people who booked vacation packages were the most satisfied (831), followed by car rentals (817), hotels (811) and flights (804). Among the latter, those ages 45–54 were the most satisfied (811); those ages 55 and up were the least satisfied (785), and those ages 25–34 and 35–44 were in line with the industry’s average rating of 798.

Some of the above would be appear to be self-evident — buying a vacation package, after all, anticipates a happy experience, while purchasing a plane ticket is just plain painful — but the upshot could be of use as you plan your upcoming travels:

If you’re going to use a third-party website and you want to increase your odds of being satisfied, go for one that offers vacation packages and opaque or semi-opaque deals.

Being 35 to 44 years old doesn’t hurt, either.

Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.