I usually do a lot of on-line research. Kayak is my first tool of choice. After find a property (or properties) of interest I check out the hotel's direct site to see if they have any "exclusive" deals.
We did HotWire once on a trip to Boston and NYC. Got the Hilton in Boston (near the Pru and Hynes) for a very good price. In NYC we got a substandard independent hotel. Not very clean, tiny rooms. It did not live up to the definition of 3 stars (that is what it was billed as)