Are Timeshares and Vacation Clubs Worth It?

Gabrielle Karol

Are Timeshares And Vacation Clubs Worth It?Sandy beaches, warm waves and a cool sea breeze are (relatively) easy to come by during the summer, but they’re the stuff of wind-blistered midwinter fantasies.

If you’d like to own a little bit of paradise to escape to during the worst of winter, you’re a perfect target for timeshare agents.

Timeshares and vacation clubs tout the opportunity to become a part-owner of a resort (often including access to benefits like scuba diving, horseback riding, wine tastings, etc). The ability to return yearly comes with a certain sense of security; your next vacation is always just around the corner.

Despite the security of a guaranteed vacation, timeshares can be expensive propositions with unforeseen restrictions. So, we ask: Does a timeshare or a vacation club membership ever make sense?

What Is a Timeshare?

Timeshare ownership entails payment of an upfront sum plus yearly maintenance fees. Depending on the timeshare arrangement, owners either own the rights to a specific, fixed week (say, January 1-7 every year) or the rights to a floating arrangement, where you can visit for a week within a period of time each year (say, one week between the months of June and August every year).

Fixed and floating timeshare arrangements can either be deeded or non-deeded (also known as right-to-use). Deeded timeshares are considered real property that can be sold or passed on to the next generation. Non-deeded or right-to-use timeshares function more like leases, where an owner can use the unit for a specified number of years.

What Is a Vacation Club?

Vacation clubs are a newer variation on the timeshare model. Instead of purchasing the rights to a specific unit, as with a timeshare, vacation club “members” pay an upfront sum to purchase a number of “points” which can be redeemed for different vacations each year. Yearly maintenance fees still apply.

The number of points can translate to very different vacations based on the desirability of the resort’s location and the time of year. The Marriott Vacation Club, for example, has a three-tiered point system. At the cheapest level, one example of a vacation option is a seven-night stay in a studio in Palm Beach, Florida at any time except during the peak winter season. In contrast, the highest tier of points will give you the opportunity to stay for seven nights in a one-bedroom villa in Oahu, Hawaii at any time during the year.

A Cost-Effective Vacation?

Both timeshares and vacation club memberships limit you in terms of the types of vacation you take—and when you take them. If you are considering a fixed-week timeshare, you need to be willing to commit to the Bahamas the first week of February every year, for example. While vacation club memberships offer more flexibility, you are still restricted by your number of points and are still committed to paying yearly maintenance fees. A normal vacationer might be able to save up over two or three years to afford a particularly luxurious vacation; as a vacation club member, you are tied to the same type of vacation year after year.

Owning a timeshare at a hotel is a little bit like owning a car—it depreciates the second you buy it. So try renting a timeshare instead.

Because of the high upfront cost, timeshares and vacation club memberships make the most financial sense in the long term. An example: Let’s say you pay $200 a night for a week in a hotel. Over ten years, you would have shelled out $14,000 to take a one-week vacation each year. A timeshare at the same property might cost $8,000 upfront, with annual maintenance fees of $550. After ten years, you’d have paid $13,500—only $500 less than it would have cost you to pay for normal vacations. Over 30 years, however, the timeshare becomes a much better deal: At the end of that period, you’d have paid only $24,500 for your yearly vacations at a timeshare, as compared to $42,000 if staying at the hotel.

Are Timeshares and Vacation Clubs Good Investments?

The Federal Trade Commission warns against buying timeshares as financial investments. Why? The value generally decreases sharply after purchasing. Despite the real estate adage of “Location, location, location,” ownership of a timeshare in Mexico or Aruba declines in value over time because of the sheer number of timeshares available as well as the ever-growing number of hotels around the world with timeshare options.

Additionally, hotels and resorts are more desirable when they’re first built, and their facilities and amenities are brand-new; they become increasingly less desirable. Simply put, supply exceeds demand, making your investment less valuable over time. In this way, owning a timeshare at a hotel is a little bit like owning a car: You may get a lot of use out of it over the course of twenty years, but it won’t be worth much once you try to sell it. Additionally, there’s no cap on yearly maintenance fees, so the amount you pay every year will most likely increase.

Don’t Blow It!

Find out how to stick to your budget when you’re on vacation

Rent, Don’t Buy

Still, timeshares can be appealing because they provide a home-away-from-home feeling. If you are interested in this sort of set-up, but don’t want to commit to a timeshare, take our insider tip: Rent a timeshare.

Here’s why: Because the resale value of timeshares is so low, many timeshare owners rent out their units. Renting instead of buying allows you to remain flexible (rather than being married to the same location) while reaping the desirable benefits of a timeshare unit.

Additionally, renting a timeshare property can garner incredible deals: A seven night stay at the luxurious Omni Hotel in Cancun, Mexico will cost you $515 per night for four adults. Renting a timeshare property at the same hotel for the same time period for eight adults only cost $200 per night when LearnVest checked. That’s a steep difference!

To find a timeshare to rent, check out Ebay and RedWeek, a site devoted to timeshare rentals. Because you’ll be dealing with an individual timeshare or vacation club owner rather than a hotel, be extra cautious to ensure that the deal is legitimate. Call up the hotel ahead of time to verify that the owner in question does, in fact, own a timeshare at the property. Additionally, ask the timeshare owner for references from previous satisfied renters.

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  • R Ledet

    High pressure sales pitch and an oral confirmation that
    Holiday Inn would buy back the unit if I wanted to sell later caused me to buy at Orange Lake Resorts, Kissimmee, FL which is part of the Holiday Inn club. After about a year I decided the timeshare would not be used enough to warrant retaining and paying annual fees, so I called Orange Lake to inquire about the
    process for selling the unit back to them. I was then told that they do not have a buy-back program and would not buy back the unit for any price. Slick sales persons who have no inhibitions about lying to make a sale are abundant.
    If you want to stay there, you can rent just like any other hotel. There is clearly no advantage to owning. DO NOT BUY ! I am posting this message on every
    website (Facebook, You Tube,Twitter, etc) I have access to in order to prevent others from making the same mistake I made. BE AWARE.

    • Teagan

      Are you in the points system program? How much did this set you back? I went to one of these presentations before. The salesman started from 25k for a “lifetime membership” to 7k to try and get us to sign up. My husband was almost talked into signing because the price went down so drastically. Skeptical already to begin with, I got even more wary that the price went down drastically made me question the program. Then I thought, 7k would be a great vacation somewhere. Why not use it directly towards a vacation instead of paying for a membership. There are so many deals out there!

  • Harriet Mendler

    The price will be determined by the resort, the location, and the number of weeks you own, but the real value is almost zero, as most timeshares are worthless.

    The trend to appreciate things for their price, and not for their real value , induces us to waste our hard-earned money, inasmuch as we frequently lose the capacity to distinguish between what it’s valuable and what is not.

  • Harriet Mendler

    Not all time shares are bad, actually, a time share can be a good purchase for someone who does enjoy revisiting the same destination each year. However, vacation properties are not for most people, being that they only seem to work for people with very specific vacation desires. Time shares are not for people who like to enjoy trying a new vacation spot each year, nor for people who like to travel spontaneously, or families who do not use to stay at expensive resorts.

  • Sean. L


    I’ve started the petition “Consumer financial protection board CFPB Open an investigation to timeshare sales and property financing being false investments. Pass new laws to help millions of Americans trapped in these money pits.” and need your help to get it off the ground.

    Will you take 30 seconds to sign it right now? Here’s the link:

    Here’s why it’s important:

    The CFPB should convene public hearings, a discovery board or panel to discover the unfair and deceptive practices of the timeshare industry to expose and stop them for the worthless investments and worthless deeded property that many people already know too well.

    You can sign my petition by clicking here.

  • Harriet Mendler

    Timeshare industry is known for being one of the most
    fraudulent industries running. Every year, tens of thousands of complaints are filed against timeshare developers, most of them because of the deceitful sales tactics they use to sell their units.

  • Harriet Mendler

    Getting into a timeshare can be very easy, getting out, not so much. Many vacationers purchase timeshares with the intention to travel around the world, some others pretend to buy the vacation property as a financial investment (which is actually unwise move), while some of them were practically pushed into it. Whichever the reason is, the truth is that loads of timeshare owners regret their purchases.

  • Harriet Mendler

    Timeshares can be a terrific purchase for some families, as they also can be a giant rip off for others. 50 years ago, also known as Holiday Home Sharing or timeshare travel, timeshares were created with the idea of offering fully furnished accommodations for a lower price than a full-time ownership.

  • Harriet Mendler

    Buying a timeshare under the impresion you will save money on the long run on travel expenses such as airfare or cruises equals to being a victim of timeshare fraud. Timeshares will barely provide you a small discount on accomodations and that´s it. Timeshares will not provide you, in most cases, any discounts on your vacation expenses.

  • Harriet Mendler

    Timeshares need to be looked up as a purchase and not an investment . Regardless of how timeshares are presented, they don´t perform as well as a house or stock investment. If you look around the resale market for timeshares on websites like EBay, Redweek, or TUGBBS will find that you can buy a timeshare for far less money than what the first owner purchased it for.

  • Grace Evans

    Timeshare fraud has been around since the timeshare idea was created, but they increase during poor economy. When times are difficult, timeshare owners are stuck with properties they can´t travel to or even afford. Desperate to recoup some money to pay for bills, they can easily become victims to scams artists pretending to be their timeshare salvation who will take upfront fees -as much as five number figures in some cases- but fail to fulfill their promise.

  • Grace Evans

    Thousands of International travelers, particularly from the US and Canada, have fallen victims of timeshare fraud while vacationing in Mexico. Resort developers hire skilled salesmen to represent their timeshares as many different attractive packages, such as financial investments, deeded properties, or vacation clubs, just to increase their sales.

  • Grace Evans

    The timeshare industry has been into the lion’s mouth for the last couple of years, and it has generated lots of controversy and discussions in many forums and blogs on the web. However, since we’re living an economic downturn, anyone would expect that the timeshare sales collapse, but instead of that the sales seem to be increasing… but this comes with a trap: timeshare scams are increasing too. That leads us to the question: then, why keep people investing on timeshares?

  • John D

    The decision to purchase vacation club points can be difficult. The only way to determine if vacation club ownership represents a good value is to perform a financial analysis. This requires comparing costs associated with vacation club ownership with the costs of the alternative – paying retail costs for lodging fees. Before I purchased vacation club points, I created a spreadsheet to determine if there was a financial benefit associated with vacation club ownership. The spreadsheet was so helpful that I decided to create an application so that I could analyze future vacation club purchases. This application is called PointsCruncher and is located here: PointsCruncher. I hope it helps make vacation club ownership decisions a bit easier.

  • Pkon99

    DO NOT BUY TIMESHARES!! RIPOFFS Better to just rent for week or use hotel points. They charge you a ton and then they are almost worth 25% of what you paid once you buy them! Plus maintenance fees and taxes are high!!