Timeshares? Are they worth it?

Posted on February 9, 2014


sheraton kaanapali

Are timeshares a good deal or not? The high pressure sales teams will present to you a deal that “will change your life”. A package loaded with bonuses, extras, and discounts, but the deal on the table is only good today. If you say no, you’ll get another lower priced offer, and then another and another until you get the last offer of the day, $199 and you can stay for two nights, with show and dinner tickets. They pay a lot to their marketing company, so they certainly don’t want you to leave the 2 hour timeshare presentation without breaking out your credit card.

Why wouldn’t we want to buy into this awesome deal? A deeded real estate transaction that gives us a 2 bedroom condo anywhere in the world every year, PLUS VIP access, plus a bonus week, plus our own personal travel agent, plus the ability to use points to buy airfare, cruises, amusement passes, pretty much anything we could ever want. Stay for a day or stay for a week, we never spend a penny at any of the resorts. Where do you want to go – Sandals resort in the Carribean, Paris, Tuscany, Australia, Bali? They can make this happen, and it will cost MUCH less in their program than if I booked it myself.

I own a timeshare – purchased for $17K in 1997 in Sedona. A 2 bedroom every other year in a prime location – A Gold property (the highest tradable value in RCI). I was a travel agent in my younger years (before the internet made self booking so easy), and so I know my way around booking and finding special travel deals. So I have used my timeshare often.

I’ve also learned a few things in hindsight that I will share with you:

Types of Timeshares:
Typically they are weeks or points.

Weeks: You buy one week a year (or every other year as in my timeshare), which can be a “floating” week or set week. With a set week, you have that week each year. This is good for families who vacation at the same time each year and typically go to the same place (to the beach in the summer when the kids are out of school for instance). With floating week, you must confirm availability for your week.

Points: You get a certain amount of points per year to use for booking a condo, and sometimes you can use the points for cruises, airfare, amusement park tickets, and other travel items. You search for availability and then confirm a reservation. Booking in less than 30 days before travel and you use fewer points, but there is limited availability. If booking months in advance, then you use more points but have more choices.

With most timeshares, you can trade your points or weeks through your own timeshare company, or with RCI or Interval International. Be aware that RCI and Interval International have annual fees of $100 to $200 a year.

If you decide you want to buy a timeshare:

1. Buy a used one for 10% of the new price. My timeshare value is now about $1700 for resale. More value to me to keep it and use it than sell it.

2. Pay attention to the annual maintenance fee, which can cost anywhere from $500 a year to $2000. You must pay this fee or they may repossess your deeded property.

3. As an owner, will you get voting rights? This means you can determine where the maintenance fees go.

4. What is the typical availability at your home resort for owners? Can you book just a weekend or do you have to use your full week? How many owners do they have and how many units do they have? If they have oversold, the resort may be fully booked often making it hard to confirm a time to stay (if you have a floating week or points).

5. If the timeshare is near your home, you can get added value with day use – using the gym and pool.

So are timeshares a good deal or not? If you have small children, plan to take a week vacation each year, and buy a timeshare with few restrictions and a lot of “home” resorts in areas you like to visit, then yes buying a USED timeshare might be a good value. If you like a lot of flexibility, prefer hotels, B&B’s, book or change your vacation plans often at the last minute, then timeshares are not for you.