The Case for Timeshares – Who Should Buy

Timeshares, for those who might not know, are a way to own the right to use a vacation resort. It comes in two forms, owning points or owning a specific room in a complex for a specific week. It’s like a partial ownership of a condo at a resort. These units can be traded for other timeshares all over the world. If you own a week, it can be traded for some other week elsewhere. If you own points, they can be used to “purchase” days in a resort. It is a form of pre-paid vacationing and not a real estate investment.

It seems that every article I read about timeshares is bashing them. It makes no sense to me as I have had a great experience with owning and using our timeshare for more than two decades. So why all the bashing? I suspect the real reason for the bashing is that the wrong people buy timeshares, are unhappy with their purchase, and then their anger overflows onto the rest of us.

Why would the wrong people buy a timeshare? Because timeshares are sold with very aggressive sales tactics. If a car salesman talked you into buying a car you really couldn’t afford, is it the car’s fault? If the realtor and banker got you into a house you should have never purchased, is it the house’s fault? People need to stop blaming the timeshare for their own mistake.

When the right people buy timeshares, in the right manner, and learn how to get the most out of them, they have a great experience and save a fortune on vacation costs. When the wrong people purchase timeshares, they have a bad experience, often lose a lot of money, and then they tell all their friends how bad a deal timeshares really are.

If you are fully convinced of the mistaken dogma that “timeshares are bad,” then don’t waste your time reading this article as I won’t be able to change a closed mind. Wait for my next topic. If you want to learn about ways to have great, high end vacations at bargain prices, then read on.

When we bought our timeshare, I just went to listen to the sales pitch for the free gift. But after sitting through their spiel, my wife wanted to buy one. She knew I was a workaholic, and she felt that owning a timeshare was a way of guaranteeing that we would take at least one nice vacation every year. I’m grateful for all the wonderful memories we have made, and the money we have saved, from this one purchase.

Not everyone should consider owning a timeshare. Meeting the following criteria first is crucial to becoming a happy timeshare owner.  Those who do not meet these criteria, however, should not acquire a timeshare at any price, not even if it is free, because they will be unhappy.

You must have at least three weeks of available vacation time every year

Many unhappy timeshare owners fit into this category; they don’t have enough time off to use it.  If it is not used within the allotted timeframe, it will be lost, and that is a complete waste of money. Often the purchase was not thought through. It was made in haste at the hands of a pushy salesman. Later, after being unable to use their timeshare for a year or two, they realize they don’t have enough vacation time for a timeshare and start complaining about the cost of owning something they can’t use.

If you have a very limited amount of time available for vacationing, you should not own a timeshare. You will find yourself using that limited time in a very select manner, like visiting your parents, attending a family reunion, camping, or going on a cruise.

You must have enough vacation to be able to fit in those things each year that you want to attend, and still have time left for a pure vacation at a timeshare resort.

I took 8-12 weeks of vacation every year while I was a general surgeon, so I had enough space in my vacation schedule for timeshare weeks, cruises, motorhome travels and visiting relatives. If you own a recreational vehicle (RV), and only have 3 weeks of vacation each year, you will not have enough time off to enjoy both the RV and the timeshare unless your RV use is limited to weekends.  You will need to pick one; RV or timeshare, in order to be happy. Otherwise, you will have one sitting unused.

You must have enough disposable income to take an upscale vacation

Many people fall prey to the hard sell tactics of the timeshare sales force and buy without thinking through the costs. The salesman really doesn’t care if your family can afford a timeshare, they are only after the commission.

If you have three children, and you want to travel all over the world to timeshares with your family, you must also be able to afford five airline tickets each time you go. I have witnessed this limiting factor in many families. They just don’t have the money for upscale vacations.

If you cannot afford the airplane tickets, you will be limited to timeshare trades that are close enough to drive. Depending on where you live, that may not be to your liking.

Just like most things in life, if you can’t afford it, but you buy it anyway, you will not be a happy owner.

You must be able to afford to purchase it with cash

If you need to borrow the money, to pre-pay for future vacation accommodations, you don’t have the money to purchase a timeshare.

Most doctors have a debt problem. Adding to their debt by purchasing an upscale vacation is a formula for disaster. Since a timeshare is a luxury item, and luxury items should only be purchased with money you have previously saved, those who are unable to pay cash for this purchase are not among the people who should buy a timeshare. Never take out a loan to buy a luxury item.

Many timeshare purchasers complain about the cost. But the cost should never be a factor when indulging in a timeshare purchase. Only buy luxury items with surplus funds. I suspect almost all of the disgruntled timeshare owners purchased their unit with borrowed money, at a time when hard sell tactics are driving their purchasing decision. Often, this decision is regretted later. Don’t buy it if you can’t write a check for it.

Your Vacation plans must be flexible

I have seen many people pick their vacations with great precision. They must go to one particular city, on one particular date. If they can’t make that exact arraignment, they are unhappy. If this describes your vacationing ideal, then the timeshare system is not for you.

When trading a timeshare week, you might not always find the exact time or location that you thought you wanted. To be successful, you must be flexible. For example, make your search for a beach vacation in a warm climate in January or February. With that criteria, you will find lots of timeshares available that match your desires. You can then choose the time and location that best meets your needs. But if you feel you must go to Lahaina, Hawaii on February 3rd, you are unlikely to find that exact time and location. These are the timeshare owners that complain about not being able to trade into their desired timeshare.

Since timeshares are not as plentiful as hotels, if you are going to be very picky as to when and where you go, use one of the other travel systems like hotels, Airbnb, VBO, or Bed and Breakfasts. Timeshares provide a great value to those who can be flexible with their travel plans.

You must be willing to take upscale vacations

Many people love to go camping, visit relatives or travel in their RV. If that is your preferred vacation style, upscale vacation resorts may not be the best fit for you and therefore, you should not get a timeshare.

Most timeshare resort units have very nice accommodations, especially when sticking to the gold and silver crown units. They have fully equipped kitchens, multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, a living room and a dining room. Our last timeshare unit even had a one car garage with extra storage for our bikes.  There are often organized activities for those who wish to participate, such as ice cream float socials, movie nights, craft activities for the kids, and group hikes.  Timeshares are situated in tourist destinations so you can choose to venture out and explore or stay on the property, relax and enjoy the amenities the resort offers. If you like that kind of vacation, timeshares will be an economical way to enjoy them.

This type of vacation is not usually done on a shoe string budget. We usually spent $4,000 – $6,000 a week on a vacation of this type. Most of our money was spent on airfare and on the activities at the destination. But we have also stayed at timeshares that we drove to and spent our time hiking, biking, swimming and enjoying the outdoors.

 

You must buy it for the long haul

Timeshares, contrary to what the salesman will tell you, are not real estate investments. They are pre-paid vacations. If the timeshare is used correctly, your “investment” will not only save money on your accommodations over the long haul, but you will have much nicer accommodations than you would get by staying at a nice hotel.

Since, this is not a liquid investment, you can’t decide after two years that you would like to sell it and get your money back. You must be willing to commit to owning this for many years to get the economy of scale. We have no intention of ever selling our timeshare. We are having too much fun, staying in very nice accommodations, at a discounted price. I can’t imagine I will ever want to give that up.

As of today, we have taken 61 vacation weeks in our timeshare. Adding up the total cost of owning our timeshare, its purchase price and all associated expenses related to the timeshare over its life, it has cost just over $600 per week, and decreasing with every added vacation we take. That weekly cost is equivalent to the price of two days at a nice resort.

Those are just a few of the qualifications you must meet before considering a timeshare purchase. If you don’t meet the above qualifications, purchasing a timeshare will lead to regret and frustration. If you do meet the qualifications, then next week’s blog about how to get the most value and fun out of your timeshare will be important to your decision making.

I have had my timeshare for 25 years and have yet to stay in the one I own. We like to trade our unit for destinations all around the world. With 25 years of happy experiences, I think I can help you make it a happy experience also.

How about you? Has your timeshare experience been good or bad? Did you meet all the above criteria before you purchased your timeshare?

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29 thoughts on “The Case for Timeshares – Who Should Buy

    • Doc G, Hopefully next week’s blog will open your eyes the rest of the way. Timeshares are a great deal for the right people. A very bad deal for the wrong people. But like most things in life, it is the ones with the bad experience that speak out. Those with the good experience tend to silently enjoy their journey so we hear a lopsided review.

  1. Good analysis Cory… We purchased a “points” timeshare 21 years ago and have never been sorry. We have used it to travel all over the northwest, across the country and even overseas. It is not free. There are dues to pay and you have to plan far ahead, but the variety of locations and the flexibility in scheduling we get make up for it. One thing we especially appreciate is knowing the consistent quality and amenities of the unit we will be staying in, so no surprises.

  2. Hey Cory, you might be one of a few (if not the only) people who have spoken positve about timeshares that are not salespeople. They certainly have gotten a bad rap.

    It sounds like it worked out quite well for you so glad you made the most of it.

    What do you think about getting timeshares on secondary markets at much less cost due to the disgruntled owners selling at a loss as they did not fit into the criteria for timeshare ownership?

    Also is this something that might be troublesome to carry deep into retirement? I.e. have you got hit with any unexpected/expensive cash calls to maintain the property? (new roof, Hvac, etc)?

    • Xrayvsn, I think it is a complaint bias. You only hear bad stuff because those are the people who speak out. The people who have a great experience don’t say anything. Every time I go, the place is full of people enjoying their experience. I have never heard a complaint about timeshares from people who are enjoying them. The complainers are at home writing bad reviews. The rest of us are out enjoying the vacation.

      How to acquire timeshares is next weeks post. This week is who, next week is how. You should only buy them on the secondary market, never from the salesman. But I tell people to only buy used cars but they still get new ones.

      I have never had a cash call on the property, and mine lived through a hurricane or two. I haven’t heard of any cash calls, but that would be a very small sample. The maintenance fee is covering for the unexpected.

      I’m in my retirement, Jack L is many years into retirement, I see lots of people at the resorts who are many years into their retirement. I plan to use it until I can’t travel anymore and then my kids can use it or give it away.

    • B.C. you are right. The people who save money and have a great time with their timeshares, don’t seem to speak up. Like most great tools in life, it is only great when you use it properly. You are surrounded by hundreds of timeshares where you live. In fact, when I come there for FINCON18 and the Cuba Cruise, I will stay in a timeshare instead of the resort that FINCON is in. The reason is the cost savings. If I remove my sunk costs and only look at what new costs I will incur, the resort FINCON is at is giving a special price of $159 + taxes and fees per night. I’m staying at a timeshare nearby for a trade fee of $239. My cost for a week in the timeshare, and for better accommodations, is less than the cost of 2 days at the hotel. If you look at my lifetime total cost, I’ve averaged $600 a week including my purchase price, (had I known better back then and bought on the secondary market, that lifetime cost would be $400 a week) which is still less than the resort discount FINCON has for a four day stay. I usually combine vacation and meetings. So I’m going to FINCON and have traded for two weeks of timeshares in Orlando. If I wanted to stay those two weeks in the resort FINCON has, at their group discount, it would cost $2,226 + taxes. My lifetime average cost for timeshares will be $1,200 ($800 had I been smarter 25 years ago) or less than half the cost of the resort. I’ve been doing this for years and have saved a fortune on travel and I get to stay in much nicer accommodations. I will have a 2 bed, 2 bath room with a full kitchen and living and dining rooms. I love my timeshare trades.

  3. Hi Cory: I LOVE your content. I hope to see you at my FIRST FINCON in September.

    Email me if you want to meet up at the Ritz Club Lounge in Orlando.

    Drinks on me! (Disclaimer: I don’t drink though)

  4. My husband and I bought a timeshare when I went to locums… Having the timeshare allows the family to stay somewhere nicer with a kitchen so we don’t have to dine out every meal (something I find bad for the wallet and waistline) as well as forces me to take time off for a vacation, encouraging me to actually put my time and money where my priorities are (with family). Actually, our first purchase was through the company, then the rest of my points all came from the secondary market, which seemed a much better deal. So far we have been happy, but we also bought what we could afford to in cash, and budget for yearly fees as part of our travel fund we set aside monthly.

    • Laura, Great story. We also love the kitchen effect. We eat a lot better at a timeshare, cooking our own food, than at a hotel, eating out every meal. We usually go out to eat about twice during the week. Always have breakfast in and we don’t have to get dressed to eat. Often make lunches to eat when we are out on an adventure for the day. Then eat meals we brought from the freezer at home for dinner. The food is better. The calorie count is lower. The cost is lower. Great travels!

  5. For anyone considering buying a timeshare, take the time and do a little research with TUG, Timeshare Users Group. Online forum where you can learn a ton about the timeshare industry. One key point, you can often buy resale time shares for pennies on the dollar. We bought a Wyndham one off of eBay for a little over 1k, Wyndham would have sold us the same thing for well over 20k. We have had great use of it in different parts of the country while serving in the military. Last year we stayed in San Francisco for 4 nights and Sedona, Arizona for 4 nights in great accommodations. As Cory said, not for everyone, but can be great if used right.

  6. This post comes at a great time. My husband just retired in April and we are wanting to start traveling more now. I’m still working, but my job is flexible shift work and we have at least 1 to 2 weeks per month to travel now that he has retired. Having a larger place would allow us to ask siblings/friends/nieces/nephews too. (And they would probably enjoy a free vacation in a high end place!) What is a good site to look at the secondary market?

  7. I really wished I had read this prior to purchasing mine. One thing you failed to mention that the sales person is not only pushy but they lie also. We own by point & only had points every other year which worked good for us. But every time you go they want to sell you more. They told us if we would buy points so that we had them every year then they would show us a way to never pay maintenance fees. The deal was that they gave you a credit card that earned points to turn around & credit to your maintenance fees. Even when we maxed the card out it never paid all maintenance fees. Then comes another thing you failed to discuss. Life. I became disabled & my income went down a third, then my daughter had to get a divorce from an abusive husband. She hadn’t worked for years because he wouldn’t let her. So here is her & her two children that had to be cared for. My husband & I had to get custody of my other granddaughter because both her parents chose to do drugs. Now I’m in so much debt that I’ll never get out because our income certainly wasn’t enough to take care of three families. So going in we was fine but now we can’t but you cannot get a dime for them. Oh, Wyndham did say they would take them back, for nothing! Sorry I guess I am bitter, not at the timeshare but at the lies & pushy sales people. I can’t pay the debts I have, banks won’t consolidate my debts & they want you to give them your points back for nothing so they can resell them to another person for thousands of dollars. Please make sure when you write about them again that you include those people who have no idea that their lives are going to fall apart because you really need to ensure you have a back up plan just in case.

    • Teresa,
      I’m sorry you have had so much put onto you by life. Hopefully there will be a lot of people who read this before they pull the trigger to be absolutely sure they are the right person, with sufficient wealth, to be a timeshare owner. In a short blog, I’m not able to hit every issue, but I tried to hit the biggest ones. You really never need to hear a timeshare sales pitch. Yes they want you to hear it every time, just don’t agree to go to the meetings. I covered that in the blog after this one on how to get the most out of your timeshare. ( https://drcorysfawcett.com/getting-the-most-from-your-timeshare/ ) Yes, there will always be things that happen to people after they buy something, as happened to you. That can never be predicted. I have seen people buy a house and two months later lose their job. There is just no way to prevent those things from happening. When they do, you just have to find the best way to deal with it. You have some tough choices to make and I wish you and your family well as you navigate though some very tough times ahead. I think your family is lucky to have you.

  8. Hi Cory,
    You make some good points. I have been a timeshare owner for 18 years, and our family has had lots of enjoyable vacations with our timeshares (yes, bought two different ones!). One important factor people need to be aware of is, the costs of a timeshare don’t necessarily make economic sense. When you look at the upfront cost, which will take many years to recoup, plus the ever increasing maintenance fees that have no cap, owning a timeshare is not a good investment. The cost of lodging now, relative to inflation, is actually cheaper than it was 20 years ago. Many nice hotels have some very good deals if you know how to find them. And VRBO, Airbnb can give you the same experience as a timeshare, but you’re not committed to paying annual maintenance fees. You can also reserve weeks at a timeshare from owners who just can’t use them, and get them at a very affordable price, often less than the owner’s maintenance fees. So, the value of a timeshare really is about forcing you to take nice vacations which are planned far in advance, and the convenience of knowing the timeshare properties are usually very nice and well kept. It’s an emotional decision more than an economical one.

    The other issue we’ve had with one of our timeshares is, the desirable properties are always completely booked, and nearly impossible to get into. You can book ours 13 months in advance, but when you get online to book at the exact day/time at 13 months out, it’s already gone! This has been very frustrating, and certainly doesn’t make me feel like I have ownership privileges! So it’s important for a prospective buyer to really research how much accessibility their timeshare company has.

    • Paul,
      A lot of what you are talking about was covered in my next article on getting the most out of your timeshare. I have found my timeshare to be very economical and it costs me way less to use my timeshare than hotels, and the timeshare is a nicer place to stay. I hope you will read that information. Glad you have had good use of yours.

  9. Hi Dr. Cory, We have two timeshares (one with Hilton and one with RCI), and we love both. We travel around 20 weeks a year and would not be able to do so without a timeshare (in such luxury accommodations). We plan to keep ours and deed them to our sons. Nice article!

  10. Good article. Thanks for sharing. We purchased ours after a “good sell” presentation which included a reminder that this is not an investment, but a vacation experience. Without realizing it, we discovered that trading introduced us to visiting many places in the USA that we likely would never plan on visiting. In virtually every case it proved rewarding and in some cases, caused us to revisit. I only wish that with advancing age we could just relinquish our timeshare to the agency without compensation.

    • Edward,
      Glad you’ve had a great experience with your timeshare. If you are now too old to travel, give your timeshare to a family member or friend who fits the description of a good person to own a timeshare. Then teach them what you know about using it effectively.

  11. Enjoyed your article, but believe there are some individual circumstances where persons that don’t fit your prototype timeshare owner should also consider timeshare ownership. We live in Sacramento, California and love Lake Tahoe and never get tired of visiting there for a week. Our first timeshare purchase was a “club” membership with a club headquartered out of Reno that has three resorts at Lake Tahoe — two in Incline Village and one at the Ridge resort area near South Lake Tahoe. We have enjoyed our one week each year there for over a decade, have no regrets purchasing, and have no interest in selling. Of course, we purchased our timeshare cheap, on the resale market (even before we joined TUG), and was familiar with one of their resorts before purchasing. Because it is a “club” membership it gives you some additional flexibility (e.g., can reserve three one-bedroom units versus one three-bedroom unit, the ability to roll over usage up to three years enabling you to skip a year and go back-to-back weeks the next year).

  12. We have owned timeshares for the last twenty plus years and got caught having special assessment for several years for several thousand dollars on Diamond’s Point at Poipu, near, Koloa, Hawaii. The facility was new and was caught by Hurricane Iniki in 1992 and suffered moisture infiltration that damaged under-lament of the plaster exterior, this resulted in a in multi-year refurbishment of the more than ten building exteriors the ended in 2017. But if you own these timeshares so close to salt water you’re going to have ongoing maintenance issues. So, expect to pay to enjoy these types of locations. We love our timeshares.

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