So, you’re thinking about buying a timeshare. Your main question is, are timeshares a waste of money? Perhaps you’ve already purchased a timeshare. You probably want to know how to get out of it. If you’re still convinced that a timeshare would work for you, what do you need to know before pulling the trigger?
Let’s answer these questions starting with the first one, are timeshares a waste of money?
Yes, timeshares are a waste of money. They are marketed as an investment. Investments should increase in value over time. Timeshares do not. In fact, you can buy someone’s timeshare for as little as $1 or even for free. The amount of money it will cost every year to own a timeshare will likely be more than if you booked a week at the same timeshare property on your own.
Timeshares are usually resorts. As such, the rooms will be significantly larger than a hotel room. There is also a greater range of room options.
Are you bringing the entire family? You can get a timeshare with four bedrooms. Are you traveling solo or with your husband? A studio might be perfect.
With a timeshare, you’ll definitely have more space than you would in an average hotel room.
More People Can Travel on Vacation
This is kind of an extension of the previous point. Because there are more rooming options than a hotel room, you can fit more people into it.
But more than that, unlike a hotel, you are visiting a property you “own”. That, you can bring whomever you want.
A hotel will want to know how many are staying in the room and may have additional fees for extra people.
So if you have a large family, a timeshare would let you bring everyone for less than a typical vacation.
Timeshares Typically Come Fully Furnished
In most instances, timeshares come fully furnished. That means you have a refrigerator, microwave, an oven, stove – even plates and dishes. The idea is that everything you need is in your room. Like a home away from home.
Now, it is true that there are hotels and extended stay hotels that have these things as well.
The selling point of a timeshare is that if the resort is available on your selected dates, it won’t cost you extra.
Why don’t we discuss that now.
Don’t Have to Deal with Fluctuating Hotel Prices
Because you’re paying for your timeshare and your maintenance fees, your vacation prices are fixed. So it doesn’t matter when you go to your timeshare; your prices are set.
For people who like timeshares, this is important.
If you want to stay at a timeshare during a busy time like Memorial Day weekend or New Year’s Eve, it won’t cost you extra.
You’ve been paying all year for the luxury of staying where you want when you want.
A hotel during those same periods will raise the prices for the rooms.
During holidays, hotels know they will fill all the rooms. That makes demand high. Inventory (the rooms) are finite.
This means you’ll be paying a lot for something that would be relatively inexpensive any other time of the year.
If this is when you like to vacation, a timeshare might be able to save you money.
Not Everyone Thinks Timeshares Are a Bad Idea
While we do not encourage getting a timeshare (we’ll discuss that further later in this article), there are some well-respected authorities that beg to differ.
One is Consumer Reports. I’ll leave it to you to judge the value of the opinions of the Consumer Reports.
That’s a long time. If you’re young, you might feel it’s worth it to wait it out. If you are getting ready to retire, waiting 13 years might sound like a good idea. We’re going to dive deeper into this later.
The thinking behind buying a timeshare is that you are going to take a vacation anyway. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you had a place you knew you could stay every year without the complications of owning a vacation house?
To make the offer even sweeter, what if you could vacation anywhere in the world without increasing your costs?
I’d like to reiterate that I am not endorsing a timeshare. But to make a sound decision, we have to weigh the evidence without the filter of bias.
We’ve already discussed the advantages of owning a timeshare from the perspective of someone inclined to purchase one. This seems like a good place to analyze them even more.
Who Is the Biggest Timeshare Company?
Since we’re taking about timeshares, a logical question is, who is the biggest timeshare company?
Wyndham Destinations is the biggest timeshare company. However, it is not necessary to buy a Wyndham Destinations timeshare in order to stay at one of its properties. That’s where timeshare exchange networks come in.
Timeshare Exchange Networks
When you sit in a timeshare presentation, one of the things you will be sold on is being able to stay at another resort other than the one you purchased.
Enter timeshare exchange networks.
A timeshare exchange network is a network of timeshare properties that allow its members to “exchange” their weeks or points at one resort to use at another.
Using a timeshare exchange network allows you to pick from timeshare properties from around the world. The exchange company handles all the legwork and paperwork. All you do is pick your dates, the resort you’d like to stay at and the exchange company handles the rest.
The major timeshare exchange networks include:
Dial an Exchange
Free Timeshare Exchange
Hawaii Timeshare Exchange
OwnerTrades.com, Marriott Specific
RCI (Resort Condominiums International)
San Francisco Exchange Company (SFX)
Trading Places International
Trading Places Maui, Inc.
Timex Direct Exchange System
Timeshare exchange networks allow exchanging resorts based on “points” or “weeks”.
Before we discuss the most popular exchange networks, an explanation of the types of timeshares needs to be examined.
Compare the Different Types of Timeshares
You might be surprised to learn that not all timeshares are created equal.
Usually when you sit through a timeshare presentation, you’re told about all the good things about that specific timeshare. You might be told that it’s a deeded timeshare in one presentation. At another, they might stress the extremely flexible nature of their program.
So what I’d like to do here is to list the different types of timeshares and explain the differences between each.
Deeded – You legally own a portion of the timeshare property. This is kind of confusing. Because you don’t actually own any real estate. Yes, it is deeded property. But you don’t actually “own” the property. But you do have all the responsibilities of owning a property. Deeded timeshares are usually based on “weeks”.
Leased – Also known as “Right to Use” Vacation Interval Option. In this case the timeshare is owned by the developer. You receive no deed, a.k.a. “ownership”. It’s basically rent. And it’s usually long-term, sometime decades. Leased timeshares are typically based on points.
Lock-off or Lockout – Typically found in condominium style timeshares. As an example, the unit may have 2 bedrooms. You could use your weeks to use the entire unit. Or you could use one week for vacation and rent the other out. The reason they’re called lock-off or lockout is because you can “lock-off” part of the unit. It’s like a hotel room that has a door leading to the room next to it.
Biennial Ownership – A Biennial Ownership timeshare (also referred to as EOY – Every Other Year) means you get to use the timeshare every other year. Usually this is based on weeks. It’s not uncommon to see biennial ownership timeshares used with lockout timeshares. Instead of going every other year, you could go every year using half of your weeks in a lockout arrangement.
Points–Based Vacation Clubs – Commonly referred to in the timeshare industry as “vacation currency”. Unlike week-based timeshares, points-based vacation clubs allow you to stay at any resort in the network. You can even use your points to take a cruise. For your fee, you get an allotment of points to use however you wish. If you need additional points, you can purchase more. Each year you get a new allotment of points.
You’ll also hear the resort refer to you as an “owner”. To be clear, this is not a “deeded” timeshare. You don’t own anything. Examples of points-based vacation clubs include: Disney Vacation Club, Hyatt Residence Club, Marriot Vacation Club, Bluegreen Vacations, Hilton Grand Vacations, Westin, and Wyndham.
Are you confused yet? Good. Because the ride’s not over.
What’s the Difference Between Timeshare Weeks and Points?
One of the things that will be explained to you during your timeshare presentation is how you can use the resort. This is very important to understand when deciding if a particular timeshare will be right for you.
The easiest way to explain the difference between timeshare weeks and points is to say that weeks are usually fixed. You can come to the resort at the same time, every year for a specific number of weeks.
Points allow for more flexible vacationing. Use your available points to upgrade to a larger room or a more luxurious resort. You also are not fixed to a specific date or duration. Stay 3 days or 7 if you have enough points.
While this sounds fairly easy to follow, I’m sorry to tell you, we’re not done explaining.
Fixed week timeshares are usually associated with “deeded” timeshares. Because it’s treated like real estate (remember, it’s not really), you can do things just as if you owned a summer home.
Remember, with fixed week timeshares, you select the week you will be visiting your “home” timeshare property. For some, this can be a good thing.
For example, does your job require you to put in for vacation months in advance? With fixed week timeshares, you can tell them exactly when you’ll be going on vacation. Because you know when you’ll be traveling, you can watch airfare so that you can get the cheapest flight.
Perhaps you want to celebrate a special annual event like an anniversary. With fixed weeks, you are assured to have your special vacation place always waiting for you.
If, for some reason, you don’t think you will be able to use your timeshare one year, you can rent it. This is why you’ll be told during your presentation that timeshares are an investment. Should you decide you no longer want the timeshare, you have the option to sell it.
This is why timeshare salespeople will drill into your psyche that a timeshare is an “investment”.
Floating week timeshares work similarly to fixed week timeshares. But there are some differences.
First, floating week timeshares can be deeded or right to use. After that are when things start to take different paths.
With floating weeks, you are given a range of weeks – maybe 2 to 4 weeks, as an example. Depending on the timeshare, all your weeks may be floating. Or you might have one floating week to use at a resort that isn’t your home resort.
In the case of a single floating week, your remaining weeks will allow you to vacation only at your home resort.
Fractional or sometimes referred to as Fractional Ownership works similarly to fixed weeks. The blocks allocated to you are usually much larger, perhaps in the 4 to 12-week range.
I have been to a fractional timeshare. They tend to be very high-end. The property may itself be a stand-alone home.
How Do Timeshare Exchanges Work?
It’s understandable if your mind is spinning. This is a lot to process and make sense of. The timeshare companies know this too. That’s why the industry created timeshare exchange networks that we discussed earlier in this post.
Timeshare exchanges work by taking the confusion out of managing a timeshare. They handle the booking, changes, cancelations and everything else regarding how you use your timeshare. These timeshare exchange management companies will also have a catalog of all the resorts and cruise lines you can use with your membership.
Since there are so many timeshare exchange management companies, we’ll talk about the biggest two in the timeshare industry. In fact, in the vast majority of timeshare types, you will likely be using one of these two companies – Interval International and RCI (Resort Condominiums International).
Benefits of Using Interval International and RCI
For the most part, Interval International and RCI do the same thing. How they execute the exchanges may vary in the details. But there are some common benefits of using both Interval International and RCI.
Common benefits of using Interval International and RCI include:
Hotel Exchange – Trade weeks or points for a stay in a regular hotel that is not a timeshare.
Guest Certificates – Allows guest to stay at a resort using your timeshare weeks or points. Not uncommon to see these used as honeymoon gifts.
Vacation Planning Resources – You may have noticed that “international” is included in the name of both these companies. That’s because you will have access to resorts all over the world. You will likely need help navigating everything. The vacation planning resources will help you from booking your stay to planning excursions and even discounts on airfare.
Car Rental Discounts – Both companies have arrangements with the big car rental companies. What is nice about this arrangement is that you can use these discounts anytime you want – not just when staying at your timeshare.
Restaurant Discounts – Much like car rental discounts, your membership entitles you to receive discounts at major restaurant chains. As with car rental discounts, you can use these whether you are on vacation or not.
The differences between Interval International and RCI are limited. However, a review of their websites highlights the benefits of each.
Ownership – “opportunity to own condominium-style accommodations at quality resorts”
Ease of Booking – Promises to reduce the stress of planning a vacation and booking accommodations because timeshare owners “know they have a place to return each year”.
Flexibility – “Flexibility to vacation at resorts all over the world”
What Do Timeshare Maintenance Fees Cover?
Up to this point, we’ve discussed all the details of a timeshare expect one very important thing.
Like them or not, if you own a timeshare, you will pay maintenance fees. One thing you should be aware of is that maintenance fee costs will rise every year.
What is covered in the cost of maintenance fees?
For deeded timeshares, your fees are based on the unit size (studio, 1, 2, 3 or more bedrooms), location of the resort and length of interval. Think of the maintenance fees like a property tax.
Points based timeshares maintenance fees are different. Because you don’t “own” anything, your fees are based on other factors.
How many points you own, the cost of running the resort, maintenance of the property, insurance, utilities, replacement of fixtures, furniture and appliances all factor into what you pay in maintenance fees. Think of this like rent.
Hidden Timeshare Problems
Up to this point, there doesn’t seem to be any big downsides to timeshares. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. There are some hidden problems with timeshare ownership that can cost you a very large amount of money over time.
Let’s begin with deeded timeshares. When you listen to the pitch, you’re told that because it’s deeded, you can pass it on to your children.
That is true.
What they won’t tell you is that even after the timeshare is paid off, you’ll be responsible for the maintenance fees. If you pass it to your children, they will be left holding the bag for these fees.
Fees Can Increase at Any Time
These timeshare fees can increase at any time. There’s also no pattern to the fee increases. Even if you have a deeded timeshare and have it paid in full, you will still be responsible for paying the annual maintenance fees. It’s not uncommon for them to get into the thousands of dollars.
Credit Can Be Ruined If You Stop Paying Maintenance Fees
This is particularly the case with deeded timeshares.
If you realize the maintenance fees are too high and stop paying, the management company will hit you hard. So hard, that your credit will be ruined. Before you make your purchase, you’ll be told that you can sell your timeshare if you don’t like it.
The only problem is that there is no market for timeshare purchases. To be more accurate, people do buy timeshares. But the pool is very, very small.
Later in this post, I’m going to show you where you can buy timeshares.
High Interest Rates
Timeshares don’t come cheap. But don’t worry. Timeshare salespeople will help you get a loan so you can start paying on your timeshare and begin enjoying all the wonderful things the sales team promised.
If after learning all that we’ve presented, you still want to buy a timeshare, what should you be aware of?
Because I want you to be as informed as possible, I’m going to break down what happens at a timeshare presentation.
Over the last 25 years, I’ve been to over a dozen timeshare presentations. And they all have certain things they hold in common.
It didn’t matter whether I was in Mexico, Florida, The Poconos, Myrtle Beach or Las Vegas, every single one does what I’m going to share with you.
If you’re still convinced that a timeshare is for you, hopefully you can save a lot of money and not get tricked like those without this insight will be.
The first step in a timeshare presentation is The Hook. The hook takes many forms depending on where the presentation is taking place.
For timeshares near parks like Disney or Universal Studios, the hook might be free or discounted tickets to something in the park. In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, we were given two free tickets to a sunset dinner and cruise (which, I must admit, we enjoyed very much), along with a few vouchers for land-based activities.
In Las Vegas, the hook has some really big chunks of bait attached.
Not only might you get a free dinner at a hotel on the Strip (if it’s offered at a seedy place off The Strip, run away very quickly), tickets to first rates shows, and a variety of other freebies are mixed in.
After you agree to go to the presentation, you’ll be asked to leave a deposit per person. Usually it’s about $20 per person. It will be refunded to you when your presentation is finished.
You will be picked up by a vehicle provided by the timeshare establishment. You cannot go on your own. They want to make you sure that you come.
They also want you to be dependent on them to get back to your hotel.
They will imply but won’t actually come out and say that if you don’t buy, you’ll have to get back on your own. (One timeshare in Las Vegas actually tried to do this to my wife and me.)
Pro Tip 1: If you plan on visiting Las Vegas for 4 days or more, sign up for a few timeshare presentations as soon as you can. You’ll be given free stuff at each. As a result, your stay in Vegas might cost you much less than you expected to spend.
By going earlier in your visit, you’ll have time to enjoy your free gifts and your vacation. During one 7-day vacation in Vegas, we had so much stuff left over on our last day, we started giving them away to strangers so they wouldn’t go to waste.
Pro Tip 2: Especially in Las Vegas, never, ever take the first package of freebies offered. If you play hard to get, they’ll keep throwing things in to entice you to go to a presentation. The people in the kiosks pressing you to go to a presentation get paid based on the number of people they send. So they have latitude in what they can give.
Don’t play too hard to get, though. If they think you aren’t interested, they’ll stop trying to sell you. Make it sound like you’re considering it but you haven’t heard enough to send you over the edge. That’s when they’ll stuff your goodie bag with more free items.
It’s time to go to your timeshare presentation. If it’s a good one, you’ll be treated like royalty.
Most likely you’ll have a choice of fresh orange juice, coffee, danishes, bagels, muffins and other snacks. You’ll be herded into a room with pictures of the timeshare as well as pictures of other properties the developer owns. They want you to see just how awesome this opportunity is.
If the timeshare is still in development, you might see a model encased in glass so you can experience the full glory of your future “investment”.
That was the pre-pitch. It was designed to make you relax; put you at ease. Now comes the actual pitch. It almost always starts with a professionally shot and edited video. It’s glorious. You want to be part of this.
After the video, you’re assigned a salesperson. Their job is to assess if you are a good prospect.
They already know a bit about you. You filled out the questionnaire stating what your salary range is, whether you’re married or single, and if you have a major credit card.
In fact, some of this pre-screening was done at the kiosk before you agreed to go to the presentation.
The salesperson then takes you to another room filled with tables. Around you are others who listened to the timeshare presentation. Each is at a different stage. Some, like you, just sat down. Others are near the end of the sales pitch.
The Emotional Trap
The setting you find yourself in is an artfully crafted, deliberately designed simulation created with the sole purpose of taking your money.
You’ll be left to yourself for a few minutes. This is strategically done for these reasons.
The salesperson needs to review your questionnaire to know how to appeal to you.
Because people heard the presentation before you did, some of them will buy. The idea is to make you think: “This must be good. That couple just bought one.”
It gives you time to process the visual stimulation you just sat through.
This is just the beginning.
The 3 steps above are the presale. In every step, you’ll see that the previous steps are designed to warm you up for the next one.
Because the emotional trap is about to be set.
“How many vacations do you take per year? How much did they cost? How much did this one cost? Did you have to change your vacation dates because of blackouts? If you add up all the vacations you’ve taken over the last 10 years, how much would you have spent?”
Notice that the questions are designed to make you believe you have been throwing money down the drain. ‘Just imagine if you had been paying on a timeshare. It would be almost paid off or completely paid off by now!’
If you have a family, they might point out that it costs you no extra weeks or points to have just you and your husband stay than it would to bring your husband and two kids along.
If those questions don’t get you, the one we were hit with in Mexico might just do the trick.
“You don’t want to have P.M.S., do you?”
If you rocked back in your chair when you read that, then you know how we felt when the saleswoman hit us with it.
I must admit, it was effective. It had our attention. Probably has yours right now. But it wasn’t what we or you thought. It’s an acronym that stands for:
Now that she had our attention, she could start pulling on those emotional strings.
“What happens when you go on vacation? You spend money you’ll never see again. You take lots of pictures to remember your vacation. And you buy souvenirs to remind you of the fun you had.
“So, after your vacation is over, all you’re left with is P.M.S., pictures, memories and souvenirs.”
On its face, she wasn’t wrong. But she’s not done selling yet.
“What if you owned your timeshare? A place where you knew you could go every year. And you’d spend less than you did on this vacation because you can split your payments over the course of the year instead of needing a bunch of cash at one time.”
There’s something you need to remember about timeshare salespeople. Their only concern is making the sale. They have been specially trained to make you buy. If you mention how much your grandma would like this, they’ll tell you their parents just bought one and are loving it.
Is the animal sanctuary something your niece or nephew would love? Wouldn’t you know it, they have a niece or nephew that they bring to this very timeshare and those kids have a ball!
Unless you are determined not to buy (after all, when you were approached at the kiosk, you were told there was no obligation to buy and you’d still receive your free gifts), they will convince you to make the purchase.
This is usually done in the next step.
When you talk to the person at the kiosk, you are promised that you don’t have to purchase anything. Just sit back and listen to the presentation. If you don’t want it, just say the word and you’ll be given your promised gift and let go.
And that’s when the lying starts.
After you talk to the salesperson after the video presentation, he’ll do some fancy scribbling on a blank sheet of paper. He’ll right down numbers, circle them, draw arrows to other things he’s written. Then he’ll write down a number that is supposed to wow you into signing on the dotted line.
That number is outrageously high and based on absolutely nothing.
The salesperson’s job is to get you to pay as much as possible. They know that you probably won’t go for that. So they’ll keep trying until you say you don’t want it.
“That’s fine. No problem,” he says. “We’ll give you your gifts and you can be on your way. I just have to let my supervisor know.”
His “supervisor” is just the next in line in the sales process. He or she comes in and briefly reviews what was already presented to you. Then he presents you with a different offer. It usually costs less. It might give you fewer weeks or points. But more importantly, it’s cheaper.
Assuming you reject this offer, you’ll either be visited by two or three more people or you’ll be sent to the last person in the chain. That person’s job is to give you your free gifts. But only after he attempts to get you to buy.
Once you make it clear you don’t want to buy a timeshare, the happy, perky, sweet salesperson who is only interested in your happiness will suddenly get hostile and rude. You didn’t fall for their well-crafted, time-tested sales tactics.
Because of this, some timeshare presentations may try to dismiss you without even mentioning your gifts. Others will tell you to sit and wait for someone to bring them to you. You might be sitting for as much as half an hour.
The idea is that you will either be so frustrated that you just leave. Or that you’ll rethink the ‘amazing’ offer you walked away from.
After one Vegas timeshare presentation, they didn’t want to give us our promised gifts. After making an issue of it, they said, ‘Here you go. Goodbye.’
My response was, “I was promised a ride back to my hotel.” Boy, was he not happy to hear that. They had us sit for at least 30 minutes before the shuttle came to take us back. And we were the only ones on the shuttle.
The point of telling you this story is to prepare you for what to expect if you decide you don’t want to purchase a timeshare.
Be determined. Demand what was promised. And don’t let them win the waiting game.
Don’t Buy a Timeshare During the Presentation
Now that you know the inner workings of how timeshare presentations work, I’ll give you my recommendation.
Don’t. Buy. A. Timeshare.
I’ve attempted to present facts about timeshares in the hopes that it gives you the data you need to make an educated decision. The maintenance fees alone are enough to not buy a timeshare.
Add to that the fact that, unlike actual real estate, a timeshare doesn’t appreciate in value.
I could spend the next few paragraphs detailing all the reasons not to do it. But this video is more entertaining and lays everything out clearly.
If you do still feel that a timeshare is the right choice for you, don’t purchase it at the presentation.
If you’re going to buy one, do it this way.
Where to Buy a Timeshare For $1
I know that what is good for one person isn’t for another. In view of that, if you are one that wants to buy a timeshare, I’m going to share with you where you can get it for as little as $1.
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