The cost of timeshare vs regular vacations
In the past, the two main benefits of timeshare ownership were higher standards and exclusivity of staying in a private members' club. With most timeshare resorts now accepting bookings from non members via regular booking sites such as Booking.com, does timeshare ownership make any more financial sense than regular vacation bookings?
Cost comparison over 20 years
For the following comparison we will discount inflation as it applies to all types of vacations, including rental costs and timeshare annual fees.
We will compare accommodation expenses for two fictitious couples: Jayne and David will be our 'regular vacationers'. John and Mary can be our timeshare owners.
We will account for 3 different sets of relevant vacation costs and calculate who pays the most over 20 years.
1) Initial costs
No question here as to who pays the most. John and Mary have to pay initial costs of $25,000 to buy an entry level Wyndham Vacation Club points package which we will assume they want to use for 20 years.
There is no resale value and in fact generally timeshare owners have to pay expert help to get them out of their contract if and when they want to leave.
Jayne and David have no initial costs
Timeshare costs - $25,000. Regular vacations - $0.
2) Annual costs to stay in Wyndham Vacation Club resorts, using Worldmark San Diego Mission Valley (WSDMV) prices for direct comparison.
WSDMV is listed at $958 with Booking.com to stay the third week in January 2024 for Jayne and David. This week is accessible with Mary and John’s points package in the same resort. The points package has an annual management fee cost of $1,063.
Amazingly, John and Mary are paying more annually to stay in resorts similar to WSDMV through their timeshare membership than Jayne and David via Booking.com. We will assume each couple stays 10 times in Wyndham Vacation Club resorts, and 10 times opt to vacation somewhere else in the world.
Timeshare costs - $10,630. Regular vacations - $9,580.
3) Costs of staying elsewhere
Timeshare points owners stay in other locations than their home resorts via an exchange company. RCI are the biggest such companies, so we will use their prices.
John and Mary´s cheapest RCI membership option (without inflation) will cost them $1,290. They still have to pay their annual points management fees adding up to $10,630 for the ten years. Each year they exchange to another destination they also need to pay RCI $237 for the privilege, totalling $2,370.
Jayne and David are still paying their previous cost of $958 a year. There are no exchange fees for them.
Timeshare costs - $14,299. Regular vacations - $9,589.
Total costs over 20 years
Jayne and David are the clear winners by booking through regular sites. They will pay less than half of the costs that John and Mary will face.
The initial outlay for timeshare membership, plus annual and operational costs mean that John and Mary are paying significantly more for the same standards, at the same time, as Jayne and David.
Timeshare total costs - $44,222. Regular vacations - $19,178.
"This is really exactly what we could expect," says Suzanne Stojanovic, spokesperson for American Consumer Claims. "Timeshare companies sold themselves on exclusivity and high standards, but when they started renting their spare inventory to anyone who was not a member, they degraded their USP.
"Also the study doesn't take into account the fees that timeshare owners usually have to pay for specialist legal help to get out of their contract when they no longer want their membership.”
The non owners have other advantages, including flexibility: In years that they don't go on vacation (for example during the pandemic) non owners are not obligated to pay for vacations they don't use. Timeshare owners have to pay every year no matter what their circumstances.
A relentlessly touted ARDA (timeshare sponsored) study claims that 85% of timeshare owners are happy with their ownerships. Although it should be noted that an independent study by the University of Central Florida showed the reverse to be true (85% of timeshare owners regret buying). But with the extra expense, and other disadvantages of timeshare ownership, it becomes difficult to understand why even 15% of members would be happy with the situation.
So what are we missing?
Suzanne Stojanovic explains: "Most timeshare purchases were not about saving money. Members understood that timeshare wasn't cheaper, just better. In the same way that a Ferrari costs more than a Fiat. Nobody expects them to be comparable in price.
"Renting to non members does generate revenue in the short term, but at the same time it has removed the most convincing reason for anyone to pay extra for something they now can get cheaper on the internet."
If you own a timeshare you no longer want, contact our team at American Consumer Claims.