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If you’ve ever been engulfed in a high-pressure sales presentation for a timeshare, you know how hard it can be to say no. But before you sign on the dotted line, it’s a good idea to do your research so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
We’ve broken down the pros and cons of timeshares, and you’ll see that for every pro, there is a con. In the end, it’s up to you to decide: Are timeshares worth it?
Pro: Offers condo-like vacation accommodations
Unlike a stuffy hotel room, most timeshares are small apartments, with separate bedrooms, bathrooms, a living room, kitchen, and even a washer and dryer in some cases. They’re also usually located in resorts with amenities like swimming pools, spas, tennis and other activities.
Con: Comes with high maintenance fees
Nice accommodations come with pricey fees for upkeep. Owning even just a single week each year will cost you an average of $1,000 or more in annual maintenance fees — and these will change every year. You’re obligated to pay these fees for as long as you own the timeshare, even if you don’t use it.
How to decide: Compare the cost of a timeshare and its annual fees to the cost of a weeklong stay in a short-term rental located in the same town. Which gives you more bang for your buck?
Pro: Puts your vacation on auto-pilot
Timeshare owners who are happy with their properties typically use their same allotted week every year at their home resort. When it’s time to book their week, all they have to do is check a few boxes and they’re all set for next year’s vacation.
Con: Requires planning up to a year in advance
Most timeshares require you to notify them of your intent to stay for your allotted week a minimum of 30 days in advance of your time slot — much earlier if you want to exchange for a different location. If you prefer to keep your options open, timeshare requirements could feel too strict.
How to decide: Think about how you plan your vacations. Are you comfortable with making plans six months in advance, or does that make it feel less like an adventure and more like an assignment?
Pro: Provides less expensive vacations to popular destinations
Vacation hot spots like Orlando, Florida, and Las Vegas, Nevada, are flush with timeshares because they’re such popular vacation destinations. Making a one-time purchase for your timeshare at a fraction of the price of what a home would cost gives you a guaranteed vacation destination even if real estate prices rise. Most timeshares also offer owner discounts for resort activities and retail shops.
Con: Leaves you stuck with the same vacation spot
You might think you’ll always want to return to the family-friendly resort in Orlando year after year, but once the kids are grown you might decide you’d rather see what Hilton Head has to offer. Trading timeshares can get expensive and be more of a headache than it’s worth.
How to decide: Do you have locations that you enjoy returning to again and again, or do you like to mix it up? Consider how owning a timeshare might affect your future travel plans.
Pro: Lets you transfer your deed to your heirs
If you rent a week at a beach house every year, your kids will be left with plenty of good memories, but no claim to the beach house. With some timeshares, you can pass the deed on to your kids and let them enjoy the same vacation experience for decades to come — as long as they keep up with the maintenance fees, of course.
Con: Depreciates in value and is hard to sell
If you leave your timeshare to your kids and they’re not interested in carrying on the vacation tradition — or they can’t afford the yearly maintenance fees — they’ll be stuck with the responsibility of selling it. Sadly, unlike real estate, timeshares typically depreciate in value and are nearly impossible to sell. If you can sell them, it’s usually for pennies on the dollar.
How to decide: Leaving a timeshare to a child is also leaving them with a hefty yearly maintenance bill, which they’re not likely to be thrilled about. Unless you have an adult child who has expressed interest in inheriting the timeshare, it’s not a great legacy.
Pro: Gives access to a wide variety of resorts
Many timeshare corporations allow you to trade your week(s) at your home resort for time at a different resort, as long as it’s part of their parent company. This can allow you to indulge your adventurous spirit and see new places.
Con: It’s hard to book popular locales
Despite the hype this perk gets from salespeople, most resorts in popular destinations fill up quickly and are more “expensive” to book, even if you’re a timeshare owner. If your timeshare is in a less popular locale, its trading power is probably less than you think, and it might be difficult to trade up to somewhere you really want to go.
How to decide: Be very cautious when sales agents try to entice you with the charms of other resorts. If you do decide to buy a timeshare, make sure you really like the resort that will be your home base, because you may not be able to trade.
The bottom line
At first glance, resort timeshares seem like a great way to enjoy a ready-made vacation in a fun destination. But ask yourself, “Are timeshares worth it?” It’s important to take the time to compare timeshares to vacation alternatives like hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, camping/glamping, short-term rentals, travel clubs, second home ownership and the increasingly popular second home co-ownership.