The truth is, I don't know if they are worth it or not. It is hard to analyze whether or not they are. I think it really just depends on what you are looking for in a vacation. And I hear over and over again from folks that just don't use their timeshares, so it certainly depends on whether or not you are going to use them.
Now, timeshares all work in different ways. The old timeshares, and even some present-day timeshares, give the owner a particular week at a particular resort every year. Many of these timeshares allow the owners to trade in for other resorts and other weeks. The largest network for trading is RCI, which has resorts worldwide.
Nowadays, companies like Hilton and Hyatt, and even Disney, offer their timeshares as point systems. Owners get a certain amount of points each year, which they can "bank up" or a few years if they wish. Owners use their points to rent from any where in the system and can even trade into RCI. The points are just deducted from their account. This system seems to give a little more flexibility. We own a point system timeshare from Hilton Grand Vacations Club. We get 7000 every year, which is usually more than enough points to get a 3 bedroom for a week in the United States. Europe is another story!
Timeshares have a great range in price. A new timeshare directly from the company usually costs anywhere from $15,000 to over $70,000, depending on how much time or points you are buying. The money doesn't usually stop there! There are yearly taxes and fees that run around $1000 and also booking fees of around $50-$150. And those points that you can bank, well there is a fee to do that, too.
Some people have had great luck with timeshare resales. A huge timeshare rental and resale network is www.redweek.com. With the state of the current economy, timeshares are on the market for rock bottom prices and really seem like a steal...some are about 1/4 the original price!
Why would anyone purchase one full price with such good deals? There are many reasons. In some cases, the resale loses many of the original owner's perks and the HUGE amount of bonus points that they give you. Now, the companies always tell owners to be careful of resales. In some cases the resale loses things like parking, trading power (can only stay at specified home resort on specified week) and even "club" membership. If you choose this route, it is always a good idea to check with the vacation club to find out how they treat resales.
Now, we LOVE our timeshare! We travel enough so the points don't waste. And we have found the with Hilton Grand Vacations, the resorts are extremely nice. We can also trade into the RCI system. In June, we are actually staying in an RCI resort in Gatlinburg. According to other members that we have talked to, many of the resorts in RCI are not as nice as the Hilton resorts. However, they are MUCH less points than Hilton.
We constantly get calls and offers from Hilton to purchase another timeshare in order to upgrade ourselves to Elite ownership status. At the moment we have decided not to upgrade simply because we are not sure how we would ever use those points! We are debating on a resale purchase, but we just don't know how Hilton will treat it.
Oh, you can share your ownership with others. We purchased ours with my husbands family, which split the cost four ways. We always take at least one vacation a year together, so that is what we use those points for.
There are many timeshare rentals out there. We are actually going this route when we go to Disney World this year. There are some great deals out there on timeshare rentals. Most people that rent do so because they can't go on the trip, but they don't want to pay the maintenance fees. They rent in order to cover those. I know I have mentioned him before, but David at DVC Request
is just great! He helps individuals to rent points from Disney Vacation Club members. It may cost a little more than renting from an actual individual, but I think it is a little bit more trustworthy. Check him out and subscribe to his emails because there are some outstanding last minute deals!
So, the bottom line is, while we do enjoy our timeshare, they are all pretty expensive. Don't buy one unless you are absolutely positive that you will use it. It is only worth it if you use it many, many, many times over. And then you must remember the yearly fees and booking fees. For many people, it may just be better to try to rent from an owner! At least then you don't have any responsibilities!