There were two key benefits for timeshare owners in the past: higher standards and the exclusivity of being able to enjoy a holiday in a private club unavailable to members of the public.
However, things have changed over the years. Now, many timeshare resorts are open to the public and can be booked on sites like Booking.com.
So, does it make financial sense to own timeshare these days?
Let's take a detailed look at the different costs over a period of 20 years for two different situations. We will not include inflation, because this affects all holidays.
We will look at two fictitious couples from the UK to compare the expenses of their accommodation:
We will look at three sets of costs related to the holidays and work out who ends up paying the most over the 20-year period.
This one is pretty straightforward. David and Jayne do not have any signup costs.
Mary and John, on the other hand, must pay £15,000 in initial costs for one Silver Season (low season) week in Marriott's Marbella Beach Club. The contract lasts for a period of 20 years.
There will not be any resale value, and timeshare owners usually need to hire a law firm if they choose to break their contracts.
Timeshare costs: £15,000
Regular holiday costs: £0
Next, we will look at the cost of staying in Marriott's Marbella Beach Club (MBC).
For Mary and John, they will pay annually to stay here. Over a period of 20 years, we will assume they stay here 10 times and opt to go somewhere else for the other 10 years. The annual maintenance cost for them is £828.
For David and Jayne, the fee for a Silver Season week in the resort on Booking.com is £746 (for the third week in January). This means David and Jayne pay less to stay here compared to Mary and John.
Timeshare costs: £8,280
Regular holiday costs: £7,460
Owners of timeshare can also stay in different locations in addition to their home resorts. They do this using an exchange company. Seeing as RCI is the largest of these companies, we will stick to using its prices.
The cheapest option for a 20-year membership for John and Mary is £1,004. On top, they still pay the MBC fees for the 10 years they holiday elsewhere, which adds up to £8,280.
And for every year they choose a different destination, they pay RCI £184, adding up to a total of £1,840.
David and Jayne, on the other hand, just pay £746 a year without any exchange fees.
Timeshare costs: £11,124
Regular holiday costs: £7,460
Looking at the total amounts spent, Jayne and David are clearly the winners by choosing to book through regular booking sites. In the end, they pay under half the amount that Mary and John pay.
Mary and John have to pay an initial outlay, annual costs and operational costs, all to enjoy the same standard of holiday as David and Jayne.
Timeshare total costs: £34,404
Regular holiday costs: £14,920
"This is really exactly what we could expect," Andrew Cooper, CEO of European Consumer Claims (ECC), says.
"Timeshare companies sold themselves on exclusivity and high standards, but when they started renting their spare inventory to anyone who was not a member, convincing people to sign up with them became a very tough sell.
"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 holiday (for example during the pandemic) non owners are not obligated to pay for holidays they don't use. Timeshare owners have to pay every year no matter what their circumstances."
In an ARDA (sponsored by timeshare) study that is constantly touted, 85% of timeshare owners are content with their situation. But in an independent study by the University of Central Florida, the exact reverse was found, with 85% of timeshare owners actually regretting their purchase). However, with all the additional expenses and disadvantages of timeshare ownership, it's hard to imagine that even 15% of members can be happy.
So, why did people ever sign up in the first place?
Andrew Cooper continues: "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.
"By renting to non-members, resorts engineered their own downfall. It generated revenue in the short term to make up for the massive drops in new member sales, but at the same time it removed any convincing reason for anyone to pay extra for something they can get cheaper on the internet."
Do you own a timeshare that you want freedom from? Then contact Timeshare Advice Centre today to get advice on relinquishment or find out whether you can even claim compensation.