Disney Vacation Club
Coronavirus-related update: Disney Vacation Club resorts have reopened with enhanced cleaning measures and other safety and cleanliness protocols. Please visit Disney Vacation Club’s Travel Alert page for more information and updates.
Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is a timeshare program operated by Disney. The program currently operates 14 resorts: eleven DVC resorts at Walt Disney World and one DVC resort at Disneyland in California, as well as one resort each in Oahu, Hawaii, Vero Beach, Florida and Hilton Head, South Carolina.
This page is primarily focused on evaluating the Disney Vacation Club for those who will buy and use points mainly in a DVC resort at Walt Disney World and/or Disneyland, but there is some information on DVC resorts in general.
- Deciding Whether or Not to Join
- Dues Increases vs. Resort Rate Increases
- DVC Cost vs. Paying Cash for Your Resort Stay
- Opportunity Cost
- Other Expenses and Benefits
- Long-Term Issues
- Best Candidates for DVC Membership
- Resale or Direct From Disney?
- More Information
- Owner’s Locker
- Renting Disney Vacation Club Points
- Disney Vacation Club Members With Extra Points
There are eleven DVC resorts at Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom Villas, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Beach Club Villas, BoardWalk Villas, Villas at Grand Floridian, Old Key West, Riviera Resort, Saratoga Springs, Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge, Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Wilderness Lodge and the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows.
DVC operates on a “points” system that allows members to use their points in a flexible fashion at any of the DVC resorts. Those who have purchased their DVC points directly from Disney (or purchased resale DVC points prior to 3/21/11) can also use those points at Disney resort hotels in California, Florida, France, Hong Kong, Japan, the Disney Cruise Line, and other (non-Disney) vacations. While Disney likes to emphasize the flexibility of the points system and your ability to use them outside of Disney, the reality is that the most cost-effective use of DVC points is at the DVC resorts. Using points for cruises or regular hotel rooms just doesn’t give you as much “bang for your buck.” For that reason, DVC membership generally is not worth considering unless you plan to stay at a DVC resort at least every other year.
With the exception of Saratoga Springs and Old Key West, the DVC resorts at Walt Disney World and Disneyland are located right next to Disney’s resort hotels. The units are extremely nice — in many respects actually nicer than most of Disney’s hotel rooms.
Studio units at the Walt Disney World Disney Vacation Club resorts are about the size of Disney’s Deluxe hotel rooms (355 to 412 square feet) and include a mini-fridge and microwave. Most studios sleep 4 (plus one baby under age 3 in a crib) in two Queen beds or a Queen bed and a Queen- or Full-size sofa bed or pulldown bed. The studios at the Villas at the Grand Floridian, Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge, Riviera Resort and the Polynesian Villas & Bungalows can sleep 5; they have a pulldown bunk-size bed (slightly smaller than a Twin) under the television, which is big enough for a child or small adult.
The Studio units at the Polynesian Villas & Bungalows all have a connecting door to an adjoining Studio unit. You cannot book two guaranteed connecting rooms, but they have so many of them that requests for two connecting rooms will usually be honored.
1- and 2-bedroom villas are available at most of the resorts (all except the Polynesian). These rooms include a full kitchen (with all the basic cooking utensils, pots, pans and dishes supplied) and living room in addition to the bedroom(s), plus a whirlpool tub in the master bedroom and a washer/dryer in a closet.
- Most 1-bedroom villas sleep 4 (plus one baby under age 3 in a crib), with a King bed in the bedroom and a Full-size pullout sofa in the living room. At Animal Kingdom Kidani Villas, the 1-bedroom units sleep 5 (the ones at Animal Kingdom Jambo House sleep 4) and at Bay Lake Tower, Villas at Grand Floridian, Riviera, Aulani and Old Key West, all of the 1-bedroom units sleep 5. In the units with a higher capacity, there is an additional pullout Twin-size bed in the living room or pulldown bunk-size bed in the master bedroom. Most 1-bedroom villas have one bathroom, but at Animal Kingdom Kidani Villas and Bay Lake Tower, they have two bathrooms. At Riviera Resort and Saratoga Springs there is a Queen-size pulldown bed in the living room with a standard mattress that is much nicer for an adult or teenager.
- Most dedicated 2-bedroom villas sleep up to 8 (plus one baby under age 3 in a crib), with a King bed in one bedroom and two Queens or a Queen and a Full-size pullout sofa in the other bedroom, plus a Full-size pullout sofa in the living room. At Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani, Bay Lake Tower, Villas at Grand Floridian, Riviera, Aulani and Old Key West, all of the dedicated 2-bedroom units sleep 9. In the units with a higher capacity, there is an additional pullout single bed in the living room or pulldown bunk-size bed in the master bedroom. Most of the 2-bedrooms have two bathrooms, but at Animal Kingdom Kidani Villas and Bay Lake Tower, they have three bathrooms. At Riviera Resort and Saratoga Springs there is a Queen-size pulldown bed in the living room with a standard mattress that is much nicer for an adult or teenager.
- Lock-off 2-bedroom villas are a Studio unit and a 1-Bedroom unit with a connecting door, so they typically sleep 8, 9 or 10 guests (plus one baby under age 3 in a crib), depending on the specific occupancy limits for Studio and 1-Bedroom units in that resort. The one big exception is Boardwalk, where a lock-off 2-bedroom sleeps 8, officially, even though the Studio sleeps 5 and the 1-bedroom sleeps 4.
The Bungalows at the Polynesian Villas & Bungalows have two bedrooms and sleep 8 (plus one baby under age 3 in a crib). There is one King bed in the master bedroom, one Queen bed and one pull-down bunk-size bed in the second bedroom, and one pull-out Queen sofa bed and one pull-down bunk-size bed in the living room.
The Cabins at the Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Wilderness Lodge have two bedrooms and sleep 8 (plus one baby under age 3 in a crib). There is one King bed in the master bedroom, one Queen bed and one pull-down bunk-size bed in the second bedroom, and one pull-out Queen sofa bed and one sleeper chair in the living room.
The Treehouses at Saratoga Springs Resort have 3 bedrooms and sleep 9 (plus one baby under age 3 in a crib). There is one Queen bed each of the first two bedrooms; bunk beds in the third bedroom; and a Full-size pullout sofa and a Twin-size pullout chair in the living room.
The Tower Studios at the Riviera Resort have just the pull-down Queen bed – there is no normal bed in the room. That said, the pull-down beds at Riviera are very nice and really equivalent in comfort to a normal hotel bed.
Animal Kingdom Villas, Bay Lake Tower, BoardWalk Villas, Copper Creek Villas at Wilderness Lodge, Villas at Grand Floridian, Old Key West, Riviera Resort and Saratoga Springs also have 3-bedroom Grand Villas, for the ultimate in luxury and space — these can sleep up to 12 (plus one baby under age 3 in a crib) and offer a full kitchen, laundry facilities and more. The exact configurations vary, but generally there is a King bed in one bedroom; two Queens or a Queen and a Full-size pullout or pulldown sofa in each of the other two bedrooms; and a Full- or Queen-size pullout or pulldown sofa in the living room. Most Grand Villas have 4 bathrooms – one for each of the bedrooms, plus an extra off the living room area.
DVC members who purchase directly from Disney (or who purchased via resale before April 4, 2016) receive a few extra benefits, including discounts at certain Disney World and Disneyland restaurants and shops (these change frequently) and discounts on Walt Disney World Annual Passes.
Before purchasing a DVC membership, we think it’s a good idea to consider all of the costs and benefits, pros and cons. It’s really a very complex decision if you want to make sure you’re doing the wisest thing financially. In the sections below, we offer some thoughts on these issues.
That said, some people just want to lock in an annual vacation at Disney with family and friends, regardless of whether it’s a “good deal” or not. Ultimately many DVC members have joined because they found the membership emotionally satisfying — and that’s a hard thing to evaluate.
The initial cost of joining DVC is significant and you will pay substantial annual dues/maintenance fees, which go up every year.
It’s very important to realize that you while you are purchasing a deeded and transferable interest, it is not a real estate investment, but rather a prepaid vacation plan. Among other things, your points are not good forever: they expire on January 31st of 2042, 2054, 2057, 2060, 2064, 2066, 2068 or 2070 depending on which resort you buy into.
When considering a DVC membership, it’s a good idea to run some calculations. We did this, and also looked at spreadsheets done by others. It’s incredibly complex, because there are a zillion variables. Among the factors to consider are your vacation habits, whether you can afford the initial buy-in cost and its associated opportunity cost and whether you can handle the annual dues (be sure to account for annual dues increases).
This may not make us popular in this day and age of “instant gratification,” but realistically, it is hard to argue that DVC membership is a financially responsible decision if you don’t have the upfront cost in the bank. If we had to borrow the money, we definitely would not join. Naturally Disney will suggest otherwise, because it makes a lot of money on the financing. (Of course, we also think it’s unwise to finance a vacation on credit cards. Call us old-fashioned — but we bet most financial advisors will agree with us.)
The effect of annual dues increases on the total cost of DVC membership must be considered. One issue to keep in mind is that Disney can increase dues significantly from year to year, subject to a limit of 15% each year and a requirement to charge only for the actual operating expenses (including management of the operation) and reasonably expected necessary reserves.
A portion of your dues is allocated to a capital reserve fund for major refurbishments. Adjustments are always possible if the projected reserve needs vary from actual experience, although Disney has been in lodging business for many decades and has considerable experience in what long-term costs to expect. Special assessments are possible if something unforeseen occurs (i.e. hurricane damage).
Here are some examples of historical increases:
- Old Key West Resort, the oldest of the DVC resorts (thus having the longest track record) had dues of $2.51 in 1991 and had dues of $7.84 in 2020. That means it has averaged a 3.87% increase, compounded annually.
- BoardWalk Villas went from $3.70 in 1996 to $7.37 in 2020, an average annual compounded increase of 2.79%.
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge went from $3.62 in 2000 to $7.78 in 2020, an average annual compounded increase of 3.71%.
In short, it’s hard to gauge exactly what the annual increases will be. As the buildings age, it’s likely the increases will escalate. We have seen larger increases in recent years: in the last 10 years, the average increase is closer to 4%. The smaller resorts may have bigger increases because there are fewer members sharing the costs, but even that is speculation. In the scenarios expressed on this page, we assumed a 3.8% dues increase, compounded annually. If you think it will be higher, you should adjust your calculations accordingly.
Keep in mind, though, the cash cost of staying in one of Disney’s resort rooms has also gone up significantly over time, and the cash cost of a resort room starts out much higher than the dues for an equivalent stay. Like the DVC resort dues increases, the rate increases at the Disney resort hotels are not consistent. For example:
- In 1992 a standard room at Caribbean Beach Resort in Regular Season cost $77, while in 2021 it was $298 (weeknights) — a 4.61% increase, compounded annually.
- In 1997 a studio at Old Key West in regular season cost $229, while in 2021 it was $498 — a 3.16% increase, compounded annually.
- In 1998 a standard room at Yacht Club in regular season cost $280, while in 2021 it was $644 — a 3.53% increase, compounded annually.
By the way, “compounded annually” means that each year’s increase is added to the total cost the previous year, not the original rate you were paying at the beginning. So if your 2020 dues at Saratoga Springs Resort are $6.77 and go up 3.8%, your new dues in 2019 would be $7.03. If those new dues of $7.03 per point go up 3.8%, your new dues in 2020 would be $7.30, and so on.
Assuming 3.8% compounded annually, the 2020 $6.77 per point dues at Saratoga Springs resort would slowly rise to $23.18 per point by 2053. Of course, the value of a dollar will almost certainly be lower by then, due to inflation. Recent years have had extremely low inflation, much lower than the rate of room and dues increases, but that’s not guaranteed to continue.
We think it’s fair to guess that dues increases and resort rate increases will be roughly equivalent over time. We based our calculations below on that assumption. It’s a pretty reasonable assumption; DVC and regular resorts have almost identical cost structures. If you think resort rates will go up faster than DVC dues increases, that will tend to make DVC membership look more attractive. And if you think resort rates will go up slower than DVC dues increases, that tends to make DVC membership less attractive.
Let’s say you buy 160 points at Saratoga Springs Resort. For purposes of this example, 160 points would cover 11 nights of vacation in a Saratoga Springs Studio unit: a 6-night stay (including one weekend night) in Magic Season and a 5-night stay (including one weekend night) in Choice season. These roughly correspond with “regular” season for cash pricing of resort rooms.
- Your dues for 160 Saratoga Springs Resort points are $1,083 in 2020, which pays in advance for points that straddle 2020 and 2021. (This ignores the buy-in cost and the associated opportunity cost.)
- If you rented points from an owner to stay in a Saratoga Springs studio for the same dates at $19 a point, it would cost you $3,040.
- Maybe you’d be just as happy staying in the least expensive Disney Deluxe hotel room, and you’re able to get a modest discount on the hotel room. If you stayed at Wilderness Lodge in Regular Season with a 25% discount, 11 nights (5 weekday/2 Thursday/4 weekend) would cost you $4,592 with tax in 2021.
- If you paid the full “rack rate” charged by Disney to stay in a Saratoga Springs studio for 11 nights in Regular season(7 weekday/4 weekend), it would cost you $5,687 with tax in 2021.
All told, the $1,083 in dues compares pretty favorably to the much higher cost of $4,500+ to stay in a discounted cash room, or even the $3,000+ it would cost to rent the points from an owner.
Deep resort rate discounts (25% off or more), such as Annual Passholder rates and room discounts, are sometimes available at Walt Disney World. However, the number of discounted rooms has gone down each year lately, and in 2015 Disney eliminated their AAA discount, which was the only discount that was available almost all of the year. If your dates are flexible and you can go in the off-season you can probably get some kind of discount, but if you need to go during school vacations room discounts are going to be harder to get. There are no similar “discounts” on the number of points required for a DVC stay.
Another factor to consider before buying into DVC is the “opportunity cost” — what you are losing by tying up your money with Disney, instead of using it for another purpose.
Let’s say you put the same amount you would have used to buy a DVC membership into investments paying 7% annual interest. Each each year you add the same amount of money you would have paid in DVC fees. Then you pay cash for your vacation each year out of this investment account.
When you compare such an investment against a DVC purchase, the results will depend on a number of factors, including your vacation habits (how much time will you be spending at Disney World, Disneyland and other DVC resorts in the next 35-50 years? what kind of lodgings do you prefer?), the initial buy-in cost, the annual dues (be sure to account for annual dues increases), and any interest you would be paying if you finance the purchase.
Every family can generate a different scenario. We’ve done some calculations based on certain assumptions, and the results are listed below. The assumptions include NOT financing the purchase. We also assumed there would be equivalent annual increases in dues, resort rates and cost to rent points. Most importantly, we assumed you didn’t get any incentives at buy-in. If you were able to buy your points at a reduced “incentive” price, a DVC purchase would be even more attractive than described below.
In the following scenarios, a 160-point direct DVC purchase at $185/point beats investing the money (buy-in amount plus annual fees) and paying cash for your annual vacations:
- You vacation for 10 nights every year in a Deluxe resort or DVC Studio unit at full “rack rates.” In this scenario, you’ll start saving money after 10 years or less of DVC ownership.
- You stay 10 nights at a Deluxe resort each year, with a 25% discount (approx. 12 years to break even).
- You stay 7 nights at a Deluxe resort each year at full “rack rates” (approx. 14 years to break even).
- You rent 160 points from a DVC owner each year, starting at $19 a point every year (approx. 23 years to break even).
DVC purchase is not cost-effective in the following scenarios:
- You vacation 7 nights per year at a Moderate resort.
- You rent 160 points every other year from a DVC owner, starting at $19 a point.
The break-even amount in 2021 dollars seems to be around $2400, when compared to 160 full-price points. If you would normally average less than that per year for your accommodations, DVC is probably not going to save you money. If you spend more than that per year, on average, and you can afford to write a check for the buy-in amount, it’s worth considering a DVC purchase.
Obviously, if you can buy DVC points for less than $195, that changes the calculations considerably. If you can buy DVC points for $120 per point, that should pay off relative to almost any scenario in just a few years. And if you buy points for a lot more than $195, that makes the payoff much slower.
Even if you only go to Walt Disney World every 2 or 3 years, DVC may still be a decent bet. You can bank your annual points, allowing you to skip a year. In fact, by carefully banking and borrowing points, it’s even possible to skip two years and only use the points every third year. Or you can rent out excess points, which under normal circumstances should net you significantly more than the dues cost for those points.
If you want to see how the above scenarios were calculated, right-click on this link and download the Excel file. Note that calculations were based on 2021 numbers and assume 3.8% annual compounded increases in all figures used.
We first created the spreadsheet linked above in 2008. It’s interesting to see how our projections, based on a constant 3.2% growth rate (our original estimate back in 2008), panned out over a 10-year time frame. We projected in 2008 that by 2018, 10 nights in a Saratoga Springs studio would cost $4,855, and the actual cost in 2018 was $4,360. We projected 10 nights at the Wilderness Lodge would cost $4,239, and it was actually $4,517. We projected 10 nights at a Moderate (Caribbean Beach) would cost $2,574 and it was actually $2,326. We projected Animal Kingdom Villas dues would be $6.45 per point, and they were actually $6.76. We projected that renting 160 points in 2018 would cost $2,411, and it actually cost (via David’s Vacation Rentals) $2,560. All things considered, we did pretty well, which gives us confidence that our projections are in the right ballpark. Since 2018, all of the prices went up sharply, especially in 2019, which caused us to revise our estimate for the future to 3.8%; we’ll see if that holds up going forward.
One last note on this topic: the scenarios above do not take into account a major benefit to investing the money instead of spending it on a DVC membership: your money remains liquid and available in case of emergency or changes in your financial situation. If you invest the money and want to stop vacationing at Disney World, you can easily divert the money to other uses. Thus far, the resale market for DVC points remains quite robust, and you can easily sell your points if you no longer want them, but obviously that could change in the future, especially if there’s a big financial downturn.
Remember that the cost of accommodations is actually a small fraction of the overall cost of a vacation. Walt Disney World Platinum annual passes for a family of four, with the DVC discount, cost over $3100 in 2018. Meals for a 10-day vacation can easily run $1800 or more for a family. Then you have to account for airfare (or gas to drive there), souvenirs, bottled water, extra ticketed events such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and so on.
DVC members do qualify for some discounts that may help with these additional vacation expenses (though only if they buy at least some of their points direct from Disney). They save a substantial amount on Annual Passes at Walt Disney World, a small amount on first-time Annual Passes at Disneyland, and get some restaurant and merchandise discounts (but this varies and is always subject to change). Also, the villas have full kitchens, which could help a bit with the costs, since some meals can be made in the unit.
DVC members and their guests may choose to purchase a Dining Plan when staying on “points” at a Walt Disney World DVC resort. The Dining Plans are available to the general public only as part of a vacation package, so this is a nice benefit for those DVC members who like the Disney Dining Plans.
Another DVC benefit: you don’t pay extra when more than 2 adults are staying in one DVC unit. This is true whether you use your own points, rent points or pay cash. By contrast, the Disney resort hotels charge extra if you have more than 2 adults (defined as 18 and older) in a room. Depending on the ages of the people in your group, this may save you a bit.
DVC members who are staying on points at a Walt Disney World DVC resort get FREE self-service laundry: laundry rooms near Studio accommodations have the machines rigged so no coins are required; a washer/dryer and a starter packet of laundry soap are included in 1-Bedroom and larger units.
You may be able to deduct the property tax portion of your annual dues on your federal and/or state tax return. For instance, in 2018 Old Key West owners paid $1.299 per point in property taxes, out of their total $6.7245 per point annual dues. For an owner with 150 points, that translated into $194.85 in property taxes that might be deductible. Consult your tax advisor for details.
DVC contracts last a long time. Will you still want to go to Disney World every year, 25 years from now? 35 years from now? If your lifestyle changes, you get tired of Disney vacations, or you suffer financial reverses, the dues can become a burden. Then you’re faced with selling your membership, or renting out your points to cover the dues. Realistically, there is a reason why there are always DVC resales available: people do get in over their heads, or just change their minds.
A DVC owner who became a member over 12 years ago mentioned to MouseSavers.com founder Mary Waring that she might not make the same decision today. One thing she didn’t consider, she now realizes, is that your lifestyle changes over time. When she became a member, she had small children and went to Disney World every year. Now her kids are in college, and she says when that tuition bill arrives, she sometimes regrets owing $3000 in annual DVC dues.
The single biggest reason people sell timeshares is that they can no longer afford the membership fees, which inevitably go up and up. This is why you’ll find so many (non-DVC) timeshare memberships being given away (or nearly so) on eBay and elsewhere, with the stipulation that the new owner takes over the fees. However, we have never seen a DVC membership being given away, because there is an active DVC resale market. DVC has retained its value better than most timeshares, partly because Disney buys back some resales under its “right of first refusal” clause, which helps to keep the resale prices up. Currently resellers are getting about 50-70% of full retail price, once they pay the associated sales costs. Additionally, there is a healthy demand for DVC point rentals, so it’s often possible for owners to cover their dues by renting out their points.
As DVC memberships get closer and closer to their expiration dates, it’s likely that resale prices will drop. If you are contemplating the purchase of a resale for one of the resorts that expires in 2042, it’s possible the resale value might drop significantly at some point, particularly since there are other DVC resorts that don’t expire until 2057 or beyond. Given the success of DVC, there is every reason to expect that additional resorts will be built, with later and later expiration dates.
On the other hand, there is a major advantage in your DVC membership having an expiration date: eventually you can get out of it! Most other timeshares are sold in perpetuity, which is not, in our opinion, a benefit: it just means the membership fees will never, ever end, so you are stuck paying those fees forever unless you can sell the membership or are willing to stop paying and let it be repossessed (and potentially take a hit to your credit rating).
DVC membership might make sense if you meet most or all of these criteria:
- You have the cash in hand to pay all of the upfront costs of membership without borrowing.
- The cost of dues does not appear to present a financial hardship based on your current expectations.
- You vacation at Walt Disney World, Disneyland and/or Disney’s beach resorts (Vero Beach, Hilton Head, Aulani) frequently: ideally at least once every two years.
- You plan to continue staying at DVC resorts far enough into the future to make the membership at least break even.
- You prefer to stay in Deluxe or DVC accommodations and/or you stay a long time (10 days or more per year).
- You are able to plan your vacations well in advance — ideally 7 to 11 months out.
Generally only the newest resorts are available for immediate purchase directly through Disney. You can ask Disney to put you on a waiting list to purchase the other resorts, though they are supposedly “sold out.” If Disney exercises its “right of first refusal” on a resale, or it gets back points through foreclosure, it will turn around and sell those points at current full market rates to the next person on the waiting list. For popular, small resorts like Beach Club or Grand Californian, the waiting lists can stretch for several years. For bigger resorts like Saratoga Springs, you may be able to get points immediately or within a few weeks or months.
You can purchase a contract at any DVC resort from current owners who want to get rid of their memberships, through the resale market. If your offer is too low, Disney will exercise its “right of first refusal” and buy it out from under you — which is fine for the seller because they get paid either way, but a waste of the buyer’s time. Be sure to research before making your offer, so that you have a reasonable expectation of actually getting the contract. Typically resale contracts sell for 50%-70% of what Disney is selling the same resorts new, with occasional screaming deals being reported where people are getting contracts for 30% of retail or even lower. Those are rare; don’t count on being able to get that kind of deal. Most of the time, an offer that low will be taken by Disney under its right of first refusal. However, even if you buy at 70% of retail price, that’s a pretty huge savings on a purchase this large.
If you just want to buy into DVC as quickly as possible so you can start using it right away, buying direct from Disney is usually the best bet. You can usually complete the transaction instantly if you’re already at Walt Disney World, and even over the phone it usually only takes a day or two to purchase a contract. Disney expedites the deed recording process and you can usually get a reservation as soon as you sign the paperwork, even before the deed is officially recorded with the state.
If you want to pay the lowest amount possible, buying resale is usually the best bet. You just have to understand that the process can be slow, sometimes frustratingly slow. With a resale, you first have to find a good contract. If you want a specific size at a smaller resort, it can take some time for one to come up. Once you find one and make an offer, the seller may decide to take a different offer, and then you have to wait for another one to come along. Once the offer is accepted, it has to be sent to Disney for them to decide whether to exercise their right of first refusal, followed by the titling and deed recording process. Disney then needs to get you registered as a member in their system. It’s usually about 60-90 days from the acceptance of your offer to your membership being ready to use, assuming Disney doesn’t exercise the right of first refusal. If Disney does take the contract back via right of first refusal, it costs you nothing, but now you have to go back to the beginning and find a new contract to make an offer on. We can tell you from personal experience that the process can feel maddening.
Another difference between buying direct and resale is the ease and cost of financing. Disney has their own lending arm, so they can get you financing very quickly and easily, whereas financing a resale purchase can be a little trickier. There are third-party timeshare lenders, and some of the resale companies can help facilitate the process of taking out a loan with one of them. The rates for third-party financing tend to be pretty high, though Disney’s rates are also high. To be honest, the costs of financing a DVC membership, no matter who you take the loan with, strike us as far too high. If you don’t have enough savings to buy DVC, we suggest starting a savings fund to do so. If you do decide to finance the purchase, evaluate all possible options first before just taking the Disney financing. Sometimes it makes more sense to use a lower-interest line of credit from your bank or credit union, if that’s an option.
If purchasing directly from Disney, you can buy exactly the number of points you want, whereas with resale you have to buy a whole contract, and you either need to be flexible about size or wait for one that’s the size you want to come up for sale. On the other hand, when you buy direct, there’s a minimum number of points you have to buy as a new member (usually 150 points, but sometimes they’ll sell less), but you can buy any size contract via resale, down to the minimum size possible (25 points). Keep in mind, though, that there are lots of 100-180 point contracts available on the resale market, but very few that are really small or really large.
Important note: newly purchased resale points do not have all the same privileges as points purchased directly from Disney. All resale points, no matter when purchased, are valid for reservations at all the Disney Vacation Club resorts as well as via RCI exchanges, Club Cordial and Club Intrawest. Resale points purchased after March 20, 2011 are not valid for certain exchanges: non-DVC Disney resorts at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and international Disney parks or for Disney Cruise Line, the Concierge Collection (about a dozen high-end hotels and resorts that have a direct relationship with DVC) or the Adventurer Collection (Adventures by Disney). In addition, members who only own points purchased resale after April 4, 2016 are also not eligible for most ancillary perks like Annual Pass discounts and dining and merchandise discounts. People who own at least 150 points purchased direct from Disney, or purchased via resale before April 4, 2016, are still eligible for the various discounts. And finally, resale DVC points purchased after January 19, 2019 cannot be used to book at the newly built Riviera Resort (unless they are Riviera Resort points), and points for the Riviera Resort that were purchased via resale will only be eligible for booking at the Riviera resort, not other DVC resorts. They will retain the ability to trade via RCI to other non-DVC resorts around the world. Presumably these same restrictions will be applied to any new resorts built in the future. Owners of points at any of the original 14 resorts retain the same ability to cross-book at any of them, regardless of when or how you bought your points, and that is not likely to change, as it’s written into the deeds at those resorts.
Bear in mind that the redemption options that were removed in 2011 for resale buyers are a very poor use of DVC points. The special exchange options like Disney Cruises or the Concierge Collection require a very large number of points, and the value you are getting for your points is very low – so low that if you bought DVC points direct and only used them for exchanges like cruises, you might never break even on the purchase. So roughly speaking when you use a year’s worth of DVC points for Disney Collection or Concierge Collection, you are getting no real benefit, because you’re pushing out your break-even date on the initial purchase by approximately one more year. In pretty much every case, you can rent out your points for cash, use the cash to buy the cruise or other exchange, and have money left over. The most financially valuable use of DVC points is to stay at DVC resorts, and points purchased in the resale market will allow you to do that. But if the ability to use DVC points to go on a Disney cruise or stay in a non-DVC Disney resort is important to you, even though the value you’ll receive for your points is low — well, then you will have to buy your points from Disney directly.
As for the special discounts that are reserved to people who own direct-purchased points, those are nice to have, but you really want to consider the cost/benefits carefully for your situation. The discount for WDW annual passes is the big one. A family of 4 could save around $400 per year on Platinum or Platinum Plus passes by buying them with the DVC discount, and could save more like $1500 by buying Gold passes, which cover almost as many days as a Platinum pass (minus big holidays), and are not available to the general public. The merchandise and food discounts are unlikely to amount to nearly as much money, unless you plan to eat at lot of very expensive restaurants or buy a massive number of souvenirs. Keep in mind that you get discounts as long as you own at least 150 direct-purchased points. If you have 2000 points purchased resale and 150 purchased direct from Disney, you get the same discounts as if you had bought them all direct. It’s certainly a viable option to buy a large number of points via resale, then purchase a minimum-size add-on from Disney to get the discounts. Since 150 direct-purchased points is the minimum to be eligible for discounts, if you could buy points for $95 per point via resale, and Disney is charging $200 per point direct, then you are spending ($200 – $95) * 150 = $15,750 extra to get access to the special discounts. That may actually make sense for some folks, especially if the Gold annual passes are a good match for your travel patterns, but our advice is to run the numbers carefully.
There are a handful of other restrictions on buyers who only own resale points: they can’t go to DVC member gatherings or parties. They can’t go on the DVC member cruise. They can’t go on member-exclusive Adventures by Disney trips. They can’t use the member lounge at Epcot. These perks don’t have any easy-to-figure cash value, but it’s frustrating to feel like a “second class” member. As mentioned before, if you own at least 150 direct-purchased points you get access to all of these, so if you care deeply about these perks you can buy a 150-point add-on direct from Disney and gain “first class” membership status.
Resale buyers still have the same core privileges for booking DVC resorts as those who buy from Disney: the ability to book rooms 11 months in advance at your home resort or 7 months in advance for other DVC resorts (except for Riviera resale buyers, who can only book at Riviera). Those core privileges make up the primary value of DVC. It would be difficult for Disney to change the core privileges, because they’re detailed in the deeds and contracts and are considered to be part of the legal property you’re buying. Things like merchandise discounts and invitations to member gatherings are considered ancillary perks or “sales incentives” and are not part of the legal property detailed in the deed.
If you are interested in buying a resale, several Florida real estate companies specialize in DVC resales — try an internet search for “DVC Resales” to start the process. We recommend dealing only with companies that focus on DVC sales, as opposed to companies that just generically list lots of timeshare contracts. You should expect that every contract listed will show the use year, how many points are available in the current year and the next, and how much per point the person wants. If they don’t list those things, you’re not dealing with a company that knows how DVC works, and working with them is going to be a struggle.
Disney offers special incentives for new buyers on the DVC resorts that are currently available for direct sale. These offers are subject to change at any time and may not be available when you make your purchase. A minimum purchase of 100 points is usually required for new buyers.
A good source for finding the most recent incentives is DVCNews.com.
Buying a DVC membership is a rational, financially viable option for some people: namely people with the cost of the initial purchase already sitting in the bank, who plan to stay in the higher-end accommodations at Walt Disney World, Disneyland and/or Disney’s beach resorts on a regular basis.
A DVC purchase is a way of committing to an annual Disney vacation with family and friends. For some people, that may outweigh any financial considerations. Only you can determine if DVC membership makes sense for your situation.
If you have the patience, the savings you get buying a resale contract can be very good. You need to run all the numbers carefully and decide what’s important to you, but don’t dismiss buying resale out of hand. Of course, don’t dismiss buying direct out of hand either; direct is faster and easier and for certain resorts isn’t even that much more money. Evaluate both and see what works for you.
If you only visit Disney Vacation Club destinations occasionally, you may find that renting DVC points from an owner is actually a better deal than buying a DVC membership. See below for information on how to rent points.
Thanks to Jim C for suggesting many helpful points, providing additional data, correcting errors here and there, and looking over our calculations. Thanks to Don M for suggesting different ways of running the numbers and for vetting the results. Thanks to Sue Pisaturo of Small World Vacations for some excellent suggestions and historical hotel rate information. Thanks to the members of the DIS DVC Forum for useful insights and suggestions.
DVCNews.com is an excellent source of information on Disney Vacation Club. The main focus is reporting news that is of interest to DVC members, but the site also offers room descriptions and floorplans, DVC points charts (including charts for destinations like Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, etc.), details on current DVC purchase prices and promotional offers, and so on.
DVC members who are regular visitors to Walt Disney World should look into a service called Owner’s Locker:
Owner’s Locker provides you with a container to store personal items that you regularly use at Walt Disney World, such as toiletries, an air bed, a water filter, your favorite liquor — just about anything that makes your stay more pleasant.
Owner’s Locker picks the container up from your resort when you check out and stores it in a climate-controlled warehouse until you return.
Here’s the great part: Owner’s Locker will have your container waiting for you at your resort’s bell stand when you come back!
- Disney Vacation Club Members get a 20% discount off the Owner’s Locker Membership Fee. To qualify for the discount, DVC Members must use a special link that can only be found on the DVC member website.
Renting Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points is a little-known way to stay in a deluxe-level Disney resort for much less. DVC members own timeshare “points” that they can use for stays at Disney Vacation Club resorts. Sometimes owners are unable to use the points before they expire, so they will “rent” them to others.
The DVC resorts where you can stay on rented points include:
- Eleven DVC resorts at Walt Disney World in Florida: Animal Kingdom Villas, Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary Resort, Beach Club Villas, BoardWalk Villas, Villas at Grand Floridian, Old Key West Resort, Riviera Resort, Saratoga Springs Resort, Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge, Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Wilderness Lodge and Polynesian Villas & Bungalows.
- One DVC resort at Disneyland in California: Villas at Grand Californian
- Two DVC Atlantic Coast beach resorts: Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort
- One DVC resort on Oahu, Hawaii: Aulani Resort & Spa
Disney allows the general public to book DVC units at very high rates through its regular resort reservations system, when available, calling them “Disney Deluxe Villas.” However, renting points from an owner will typically cost you about half what you’ll pay if you reserve direct through Disney. Not only is renting a great deal, there are some fabulous larger units available that are perfect for big families, groups of family and friends, and people who just plain want a little more room: 1-Bedroom Villas, 2-Bedroom Villas and 3-Bedroom Grand Villas. (Learn more about the different units.) 1-Bedroom and larger Villas are insanely expensive if you book them through Disney, but renting points from an owner brings such units within reach.
DVC reservations are not as “forgiving” as hotel reservations. Once the owner makes a reservation with points, they are subject to complex rules and may not be easily redeposited in the owner’s account. That’s the risk the owner is taking with you. For that reason, most DVC points rentals can’t be changed or cancelled.
If you’re considering a rental, you’ll need to do some research to learn how the point system works. The points needed for a stay vary tremendously depending on the season. Weekend nights “cost” more points than weekdays, for example. To figure out how many points your stay would require, you can consult the Cost Calculator at David’s Vacation Club Rentals.
DVC rentals offer less-frequent maid service than paying cash directly to Disney for the same unit. When renting from a DVC member, you get the usual DVC maid service, which includes a trash service (no cleaning) every day of your stay, plus towel replacement on the fourth day and a “full service” cleaning on the eighth day.
Our strong recommendation is that you use a reliable points broker called David’s Vacation Club Rentals to set up your rental. David’s service has been around since 2005 and it’s accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Your rental transaction is completely protected against fraud and mistakes if you use David’s Vacation Club Rentals. You don’t have to worry about being ripped off and the service makes it easy and seamless to rent points.
Alternatively (and usually a little more cheaply), you can rent points directly through a DVC member. Bear in mind that there is no guarantee that the dates and/or resorts you want will be available. You’ll have to find an owner who is interested in renting points and willing to check your dates. A member can reserve a unit in his “home” resort up to 11 months in advance and at any other DVC resort up to 7 months in advance.
Prior to 2005, MouseSavers.com founder Mary Waring rented points directly from DVC owners on four occasions and in each case had no problems at all. In fact, for years we had never heard of anyone being ripped off in a DVC rental situation, but starting in 2006 we began hearing of some instances in which renters were the victims of fraud, and stopped renting directly from owners. We now use David’s Vacation Club Rentals exclusively and think it’s well worth paying a little more for the peace of mind.
If you want to arrange a private transaction with a DVC owner, be sure to read the information below.
Unfortunately, even if you do your homework, it’s possible for an owner to take your money and then cancel your reservation, or default on his loan or membership fees, either of which would render his points void. You just don’t know for sure, until the moment you check in, whether the reservation the owner made for you is still active and valid. In a direct transaction with an owner, you can lose all your money, and there is no way to prevent this.
To reduce your risk, do at least the following:
- Ask for references and check the references.
- Get the owner’s full name, address and phone number before sending any payment. To the extent possible, confirm that the information is valid. (For instance, call and talk with the owner. Also, consider going to Google and typing in the person’s name and contact info to see if you find any mentions that will help you confirm the owner’s identity.)
- Confirm that the person is a DVC owner by running a search at the Florida Comptroller’s Office website (assuming you are renting at Walt Disney World). There are similar searches available on the websites for Vero Beach (Florida), Hilton Head (South Carolina), Grand Californian (California) and Aulani (Hawaii).
- Typically you want to search for the owner’s name in the form “LASTNAME FIRSTNAME” like “DOE JOHN” for someone named John Doe.
- Make sure to search for both the name they gave you and any variations, like “William” for “Bill” or “Will.”
- You should find a deed with their name as the Grantee, and some variation on “Disney Vacation Development Inc” as the Grantor. If you also find a mortgage document, that’s not a problem, but if you can see any foreclosure documents under their name that’s a problem.
- If you don’t find a deed for them, that’s not a good sign. Are they renting out someone else’s points, like a family member’s? You may want to get that cleared up before you proceed, or just move on to another owner.
- NEVER pay a total stranger by using a “cash equivalent” such as Western Union or money order. We also don’t recommend paying by check (especially cashier’s check). The safest way to pay is to use a credit card. (That isn’t difficult. Members of the public can pay and receive payments by credit card through PayPal.) Personally, credit card payment is the only method we would ever agree to use, because it is the only method that provides you with some protection against fraud.
- There should be a written contract or letter of agreement, signed by both of you, spelling out exactly what the rental will cost, when payment is due, dates of the stay, etc.
- Make sure the owner sends you the confirmation from Disney. Be aware that Disney Vacation Club will not speak with renters or give them any information. Only DVC owners can speak with DVC about reservations. Once you have the confirmation, you can usually verify it at mydisneyreservation.com/dvc.
- If something sounds “off,” don’t proceed. It’s not worth taking the risk.
Do-It-Yourself Rental Resources
DIS Boards DVC rent/trade board. Be sure to read the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) post on that board before trying a rental. We recommend renting only from people who have participated on the DIS Boards for over a year and who have made a significant number of posts about general subjects (not just offers to rent).
Redweek.com is a major site listing all sorts of timeshare rentals. You can look at general lists of available rentals without charge, but to see any specifics or learn how to contact the owners, you’ll have to pay $14.99 for a 1-year site membership. Thanks to Kent and Joyce A for the suggestion.
MouseOwners.com no longer hosts a rent/trade board, but is still a good resource for people interested in advice and discussion about DVC. If you’re having trouble understanding the various date limits or strategies to get a difficult room, generally people here are friendly and helpful.
We personally would not rent DVC points from listings on eBay or Craigslist. We are sure there are some legitimate owners offering rentals there, but unfortunately in our experience, both sites are rife with fraud these days.
If you are a DVC member and you’ve considered renting out your points but don’t have the extra time it takes to complete a rental, or if you just don’t want to handle the responsibility of the rental process, consider David’s Vacation Club Rentals. David can provide the guidance and the guests to make the rental process very easy and painless for you.
Full details of David’s rental program are available in the “DVC Owners” section.