If you’re in the market to purchase Disney Vacation Club, you might have heard about recent resale restrictions. Now, DVC resale contracts purchased for the original 14 resorts at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and 3 stand-alone locations will only be able to use their points at those 14 existing resorts.
In other words, resale buyers who purchase today will not be able to use their points at at Disney’s Riviera Resort, Disneyland Hotel Villas, and whatever else is built after that. Moreover, buyers who purchase points for those upcoming resorts via the resale market will not be able to use their points anywhere else. This is just the latest restriction in a series made to discourage resale purchases and encourage prospective buyers to purchase directly from Disney.
A couple of years ago, Disney Vacation Club announced another rule change that new DVC Members who do not purchase their ownership interest directly will not have access to “Membership Extras,” such as exclusive Member experiences and discounts.
At that time, Disney’s explanation for the move was that it’d be a “very positive step to ensure that, going forward, our Members who purchase directly from Disney Vacation Club receive a premium advantage — in addition to all the magic that Disney has to offer.” From Disney’s perspective, this move makes sense.
However, let’s call it what it is: a protectionist attempt to reverse the trend of declining direct sales. It is motivated by the desire to offer a “premium advantage” to those who purchase directly from Disney to the same extent that a bear’s love for salmon is motivated by the US crude oil market. Which is to say, in no way whatsoever.
This resale restriction hurts current owners by virtue of decreasing the value of their contracts–the only benefit here is to Disney. It’s another way to push potential customers who are aware of the resale market towards a direct purchase.
In this era of information, it’s much easier to quickly gain perspective with a quick Google search (just look at the comments from readers on ourDisney Vacation Club Buying Guidewho found it after hearing the sales pitch). This is something with which timeshare salespeople did not have to contend in the 1990s. Not only was there no highly visible resale market allowing for easy price comparisons, but there was no in-depth financial analysis of timeshares online.
It was much easier for potential customers to get caught up in the sales pitch without the counter-balance of the actual monetary implications of the purchase, and blindly buy. (Fortunately, in the 1990s, DVC was an unequivocally good deal!) Free access to this information has undoubtedly made selling timeshares more difficult, even for Disney Vacation Club which offers a premium that avoids many of the pitfalls of traditional timeshares.
As an existing DVC Member, I can’t really complain. While this will likely cause a slight dip in the value of our contract, Disney’s practices including right of first refusal (ROFR) and price increases safeguard the value of our contract, preventing it from becoming a money pit like other timeshares.
Moreover, the market value of our contract at Saratoga has actually increased in the years since we made the purchase, despite the restrictions. That’s remarkable given that it’s duration-limited with the end date now ~10 years closer.
The question is whether Disney’s restrictions on Membership Extras or resort usage should make those considering Disney Vacation Club look at a direct purchase instead of one via resale. For the purposes of brevity, we will assume you’re going to make a purchase one way or the other, and will thus overlook the threshold question of whether it’s a smart purchase to begin with.
Not being able to use your DVC points at Riviera or Reflections, by contrast, is a bigger deal. Even then, it’s arguably not that big of a deal. The 14 “legacy” Disney Vacation Club resorts are in literally all of the prime locations at Walt Disney World. Disney Vacation Club has been added to every single monorail resort, and has nearly full coverage at the resorts near Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.
At this point, Disney Vacation Club has exhausted all of the ideal add-on locations and is building resorts on parcels of land that are far from ideal. In other words, any new resort at this point will be located on “the leftovers” and have to use some other hook to lure members away from the legacy resorts. Arguably, the Riviera has that with the Skyliner. For some, Reflections may have that with its secluded location among the wilderness.
Next, let’s turn to Membership Extras, starting with the main one: discounted Annual Passes at Walt Disney World. On the Platinum Passes, Disney Vacation Club members save $145 per person (if you’re able to make use of the Gold Pass, it’s over a $200/person discount), per year for everyone in the same household. For a family of 4, that’s $580 per year. That’s a pretty significant discount, and could be enough to close the gap on its own, so let’s have a little fun with math.
Since Saratoga Springs Resort is our home resort and the one I recommend to many prospective purchasers, we’ll use it for our example. If you’re dead-set on a different resort, you will want to do the math yourself with current prices, because the smaller gap between resale and direct prices dramatically change the comparison.
At the time of publication, purchasing Saratoga directly from Disney costs $205 per point, making it one of the more attractive Walt Disney World DVC resorts. By contrast, average prices on the resale market are around $125 for contracts of 150 points. We’ll use that 150 level because that’s about the “average” baseline Disney Vacation Club contract.
With those numbers, you’re saving $12,000 on the initial purchase price by buying resale. In order to recoup that $12,000 savings, you need to purchase 4 Annual Passes at the current discount levels for ~15 years. For your sake, I hope your kids aren’t still living in your basement in 15 years. Instead, let’s say 4 Annual Passes for 10 years and 2 Annual Passes for 20 years after that. At least, that’s the simple math.
This still is not an apples to apples comparison. In the case of buying resale, you’re saving that money on the initial purchase price, rather than over the course of time. If you are financing your purchase (something we do not recommend with Disney Vacation Club), you should always take the upfront savings, and buy via resale. The interest on the difference in the purchase prices will negate any long-term savings.
If you’re paying cash, the decision is a bit more difficult. One thing we’ve repeatedly stressed on this blog–and by far the most overlooked element of calculating the true value of Disney Vacation Club–is the time value of money, or the principle that money at the present time is worth more than the same amount in the future.
The earning capacity of today’s money makes it worth more than the same amount in the future. Think about it this way: if you had $9,000 in your hand today, you could place that money into a low-risk investment and have significantly more than $12,000 in 20-30 years, which is the timeline of your AP savings.
Since you’re paying for all of your future Disney Vacation Club vacations upfront as opposed to when the expenses are actually incurred, large portions of the initial investment in Disney Vacation Club could be invested in other ways if you were instead paying for your room each year as you vacationed.
Suffice to say, in the first year you’d earn $600 on that $12,000 assuming a 5% return, which itself comes very close to equaling the AP discount. That’s simple math without compound interest–in actuality, the return increases with each subsequent year the money is invested.
This is one reason why the purported savings claimed with Disney Vacation Club are dubious. With that said, it’s an admittedly big assumption that people will invest money instead of purchasing Disney Vacation Club. It’s fair to say that for most people, it’s either buying DVC or spending the money they could use towards the initial purchase price some other way.
In the case of these AP savings, it seems more reasonable to crunch the numbers this way. You’re buying DVC this way, regardless. It’s thus a matter of how to buy and where to allocate savings (over time on the APs, or up-front on the purchase price).
Of course, this assumes Annual Passes go back on sale soon and for their previous price points. As of 2023, no new Annual Passes are for sale to anyone except Florida residents. However, we expect that to change very soon. (See When Will Walt Disney World Resume Annual Pass Sales in 2023?for more insight and predictions.)
While this is far and away the largest Membership Extra that has an ascribable value, there are plenty of other perks. This means no DVC dining discounts, no shopping discounts, no access to Top of the World and Journey into Imagination Lounges, and no access to Member events, like the Moonlight Magic Parties. (Here’s a list of all perks for Walt Disney World.)
I think it unwise to factor dining and shopping discounts into any math for two reasons. First, many DVC Members have access to these same or better discounts via other means (Annual Passes, Disney Visa, etc.) Second, you need to keep in mind that all of these are incidental perks that are subject to change. The lack of Annual Passes for DVC Members as of 2023 should underscore this.
Disney itself states as much: “You should not purchase…real estate interest in a Disney Vacation Club Resort in reliance upon the continued availability…[of] Membership Extras…These incidental benefits are subject to change or termination without notice…” (This is Disney’s way of trying to rebut any reliance upon the perks as inducement for entering into the contract; if DVC guides make explicit representations as to the perks, such that the perks are selling points, they aren’t quite so easily “disclaimed away.”)
Even before AP sales paused, the history of the Annual Pass discount for DVC Members demonstrates that this perk has fluctuated over time, ranging from free passes in the 90s to nothing at all from 2000-05. With that said, I would be surprised to see the discount disappear completely.
It’s a selling point for Membership, and the blowback from owners would be substantial. DVC relies on goodwill from its Members to make add-on purchases, and that would significantly damage such goodwill. The amount of the discount can and will change over time, but I think it’s unlikely to ever disappear–at least as long as Disney is building new Disney Vacation Club properties.
So, where does that leave a decision to purchase DVC directly or via resale? If we were in the market for Disney Vacation Club today, this would be a tough decision. I really hate the idea of forfeiting the AP discount, as many people will derive a lot of value from it. I’m also concerned that going forward DVC will actually increase Membership Perks to help bolster sales and draw a greater distinction between direct and resale purchases. On the other hand, direct prices are nothing short of excessive and the gap between the two is only growing.
If you’re in the market to purchase Disney Vacation Club, what do you plan on doing in light of these new restrictions? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? If you’re an existing Member, what do you think? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!