Point purchase price is not the entire story of DVC ownership cost.

First, a little background. We bought into DVC in November 2019. Like most everyone who purchases DVC or is thinking about it, we did A TON of research. I'm a numbers guy. So, I created spreadsheets, compared point charts, looked at different financing options, and we tried our best to buy with our brains and not just our hearts. When it was all said and done, it was just over 3 years from when we first spoke to a DVC rep until we actually bought. Still, after all of that, I didn't come across or think to create these calculations: the lifetime total cost of DVC ownership based on historical trends.

That's a mouthful. In plain english, this is the total amount you'll spend from when you sign your contract until it expires. How much is that? A big number. But keep in mind a contract spans decades. Buying into Riveria today will let you enjoy DVC membership for the next 50 years.

I think the main considration for pretty much everyone when considering DVC is: will it save me money?

The short answer is probably yes. If you plan to go to Disney at least every other year for the next 40+ years, you can essentially pre-pay with DVC and more than likely save money.

How much you will save and is that worth ponying up a good portion of money up-front? Well, now we're getting to the heart of the matter.

There is no such thing as apples to apples. Everyone values aspects of their vacation differently.

There's a really hard (because it's subjective) comparison problem when shopping for DVC. There is no such thing as apples to apples. Everyone values aspects of their vacation differently. If you don't have DVC, you (pretty much) are staying in a standard hotel room. With DVC, you have you selection of room types. Even a night's stay in a studio DVC room is not really comparable to a hotel room. Additionally, you could compare DVC to a 2 bedroom rental off property. But then you'd have to quantify off vs on property. Then there are the “cash rates” for DVC. But c'mon, are we really going to pay over $400 a night for a studio at Old Key West?

So, if the question to answer is how much money will you save by getting DVC, well… that depends. Personally, even if we didn't buy DVC, we'd stay on property at a resort. Most likely a deluxe resort until our kids are old enough to go open-to-close and then maybe we'd just use the room to sleep and would go cheaper…, etc.

I did those calculations too.

The point is: everyone is different.

For the sake of this post, I'm going to assume you're already on board with purchasing DVC. The next question is where should you buy and how many points?

First rule of thumb, buy where you want to stay. Ok, so everyone buys at the Poly and we're all in the bungalows every year. Right? Not quite. Turns out each resort has very different costs associated with buying there. But we all get essentially the same benefits.

Case in point: my neighbor brought into Hilton Head some years ago. She did it for her own birthday present. Total purchase price was around $8,000. Their last trip was a Grand Villa at Old Key West. She says she never has issues booking Walt Disney World at 7 months. $8k.

So, again, how to decide where and how many points?

Deciding the number of points is pretty straightforward. Think of the times you have gone (or will go) to Disney. Look up the points charts for the resorts you'd like to stay at. Add up the points you'll need for the length and time of year. Viola! That's how many points you'll need. If you only want to go every other year, cut that number in half.

So, where to buy?

All things being equal (which they aren't), you could buy into the cheapest resort and still stay at any resort. Many people look at the cost per point to purchase, assume that's the majority of their cost, and decide accordingly. In reality, that's at best only half of the cost. Where you will probably spend most of your money toward DVC is on annual dues.

Initial purchase price is less than half of the total cost

This is where the lifetime total cost of DVC ownership based on historical trends comes into play. Since dues are over half of the cost of DVC, you should definitely be paying attention to what those are now and will be going forward.

Luckily, I've already figured this out.

The spreadsheet linked above factors in the initial purchase price, the current annual dues, and the historical trend of annual dues for each resort and forecasts a total lifetime cost per point per year.

Here's the numbers-only comparison of each DVC resort. Look at column L. Red is bad. Green is good.

lifetime cost per point per year per resort spreadsheet

A couple of caveats here:

  1. We don't know what Disney will do each year with dues. They are backed by the actual budgets for each resort. This assumes what's happened in the past will continue to happen.
  2. Riveria is less than a year old. The dues actually when down $0.0018 from 2019 to 2020. We know that's not an actual trend. Dues don't get cheaper. So, I've used the average of all the other resorts as its average dues annual increase.
  3. The same goes for Copper Creek Canyon.
  4. This assumes linear, constant increases in dues. I.e. the current average amount of increase will persist throughout the rest of the contract. More study will need to be done to determine if this is actually true.

Had you considered lifetime dues during your purchase decision making process? Do you agree with my assessment? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading and happy home shopping!

- Chris Marshall

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