Index funds versus ETFs: Choosing the right passive investment

Index funds versus ETFs: Choosing the right passive investment

Index funds versus ETFs: Choosing the right passive investment


Regarding passive investments, index funds and ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds) have gained significant popularity among investors. These investment vehicles offer a simple and efficient way to diversify your portfolio while minimizing costs.

Let’s explore the differences between index funds and ETFs

What are index funds?

Mutual funds replicating a market index’s performance, such as the Nifty 50 or BSE Sensex in India, are known as index funds. These funds typically have a low expense ratio and provide broad market exposure by holding a diversified portfolio of stocks that mirror the underlying index.

What are ETFs?

On the other hand, ETFs are similar to index funds in terms of tracking an index. Still, they are traded on stock exchanges like individual stocks. ETFs offer investors the flexibility to buy and sell shares throughout the trading day, unlike index funds priced at the end of the trading day. Additionally, ETFs often have lower expense ratios compared to actively managed mutual funds, making them an attractive choice for cost-conscious investors.

Differences between index funds and ETFs:

To help you understand the variations between these two passive investment options, let’s compare them in the following key areas:


  • Index funds: These are mutual funds that are managed by fund managers and priced at the end of each trading day based on the net asset value (NAV).
  • ETFs: Investors can buy or sell shares throughout the trading day because these securities are traded on stock exchanges and have an intra-day pricing mechanism.


  • Index funds: While index funds generally have low expense ratios, they may include management fees varying across different funds.
  • ETFs: ETFs are known for their low expense ratios, as they are designed to track the performance of an index passively. This makes them a cost-effective option for long-term investors.

Investment flexibility:

  • Index funds: These funds typically allow investors to invest a fixed sum periodically (SIPs) or make lump sum investments.
  • ETFs: ETFs offer the flexibility to buy and sell shares anytime during market hours, allowing investors to execute various trading strategies.

Minimum investment:

  • Index funds: Some index funds may have minimum investment requirements, varying from fund to fund.
  • ETFs: ETFs can be purchased with as little as one share, making them accessible to investors with smaller amounts of capital.


  • Index funds: Since index funds are priced at the end of the trading day, investors can buy or sell shares only at the closing NAV price.
  • ETFs: ETFs provide intra-day liquidity, allowing investors to buy or sell shares at market prices throughout the trading day.
Factors Index Funds ETFs
Structure Mutual funds Traded on stock exchanges
Cost Generally low expense ratios Low expense ratios
Investment Flexibility Fixed sum or lump sum Intra-day buying and selling
Minimum Investment Varies across funds Can be purchased with one share
Liquidity Priced at end of trading day Intra-day buying and selling

To wrap up

By understanding these differences, you can decide which passive investment vehicle aligns best with your financial objectives. Remember to evaluate factors such as cost, investment flexibility, and liquidity before making your choice.


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