Mutual Fund Vs ETF: Difference Between ETF and Mutual Fund

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  • 30 Sep 2023
Mutual Fund Vs ETF: Difference Between ETF and Mutual Fund

Let's explore the features, benefits, and considerations that make these investment options distinct from each other.

Here are some of the key differences between the ETFs and the mutual funds in the below table.

Parameter ETFs Mutual Funds
StructureETFs are passively managed fund units traded on stock exchanges.It is an actively managed fund by a fund manager.
Price determinationETFs are traded throughout the day at market priceMutual funds Net Asset Value (NAV) decided at
CostsLower expanse ratios and commissions depend on broker to broker.Typically have higher cost than ETFs, but no trading costs
LiquidityVery High LiquidityLow Liquidity
TransparencyHoldings get updated in real-timeHolding gets updated periodically, and NAV priced at day end
TaxationCan be more tax efficient as they have low capital gainMutual funds are less tax efficient than ETFs
Minimum InvestmentIt depends on ETF unit price. Have lower investment optionsOften has a minimum lump sum & SIP low as Rs.100/-.

Depending on different factors, you can choose whether to invest in mutual funds or ETFs, Some of the factors are as follows:

1. Structure and Trading

ETFs and mutual funds have contrasting structures and trading mechanisms. ETFs, similar to individual stocks, are traded on stock exchanges, while mutual funds are traded at the net asset value (NAV) price at the end of the trading day. ETFs provide intraday liquidity and the flexibility to trade throughout the trading day, while mutual funds can only be traded at the NAV price once the markets have closed.

One of the key advantages of ETFs is their ability to offer intraday trading. This means that investors can take advantage of real-time market opportunities, set limit orders, and benefit from instant execution at prevailing market prices. In contrast, mutual fund transactions occur at the NAV price calculated after the market closes. This may limit investors' ability to respond quickly to market events or implement specific trading strategies.

2. Cost and Expense Ratios

Costs play a significant role in investment decisions, and ETFs often have lower expense ratios compared to mutual funds. This cost advantage stems from the fact that many ETFs are passively managed, aiming to replicate the performance of an underlying index, while mutual funds typically involve active management and higher expense ratios. Passive management strategies involve tracking a specific index, which requires less active decision-making and research, resulting in lower management fees. Mutual funds, on the other hand, may have higher expense ratios due to the costs associated with active management and the potential for higher trading activity.

The lower expense ratios of ETFs can translate into cost savings for investors over the long term. However, it is important to note that expense ratios should not be the sole determinant of investment decisions. Factors such as investment goals, risk tolerance, and the track record of the fund manager should also be taken into consideration.

3. Tax Efficiency

ETFs may offer tax advantages over mutual funds due to their unique structure and creation and redemption processes. ETFs can minimize taxable events by exchanging baskets of securities with authorized participants, which helps limit capital gains distributions. This can result in potential tax savings for investors compared to mutual fund investments, which may experience capital gains distributions due to the buying and selling of securities within the fund.

In contrast, mutual funds may be subject to capital gains taxes when the fund manager buys or sells securities within the portfolio. If the fund realizes a capital gain, it must distribute those gains to shareholders, who are then responsible for paying taxes on the distributed gains. This can result in tax consequences for investors, even if they did not sell any shares of the mutual fund.

4. Liquidity and Flexibility

ETFs allow investors to buy and sell shares throughout the trading day at market prices. This flexibility enables investors to take advantage of real-time market opportunities and react quickly to changing market conditions. Additionally, ETFs provide access to market sectors or asset classes that may be difficult to access through other investment vehicles. For example, an investor interested in a specific industry or commodity can find an ETF that tracks the performance of that sector.

In contrast, mutual funds are priced at the end of the trading day, and investors can only buy or sell shares at the NAV price. While this may limit the ability to make real-time trades, it can also help promote long-term investing and discourage short-term trading strategies. Mutual funds often offer the convenience of automatic investment plans, systematic investment options, and the ability to reinvest dividends automatically.


Understanding the key differences between ETFs and mutual funds is essential in making informed investment decisions. ETFs offer the advantages of intraday trading, potential cost savings through lower expense ratios, and tax efficiency. On the other hand, mutual funds provide professional management and the ability to trade at the NAV price, which may align better with certain investment objectives or long-term strategies. By considering factors such as trading preferences, costs, tax implications, and investment goals, investors can choose the option that best suits their needs and objectives.

FAQs on ETFs vs Mutual Funds

The main difference between the ETFs are passively managed funds traded on exchanges like stocks, while mutual funds are actively managed and valued at end of day NAV.

ETFs are bought/sold at prevailing market prices on exchanges. Mutual funds are priced at net asset value (NAV) at the end of each trading day.

ETFs can be easily bought and sold at any time during exchange trading hours. Mutual funds can only be traded once per day after the NAV is struck.

In terms of cost differences, the ETFs have lower expense ratios compared to actively-managed mutual funds. However, commissions may apply on ETF buys/sells.

ETFs are more tax efficient with lower distributions than mutual funds. However, trading ETFs can lead to capital gains taxes.

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