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This article compares VTSAX vs VTI — Vanguard’s Total Market Index Fund Admiral Shares to Vanguard’s Total Stock Market ETF (exchange-traded fund).
Both are passively managed stock funds popular in retirement accounts.
Index mutual funds and ETFs track market indexes like the S&P 500.
VTSAX and VTI are much broader than the S&P 500. The funds track more than 3,700 stocks.
If you own either fund, you own a tiny piece of nearly all the public companies in the U.S.
Passive index fund managers do not pick stocks. They allocate money to all stocks in the market index to track its performance. Managers receive a small fee to achieve this outcome.
Since most actively managed funds do not beat their target benchmarks, many fiduciary financial planners recommend index funds instead of actively managed funds or individual stocks.
Bottom Line Upfront (BLUF)
Before I get into the details of VTSAX vs VTI, it’s important to keep the following in mind:
- The funds are essentially identical and will accomplish the same investment objective.
- The most significant difference is one is a mutual fund, and the other is an ETF. This difference will affect how investors purchase the funds and reinvest dividends.
- VTSAX has a $3,000 minimum investment. The VTI minimum investment is $1.00.
- Both funds are excellent, low-fee options for your portfolio.
- Vanguard customers can own either fund without issue. Non-Vanguard investors should avoid VTSAX and choose VTI (see ETFs section).
Please note that both funds update their prospectuses regularly. The information referenced in this article will change over time.
The best resource for both funds is Vanguard’s website.
Here are links to the most updated information at Vanguard. Consider the information on those pages to be the authoritative data source.
VTSAX vs VTI — Side-by-Side Comparison
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of both funds. Scroll right on mobile.
A few noticeable differences comparing VTI vs VTSAX:
- The funds are virtually the same. Slight differences in the expense ratio and returns are insignificant and should not influence investors’ investment decisions.
- VTSAX has a $3,000 minimum investment. VTI’s minimum investment is $1, making it more accessible to beginner investors.
VTSAX vs VTI— Benchmark Indexes
VTSAX and VTI are indexed to the CRSP U.S. Total Market Index. CRSP stands for the Center for Research in Security Prices, an affiliate of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Visit this page for the latest information about the index.
The index has more than 3,700 constituents, making up nearly all equities in U.S. markets. Vanguard uses several CRSP indexes to build its family of low-cost index funds.
The number of constituents changes frequently, and the holdings do not always perfectly track the index due to frequent modifications. Most modifications involve small holdings and do not impact the overall fund.
The CRSP U.S. Total Market Index index is market-weighted, meaning the largest holdings comprise a greater percentage of the index and have a greater influence on price fluctuations than smaller companies.
VTSAX and VTI holdings reflect the market weight of the index.
VTSAX vs VTI Chart — Performance
The performance of these two funds tracks identically, as expected.
Here is a daily updated VTSAX vs VTI chart tracking each other over ten years. Scroll right on mobile.
The funds will continue to perform identically. Either is suitable for broad U.S. equity exposure in your portfolio.
See the table above for up-to-date three-, five-, and 10-year average annual performance records.
VTSAX vs VTI — Top Ten Holdings
Here are the top ten holdings for each index fund. Visit the links at the beginning of the article for the most updated lists.
Learn more about VTI and VTSAX’s top 50 holdings.
VTSAX vs VTI — Equivalents
Here are the equivalents for both funds.
VTSAX = VTI
The VTSAX ETF equivalent is VTI.
The VTI mutual fund equivalent is VTSAX.
The VTI Fidelity equivalent is FSKAX. Fidelity does not offer ETFs.
The VTSAX Fidelity equivalent is FSKAX.
The VTI and VTSAX iShares equivalent is ITOT.
Mutual Funds vs ETFs
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) trade like stocks. You can buy or sell them during the day on a stock exchange.
ETFs are easier to own, have lower minimum investments, and the price changes throughout the day. Mutual funds trade once daily after the market closes.
Active investors typically use ETFs for trading purposes or to buy and hold indexes when they can’t access index mutual funds.
For example, if you have an investing account with M1 Finance, you’d invest via the VTI ETF instead of VTSAX.
Mutual fund companies like Vanguard make it easy to reinvest dividends and capital gains. Set up dividend reinvestment once, and you’ll never have an idle cash balance.
Conversely, ETFs may need manual dividend reinvestment, depending on your broker’s reinvestment policy. Many online brokers offer free and automated dividend investments.
Here are the dividend reinvestment policies of many of the larger and more popular brokers.
If your account is with Vanguard, you will benefit from using the index fund VTSAX because it makes investing dividends easier. Mutual fund access at non-mutual-fund brokers is often unavailable or involves fees.
Use the above resources to find the most up-to-date information regarding FSKAX and VTI.
Read more about mutual funds and ETFs.
What is the Best Broker for Owning the Total Market ETF if not Vanguard?
Vanguard is an excellent choice for long-term retirement investors. You’re in good hands if your IRA or employer-sponsored plan is with the broker or if you have individual accounts.
I recommend another broker for a more modern user experience that can also serve your banking, borrowing, and spending needs.
Long-term investors may prefer an online broker that’s better for dollar cost averaging and dividend reinvestment.
I’m a big fan of the online brokerage M1 Finance. M1 Finance is a reliable and robust, no-fee online broker for beginner to intermediate investors. It’s easy to get started.
As your investing skills and portfolio mature, M1 is one of the best platforms to scale.
They also offer an integrated checking account and low borrowing rates. Read my complete M1 Finance review here.
M1 Finance does not offer mutual funds. However, Vanguard and other ETFs are plentiful. It’s my favorite online broker for everyday investing.
The platform is more intuitive than old-school brokers because it’s built on a modern technology platform.
You create portfolio “pies” that contain all the stocks and ETFs you want to own and in what percentages. Simply add an ETF to a pie and add funds to your account.
For Vanguard customers, deciding between VTSAX vs VTI comes down to mutual fund vs ETF. Which do you prefer to own?
Also, do you plan to invest more than $3,000? If not, VTSAX is not an option. Go with VTI.
If you have a long-term investment horizon (more than five years) and want broad U.S. stock market exposure for diversification, you can be comfortable buying VTSAX or VTI.
These are two of the most popular low-cost investment options for beginner to expert investors.
If you already have an account with another broker (not Vanguard) and still want to own a total market, choose VTI instead of a mutual fund.
ETFs will give you the same coverage, performance, and low cost at any commission-free online broker.
Please reply with your questions regarding VTSAX vs VTI in the comments section below. Include any requests you have about adding more detail to this article.
Disclosure: The author is long FSKAX, FXAIX, VTSAX, and VTI. The opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not reflect the views of M1. They are for informational purposes only and are not a recommendation of an investment strategy or to buy or sell any security in any account. They are also not research reports and are not intended to serve as the basis for any investment decision. Prior to making any investment decision, you are encouraged to consult your personal investment, legal, and tax advisors.
Craig is a former IT professional who left his 19-year career to be a full-time finance writer. A DIY investor since 1995, he started Retire Before Dad in 2013 as a creative outlet to share his investment portfolios. Craig studied Finance at Michigan State University and lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and three children. Read more.
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