Understanding ETF Liquidity: What Investors Should Consider

WealthBasketJan 10, 2024

ETFs, or exchange-traded funds, allow investors to easily own a mix of stocks and bonds. They’re like all-purpose tools for investing, fitting into portfolios in various ways to meet different investment goals. Just like stocks, you can buy or sell ETFs on the exchange whenever you want.

One perk of ETFs, compared to mutual funds, is their liquidity. ETFs are a handy alternative to owning lots of individual stocks. In this article, we’ll discuss what ETF liquidity is, and how to gauge it for your ETFs, 

What is ETF Liquidity?

ETF liquidity refers to how easily investors can trade ETFs on the exchange. Since exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are essentially asset baskets, the liquidity idea associated with them has multiple layers. The higher the liquidity of the underlying asset that comprises an ETF, the easier it is to redeem the ETF itself.

How to Know if your ETFs are Liquid?

Consider these aspects when evaluating your ETFs to determine their liquidity:

  • Underlying Asset Liquidity: Check how easily the assets within your ETF can be bought or sold
  • Bid-Ask Spread: Look at the difference between the buying and selling prices of the ETF

Remember, an ETF’s trading volume isn’t the same as its liquidity. To gauge ETF liquidity accurately, focus on the ease of trading the assets within the ETF rather than monitoring investor activities.

For instance, if you have a bond ETF, examine the liquidity of the bonds within it. Bonds are generally less risky than stocks, but their liquidity can vary as they mature on specific dates and some may have lock-in periods. Consequently, if the bonds are less liquid, your bond ETF will likely have lower liquidity too.

The bid-ask spread directly indicates an ETF’s liquidity. This spread represents the cost of transactions—the difference between buying and selling prices. A lower spread indicates higher liquidity, while a higher spread implies lower liquidity for your ETFs.


ETFs serve as versatile investment instruments, granting access to diverse stock and bond portfolios. Their standout feature, liquidity, distinguishes them from mutual funds. Evaluating ETF liquidity involves examining the underlying asset liquidity and bid-ask spreads, prioritizing these over mere trading volumes. This understanding empowers investors to make informed choices, adapting ETF investments to suit individual investment objectives.


  1. What makes ETFs easier to trade than mutual funds?

Because they trade on stock exchanges, ETFs are more liquid than mutual funds. They can be traded just like stocks, with no redemption process or lock-in period.

  1. Do ETFs with low liquidity pose risks?

They can, as low liquidity might result in higher bid-ask spreads and potential difficulty in selling at desired prices.

  1. Can ETF liquidity change over time?

Yes, it can change due to market conditions, demand, or changes in the underlying assets’ liquidity.

  1. Does ETF liquidity impact its price stability?

Yes, higher liquidity tends to contribute to more stable ETF prices due to easier trading.