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The Best Equity ETFs

These exchange-traded funds that invest in stocks all earn Morningstar’s top rating.

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There’s a lot to like about exchange-traded funds.

  • ETFs are easy to buy and sell.
  • ETFs are generally low-cost.
  • Depending on their investment set, ETFs are usually tax-efficient.
  • ETFs are pretty transparent: What you see is what you get.

Given these qualities, ETFs can make terrific portfolio building blocks because they allow you to get exposure to the parts of the market that you want—and to avoid the parts of the market you don’t want.

A good place to start your screening process is with the Morningstar Analyst Rating. ETFs that earn our top rating—Gold—are those that we think are most likely to outperform over a full market cycle.

Today, we’re taking a look at the best stock-focused ETFs in three main asset-allocation categories: U.S. large company stocks, U.S. mid-cap and small company stocks, and international stocks.

The 14 Best Large-Cap Stock ETFs

These ETFs all land in one of Morningstar’s U.S. large-cap stock categories and earn our top Analyst Rating of Gold as of November 2022.

1) Dimensional US Core Equity 2 ETF DFAC

2) Dimensional US Core Equity Market ETF DFAU

3) iShares Core S&P 500 ETF IVV

4) iShares Core S&P Total US Stock Market ETF ITOT

5) Schwab US Broad Market ETF SCHB

6) Schwab US Large-Cap ETF SCHX

7) SPDR Portfolio S&P 1500 Composite Stock Market ETF SPTM

8) SPDR Portfolio S&P 500 ETF SPLG

9) Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF VIG

10) Vanguard Growth ETF VUG

11) Vanguard Large-Cap ETF VV

12) Vanguard S&P 500 ETF VOO

13) Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF VTI

14) Vanguard Value ETF VTV

The funds in this group provide exposure to the stocks of large companies, making them fine anchors for an equity portfolio. But there are strategic differences among them.

Some ETFs in the group—including iShares Core S&P 500 ETF and Vanguard S&P 500 ETF—track the S&P 500. As a result, they provide access to large-cap stocks representing about 80% of the U.S. stock market.

Others on the list—such as iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF, Schwab U.S. Broad Market ETF, and Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF—follow broader market indexes that include more stocks, some of which are smaller-cap names. While these funds also land in the large-blend Morningstar Category, they expose investors to a wider pool of stocks and market capitalizations.

Still other ETFs on the list provide exposure to a subset of stocks. Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF, for instance, exclusively focuses on dividend-paying stocks. Moreover, some names on the list focus on growth stocks, while others explore value stocks.

You can find more top-rated ETFs on our Morningstar Medalist ETFs list.

The 6 Best Mid- and Small-Cap Stock ETFs

These ETFs all land in one of Morningstar’s U.S. mid- or small-cap stock categories and earn our top Analyst Rating of Gold as of November 2022.

1) Vanguard Extended Market ETF VXF

2) Vanguard Mid-Cap ETF VO

3) Vanguard Mid-Cap Growth ETF VOT

4) Vanguard Mid-Cap Value ETF VOE

5) Vanguard Small-Cap Growth ETF VBK

6) Vanguard Small-Cap Value ETF VBR

Mid- and small-cap stocks certainly aren’t portfolio essentials, especially if you already own one of the broader market index ETFs from the large-blend category—if you do, you already have some mid- and small-cap stock exposure.

However, if you have a large-stock-focused portfolio or if you’d like to boost your weighting in small company stocks, you’ll find what you need among our Gold-rated ETFs in the mid- and small-cap categories.

Some ETFs focus exclusively on mid-cap stocks, while others target smaller company stocks; in addition, some skew toward growth stocks, while others favor value stocks.

You can find more top rated ETFs on our Medalist ETFs list.

The 6 Best International Stock ETFs

These ETFs all land in one of Morningstar’s foreign or global stock categories and earn our top Analyst Rating of Gold as of November 2022.

1) iShares Core MSCI Total International Stock ETF IXUS


3) Vanguard FTSE All-World ex US ETF VEU

4) Vanguard FTSE All-World ex US Small Cap ETF VSS

5) Vanguard Total International Stock ETF VXUS

6) Vanguard Total World Stock ETF VT

Like mid- and small-cap funds, international-stock ETFs certainly aren’t must-owns. After all, from a risk-reduction standpoint, international stocks aren’t great diversification tools for a portfolio heavy in U.S. stocks. But remember that investment opportunities exist around the globe; many think it’s a mistake to limit your investments to U.S. stocks.

The Gold-rated ETFs here target stocks of varying sizes and styles across international markets. If none of these ETFs fits the bill for you, you can find additional top rated ETFs on our Medalist ETFs list.

How to Find the Best ETFs

Many investors equate ETFs with low-cost indexing. But the ETF marketplace has grown increasingly complicated. Some ETFs track a very narrow part of the market or pursue specific themes. Some ETFs invest based on a particular factor or a combination of them. And now there are even actively managed ETFs. To help figure out which ETFs are best for you, read ”What Is an ETF? Morningstar’s ETF Guide.” And if you’re specifically looking for a bond ETF, check out ”The Best Bond ETFs.”

Investors who’d like to be more hands-on and find ETFs based on their own selection criteria can use our Morningstar Investor Screener. The tool, which is available to Morningstar Investor members, allows investors to screen ETFs based on various criteria, including asset class, Morningstar Category, Analyst Rating, and fee level.

Uncover top mutual fund and ETF picks from a source that investors trust. Morningstar Investor’s mutual fund and ETF ratings, analysis, and insights are all backed by our transparent, meticulous methodology. Learn more and start a seven-day free trial today.

Susan Dziubinski does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.