VTSAX vs VOO – Expense Ratios, Performance & Dividends

Updated June 24, 2024

Embarking on the journey of stock market investment can present a range of choices that may appear overwhelming at first glance.

Two formidable contenders within the Vanguard funds family are VTSAX and VOO, each presenting an enticing avenue towards achieving your financial goals. 

In this comprehensive comparison, we delve into the specifics that distinguish VTSAX, a broad market encompassing option, from VOO, an ETF laser-focused on the S&P 500's powerhouses, to aid investors in making informed decisions that resonate with their personal investment philosophy.

Key Takeaways

  • VTSAX and VOO are both low-fee, passively managed Vanguard funds that have become staples in investment and retirement accounts.
  • VTSAX offers expansive coverage of the stock market, including over 4,000 small to large-cap stocks, while VOO homes in on the top 500 U.S. companies.
  • Understanding the differences in market exposure, structure, and fees between these two index funds is crucial for tailored investment strategy planning.
  • The importance of portfolio comparison in these funds lies in the balance of diversification and concentration for meeting various financial objectives.
  • Both funds aim to closely mimic their respective market benchmarks, allowing investors to choose according to preference and investment size with confidence.

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Understanding the Basics of VTSAX and VOO

Embarking on the journey of index investing, one encounters choices that could define the future of their investment portfolio. Vanguard's offerings—VTSAX and VOO—stand out as prime examples of such vehicles, each with its distinct advantages and approach to fund structures and investment management. In the ensuing sections, we decipher the essence of these two popular index funds.

What is VTSAX?

Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund Admiral Shares, or VTSAX, offers investors comprehensive exposure to the U.S. equities market. Since its inception in 1992, VTSAX has grown to encompass a diverse array of over 4,000 holdings that cover a wide spectrum of sectors and company sizes.

Understanding VTSAX is crucial for those looking to diversify through a single mutual fund that faithfully mirrors the overall market performance.

What is VOO?

VOO, or Vanguard S&P 500 ETF, strategically targets the upper crust of the U.S. stock market, tracking the performance of the 500 most formidable companies recognized by the S&P 500 index. What is VOO's prime allure?

It's the precision with which it captures the pulse of top-tier American corporate giants and the core strength of American enterprise it represents.

Key Differences in Structure and Management

  • Investment Structure: VTSAX offers the traditional mutual fund format with end-of-day pricing, whereas VOO operates on an intra-day tradable ETF structure.
  • Market Representation: While VTSAX provides a comprehensive cross-section of the total stock market, VOO concentrates solely on the elite S&P 500 constituents.
  • Minimum Investment: Vanguard Admiral Shares, with VTSAX, stipulate a minimum investment of $3,000, in contrast to VOO's accessibility at the price of one share.
  • Investor Accessibility: VOO appeals to those seeking immediate market entry or exit during trading hours, while VTSAX attracts investors comfortable with pacing their investments according to the market’s close.

Understanding these pivotal differences empowers investors to make informed decisions, balancing their desire for broad market exposure with the requisite operating expenses and structural preferences inherent to VTSAX and VOO.

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A Performance Analysis of VTSAX vs VOO

When it comes to evaluating mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), the power of hindsight offers us a clear lens through which to compare the long-term efficacy of different investment vehicles.

With a focus on performance analysis, let’s delve into key metrics such as 10-year comparison, annualized returns, and risk-adjusted metrics to understand the financial journey of VTSAX and VOO.

10-Year Performance Snapshot

Looking back over the last decade paints an intriguing picture of these two popular Vanguard offerings.

While both have demonstrated strong growth, a 10-year comparison reveals that VOO has a slight edge over VTSAX when it comes to raw numbers. This information is invaluable for investors weighing their options for portfolio allocation.

Annualized Returns and Growth Impact

Over the past ten years, the annualized returns generated by VTSAX and VOO reflect both their respective market coverage and investment strategies.

With VTSAX's growth casting a wide net across the total market, and VOO's returns anchored firmly in the large-cap space, investors can discern how each would impact the growth of their investments.

Assessing the Risk-Adjusted Performance Metrics

Financial savvy investors know the importance of risk-adjusted metrics when judging funds. The Sharpe Ratios of VTSAX and VOO indicate a comparable level of return per unit of risk, despite the individual performance nuances. This assessment allows for a more holistic understanding of the value each fund could contribute to a diverse and resilient portfolio.

Dividend Yields: VTSAX and VOO Head-to-Head

For those seeking to bolster their streams of passive income, a critical factor to consider is the dividend yield provided by investments. Vanguard fund dividends are a key component of this, particularly when looking into popular options like VTSAX and VOO.

A dividend yield comparison illuminates the performance of these funds over the trailing twelve months, indicating their potential for contributing to investment income.

  • VTSAX dividends have shown a reliable source of income with a dividend yield of about 1.32% over the trailing twelve months, appealing to investors looking for steady returns.
  • On the flip side, VOO yields were slightly higher, averaging 1.34%, suggesting a slight edge in terms of income generation within the same period.

While the differences may appear narrow at a glance, even a marginal increase in dividend yield can compound significantly over time—making a pronounced impact in the context of long-term investment income. Therefore, the prudent selection of Vanguard fund dividends is imperative for those prioritizing passive income as part of their financial strategy.

The Significance of Expense Ratios in VTSAX vs VOO

When it comes to selecting the right investment, one critical factor that often goes overlooked is the expense ratio. The expense ratio importance cannot be overstated, particularly for investors who are focused on long-term investment impact and cost efficiency.

Both the VTSAX costs and VOO expenses are competitively low, yet even a small difference can have substantial effects over the years.

Comparing VTSAX and VOO Expense Ratios

The challenge of comparing expense ratios between VTSAX and VOO comes down to understanding how even minor variances can influence the trajectory of your financial growth.

Vanguard's VTSAX boasts an expense ratio of only 0.04%, aligning with the fund's reputation for maintaining cost efficiency.

On the flip side, VOO offers an even slimmer expense ratio of 0.03%. While the difference appears minimal at a glance, this slight edge can compound significantly over time.

How Expense Ratios Affect Your Investment Over Time

The impact of expense ratios extends far beyond the immediate cost. Over extended periods, the compounded effect of annual expenses takes a more pronounced toll on the investor's potential returns.

Here's how the dynamics of expense ratios can influence your long-term investment potential:

  • An increase in portfolio value tends to amplify the dollar amount paid in expenses, even when the percentage remains fixed.
  • Ongoing costs may reduce the amount of capital available to compound over time, leading to a potential knock-on effect on investment growth.
  • In a head-to-head comparison, even a 0.01% difference can amount to a significant financial divergence over the course of decades.

Whether you gravitate towards VTSAX or VOO, it remains essential to weigh these expense ratios within the context of your overall investment plan and the horizon of your financial goals.

Assessing Risk: Volatility and Drawdown in VTSAX vs VOO

Managing investment risk is a critical aspect of any investing strategy. For investors comparing VTSAX and VOO, understanding how each fund reacts to market shifts can support better portfolio risk management.

Volatility and maximum drawdown are pivotal metrics that indicate a fund's performance stability during tumultuous markets.

Analyzing Historical Volatility Rates

When we delve into investment volatility, we measure the extent of price fluctuations over a certain period. Historical volatility rates for VTSAX and VOO reveal that their price movements have been quite similar, with VTSAX exhibiting a slightly higher volatility rate.

This translates to more pronounced short-term price changes, posing a consideration for investors with a lower tolerance for investment-induced anxiety.

  • VTSAX Volatility Rate: 3.76%
  • VOO Volatility Rate: 3.67%

Understanding Maximum Drawdown and Its Impact on Portfolio Stability

Maximum drawdown is another vital aspect of risk assessment. It records the maximum observed loss from a peak to a trough of a portfolio, before a new peak is attained. In essence, it provides a snapshot of the potential loss an investor might have to endure during investment volatility peaks.

VTSAX has encountered a significantly steeper maximum drawdown compared to VOO, which suggests that VTSAX investors might need a stronger stomach for market dips.

  • VTSAX Maximum Drawdown: -55.34%
  • VOO Maximum Drawdown: -33.99%

Considering these risk metrics, investment volatility and maximum drawdown hold substantial weight in portfolio risk management. Investors may opt for VOO over VTSAX if their priority leans towards a lower risk profile and steadier investment performance. However, it's crucial to balance these concerns against other portfolio needs, including diversification and long-term growth objectives.

Portfolio Composition and Diversification

When analyzing portfolio composition within the context of VTSAX and VOO, an investor's approach to market sectors is pivotal. VTSAX offers an extensive variety, advancing the diversification benefits for an investor's portfolio by tracking the total stock market. This breadth of exposure, anchored by more than 4,000 S&P 500 holdings and beyond, caters to a well-rounded financial strategy.

  • With VTSAX, exposure reaches across emerging and established markets, providing the potential for balanced growth through market cycles.
  • Since VTSAX imitates the comprehensive market index, investors benefit from the natural risk spread that comes with a larger basket of securities.

In contrast, VOO zeroes in on the crème de la crème of the market – the 500 behemoths that exemplify the core of America's economic engine. The focus on these top-performing giants offers a reliable core for investors, with potential stability stemming from their established nature:

  • The narrow scope of VOO might appeal to investors seeking to concentrate their bets on large-cap performance.
  • VOO’s alignment with the S&P 500 seeks to reflect the rhythm of the nation's economic heartbeat, providing a pulse on the market's high-cap segment.

Ultimately, the distinction in portfolio composition between VTSAX and VOO elucidates the nuanced approach to market sectors they each represent. VTSAX's broad spectrum contrasts VOO's specialized lens, offering investors a choice: the comprehensive tableau of the American market with VTSAX, or a refined view capturing the essence of S&P's leading companies with VOO.


For those aiming to capture the comprehensive spectrum of the U.S. stock market, VTSAX offers unparalleled breadth with its extensive portfolio. This broad diversification can be particularly appealing for investors building long-term retirement portfolios seeking exposure to every segment of the equity market.

In contrast, VOO concentrates on the major players of the American economy, embodying a selection of the 500 largest firms that have consistently demonstrated robust performance. This focus caters to investors preferring stability and a slight edge in long-term performance, recognizing that established large-cap companies often present a reduced volatility profile.

The choice between these two funds can also reflect a strategic index fund selection preference, with some investors valuing the narrower, blue-chip concentration that VOO provides against the expanse of VTSAX.

Jerry Garnes

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About the Author

Jerry Garnes is a seasoned writer in personal finance. His informative and insightful pieces have been featured by esteemed platforms like Bankrate, The Street, and Business Insider. In addition to his financial expertise, Jerry is a passionate poet and musician with a deep love for nature.

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