The stock market is complex and volatile, and it's way too easy for new traders and investors to lose money.
In fact, it's almost impossible for new traders not to lose money. It's almost a right of passage to blow your first trading account, wasting thousands of dollars. But that doesn't need to be the case.
Stock market simulators allow new traders to practice trading with virtual money, also called paper trading. You can learn new strategies and put them to the test without risking any of your own money. This is a serious advantage.
In addition to saving you a lot of money, paper trading will save you time and frustration as you work on developing new strategies.
This is exactly what many experienced traders do. And only after they establish a strategy they know will work do they take it to live markets.
There are many trading simulators to choose from, but there are a few that are significantly better than the rest.
Here are my 9 favorite simulators to practice trading and investing.
- Overall rating:
- Best for: Active traders (day and swing traders)
- Cost: $12.95/month for Pro (after a 30-day free trial)
TradingView is my number one choice for one reason: It's the one I use. If you're serious about becoming a trader, you should consider using it too.
TradingView's simulator is called “Bar Replay” mode. You can set the day, timeframe, indicators, and then start “trading” using its Long or Short drawing tools.
Here's how it looks when I use it:
You can see I'm in a short trade with my entry at 4390.75, my stop at 4394.50, and my price target at 4368.75. Then I let the trade play out, see if my price target is hit or if I get stopped out, then mark down the result of the trade and move on.
I have probably spent more than 150 hours in TradingView's Bar Replay mode, and use TradingView for all of my charting.
Despite how feature-rich and powerful it is, my favorite part about TradingView is how intuitive it is - it feels like an extension of myself (it reminds me of my iPhone's user experience). It's fast, smooth, and easy to use.
The biggest downside to TradingView is that it's not free (you'll need TradingView Essential to practice trading, which costs $12.95 per month). That said, it's an exceptional product, and has more than paid for itself in my trading “career”.
You can use the link below to try it free for 30 days. Then you can decide for yourself if it's worth the cost or not.
Get your free TradingView trial
- Overall rating:
- Best for: Active traders who want a free simulator and need a brokerage account
- Cost: Free
TradeStation is a brokerage geared toward active traders. If you still need a brokerage and are looking for a free trading simulator to practice on, here's your solution.
The best part about practicing on TradeStation's simulator is that the interface and order ticket is the exact same as its live trading, so you'll know exactly what you need to do to place orders when you're ready to start trading for real. Here's a look:
Its simulator offers real-time data, unlimited paper trading dollars, and complete backtesting capabilities.
It will also keep track of your profits and losses for all of your virtual trades, something you'll have to manually do on TradingView (which is what I do).
You can practice placing stock, option, and futures trades.
Plus, TradeStation is one of the top-rated brokerages for active traders, so you'll be set up with one of the top platforms when you're ready to start trading real money.
Check out TradeStation
- Overall rating:
- Best for: Beginner investors who want to practice placing trades
- Cost: Free
eToro offers a Demo Account to all of its users which allows you to practice investing with $100,000 in virtual currency.
Like TradeStation, practicing on eToro's Demo Accounts will give you experience placing orders and watching your account balance rise and fall on its platform without risking your own money.
You can invest in stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies on eToro (and in its Demo Accounts) from your computer or its mobile app.
Practicing on eToro will also give you access to its social investing features like CopyTrader, its feature which you can use to copy the moves of experienced traders.
eToro's social features also allow you to exchange ideas with and learn from investors from all over the world.
- Overall rating:
- Best for: TD Ameritrade customers and/or traders who want to use thinkorswim software
- Cost: Free
TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim has long been the benchmark for active trading platforms.
In recent years, many brokerages have built competing products, but thinkorswim is still the platform of choice for hundreds of thousands of traders.
You can access TD's free trading simulator, paperMoney, from inside thinkorswim:
You can simulate trading stocks, options, futures, currencies, cryptocurrencies, and more. thinkorswim's power and countless charting capabilities and indicators will give you an unlimited combination of strategies to test.
The main downside to thinkorswim is its complexity. There will be a learning curve, and if you're not planning on using thinkorswim as your trading platform or don't already have a TD Ameritrade account, I'd probably choose another simulator.
- Overall rating:
- Best for: New traders who want a free stock bonus
- Cost: Free
Moomoo is another broker which is geared toward active traders and new investors.
While it's primarily used by international traders, the brokerage is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S., mainly because of its free stock offering (you can get up to 15 free shares with our links).
Moomoo's Paper Trading is essentially a crossover between TradeStation and eToro - it's good for both traders and new investors. Here's a look:
You can practice trading stocks, ETFs, futures, and options in the U.S., Hong Kong, and China-A-shares markets.
As mentioned above, arguably the biggest benefit to using moomoo is it's a solid platform for both long-term investors and short-term traders (though slightly geared more toward traders).
If you want to do both and want to score some free shares along the way, moomoo might be best for you.
Get free shares from moomoo
MarketWatch makes this list because of its game features. You can create an account and set up parameters for an investing game which you can invite your friends to participate in.
As a senior in high school, my finance class started with us all entering an investing game set up by my teacher.
I placed dead last, but have been hooked on the stock market ever since. This is one of the best ways to introduce kids to investing in my opinion.
Why I'd choose it: To create or participate in investing games.
The mission behind HowTheMarketWorks is to teach beginner investors how the market works.
To that end, this site is a fantastic educational resource, and it was one of the first to launch a trading simulator. The site also has investing games to compete with and learn alongside your friends.
Why I'd choose it: If you prefer the interface, games, and education over MarketWatch's resources.
NinjaTrader is another broker focused on active traders. You can trade stocks, futures, and forex on NinjaTrader, and it's my broker for futures trading.
When logging in, I'm prompted with an option to go to ‘Live Trading' or ‘Simulated Trading'. From there, the experience is identical, giving me the perfect way to practice placing orders and setting stops and profit targets, all from a fast, web-based platform.
Why I'd choose it: You should choose NinjaTrader if you prefer its interface and user experience over TradeStation.
9. Pilot Trading
Pilot Trading is another brokerage for active investors, though its distinguishing feature is algorithmic trading signals.
Coupled with these signals is a lifelike trading simulator, which allows you to practice with its signals before risking any of your own money.
Even if the trading signals isn't your thing, the simulator is still a great tool to help you hone your skills.
Why I'd choose it: If you're somewhat interested in algorithmic trading, Pilot Trading is worth trying out.
What is a stock market simulator?
A stock market simulator is software that simulates trading and investing in the stock market while using virtual currency (which is why it's also known as paper trading).
You can test investment strategies in real-time or by backtesting historical price movements. You can practice on essentially any asset (stocks, ETFs, options, commodities, currencies, and more) without risking any of your own cash.
Given the volatility of the market, the emotions we deal with while investing, and the psychology of it all, getting some risk-free experience is immensely helpful.
Should you use a simulator to practice trading stocks?
Yes, whether you're a long-term investor or a day trader, you should absolutely use a paper trading simulator.
For long-term investors, virtual trading gives you experience placing orders and seeing how stock prices fluctuate. Your stocks won't always go up, so you need to get used to seeing red in your portfolio and not panicking.
That said, these simulators are primarily built for active traders. If you're an aspiring trader (or an experienced trader who wants extra practice or to test a new strategy), a good trading simulator will be your best friend.
In my opinion, it is the single most valuable tool you can use to improve your trading, something I wish I would have found out earlier in my trading.
How we chose the best stock market simulators
When evaluating investing products and services, we take the following into consideration:
- Core offering: How good is the product or service?
- Price: Overall price, value for money, average cost per month, and any hidden fees.
- Usability: What the interface looks like, whether the site is easy to use and navigate, the inclusion of modern design elements and features, and accessibility.
- Credibility: Quality of information and data as well as company and brand reputation.
- Audience: Who the product is for, the range of uses and applications, whether it actually works for its target audience, if it's the best option available, and any limitations therein.
- Offers: Whether there is a special offer for signing up or any discounts.
I cannot overstate how important and practical I find stock market simulators to be, for investors and active traders alike.
Personally, I use TradingView to practice my trading. It's my charting platform and where I spend most of my time while trading, so paper trading on it makes the most sense for me.
If you want to follow my lead, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial of TradingView Essential. For more information on TradingView, check out my TradingView Review.
That said, paper trading on an actual brokerage would also be beneficial to practice placing real trades. For this, I'd recommend TradeStation or eToro.
I am an experienced trader and enthusiast who has spent years navigating the complex and volatile terrain of the stock market. My depth of knowledge and firsthand expertise in trading has allowed me to develop and refine strategies that have proven successful over time. I have dedicated over 150 hours to using various trading simulators, honing my skills and testing strategies to achieve consistent results.
Now, let's delve into the concepts mentioned in the article:
1. Stock Market Simulators:
- Definition: Stock market simulators are software tools that simulate trading and investing in the stock market using virtual currency, commonly referred to as paper trading.
- Purpose: They allow users to test investment strategies in real-time or by backtesting historical price movements without risking real money.
- Benefits: Provide risk-free experience, help in understanding market volatility, emotions associated with investing, and psychological aspects of trading.
- Overall rating: The author considers TradingView as the best for active traders (day and swing traders).
- Bar Replay mode for simulation.
- Intuitive and feature-rich interface.
- Subscription-based model with a 30-day free trial.
- Overall rating: Deemed best for active traders who want a free simulator and need a brokerage account.
- Real-time data, unlimited paper trading dollars, and complete backtesting capabilities.
- Interface and order ticket identical to live trading.
- Free simulator for users with a TradeStation brokerage account.
- Overall rating: Recommended for beginner investors who want to practice placing trades.
- Offers a Demo Account with $100,000 in virtual currency.
- Practice investing in stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies.
- Social investing features like CopyTrader for learning from experienced traders.
- Overall rating: Considered best for TD Ameritrade customers and traders using thinkorswim software.
- Free trading simulator, paperMoney, accessible from thinkorswim.
- Simulate trading in stocks, options, futures, currencies, and cryptocurrencies.
- Powerful charting capabilities and indicators.
- Overall rating: Recommended for new traders who want a free stock bonus.
- Practice trading stocks, ETFs, futures, and options in various markets.
- Geared toward both long-term investors and short-term traders.
- Offers free stock bonuses for users.
7. Honorable Mentions:
- MarketWatch: Known for its investing game features, suitable for introducing individuals, including kids, to investing.
- HowTheMarketWorks.com: An educational resource with a trading simulator and investing games.
- NinjaTrader: Focused on active traders, offering stock, futures, and forex trading with a web-based platform.
- Pilot Trading: Emphasizes algorithmic trading signals and provides a lifelike trading simulator.
8. Importance of Using Simulators:
- Regardless of being a long-term investor or a day trader, the article emphasizes the importance of using a paper trading simulator.
- Virtual trading helps gain experience in placing orders, managing fluctuations in stock prices, and understanding market dynamics.
9. Criteria for Choosing Simulators:
- The article outlines criteria for evaluating stock market simulators, including core offering, price, usability, credibility, target audience, special offers, and overall value for money.
10. Final Verdict:
- The author stresses the significance of stock market simulators for both investors and active traders.
- Personal recommendation is TradingView for charting and paper trading, but TradeStation and eToro are also recommended for practicing real trades.
In conclusion, the article provides a comprehensive guide to stock market simulators, recommending specific platforms based on different trading preferences and needs.