Stock Trading Simulators: What Is the Best Simulator for 2021?

A stock trading simulator allows you the ability to practice trading without having to trade with real money. It’s called paper trading. Another name for a trading simulator is called a virtual account. Nothing beats real world experience as a trader with real money, however, it’s very important to start off practicing in a virtual account first to help prepare you for real world trading so you don’t end up losing money.

What Is the Best Stock Trading Simulator?

  1.  Here are the best stock trading simulators:
  2. ThinkorSwim
  3. Interactive Brokers
  4. TradeStation
  5. Trade Ideas
  6. Trading Sim

“If you’re gonna play the game, boy, you better learn to play it right.” Famous words from a famous song, The Gambler. So if you wanna play it right, and know when to fold em, you better show up to the table prepared. There’s no better way to do this than to practice. Our stock simulator review will show you how.

Practice trading in a stock simulator is essential to becoming a good trader. You don’t want to get burned out or turned off to trading early on by making common mistakes that are completely natural but the consequences are avoidable. Read more about that below.

Do you want to be a gambler? It’s all fun and games until you’re broke. Practice makes perfect” is one of the oldest yet truest cliches out there.

Remember when you were trying to learn how to ride a bike as a kid? Unless you were some form of child prodigy, did you just jump on without the training wheels and were an instant pro?

No, probably not. It took lots of practice before those wheels came off, right? Not to mention all the bloody knees and elbows once those wheels came off.

Think of a stock trading simulator as a set of training wheels. It’ll help you perfect your game and strategy before the wheels come off and you’re set loose on the trading road. That’s not to say you won’t have bloody knees and a few expensive lessons along the way. But, practicing in the simulator sure helps in getting started.

Still not convinced? The best traders have a similar beginning in that most of them started with a simulator trading stocks before putting any real money at risk.  (Take our free trading courses if you need more help.) We’ll cover the best stock market simulators below. 

What Exactly Do Simulators Do?

stock simulator

These practice accounts — sometimes called “paper trading” accounts — allow novice investors to simulate the stock market experience by buying stocks and assets with fake cash. With $100,000 in pretend capital (or whatever amount you want to start with. And you can build a portfolio and test strategies without taking on any real risk.

With a day trading simulator, you can hone your skills while protecting your hard earned cash. This is because they mirror the broker’s working trading platform. Essentially they provide the user with a virtual practice environment as close to the real thing you can get. Sounds smart right?

You get “virtual” money so you can practice your trading strategies without going broke while making all the newbie mistakes. In fact, most practice accounts are free to set up. How cool is that?! Take our basic stock course if you’re new to trading and study it while you trade in the simulator.

Key Qualities of a Great Simulator

The best stock simulators give practice users access to the same tools and environment a regular day trader would use: watch lists, stock chart screens, in depth research and live or slightly delayed data feeds while you trade.

Let’s break this down for you below:

1. The closely mirror the market. You want an authentic stock simulation experience. It must feel like the real thing even when paper trading. This also give you a chance to anticipate and get your emotions under control. TREAT IT LIKE REAL MONEY. I’ll elaborate later.

2. Quantity and type of securities available. Depending on what you want to trade you need to have a simulator that allows you to practice with those securities. What if you want to trade FOREX, options, ETFs or even hold mutual funds for 40 years. The simulator you choose needs to match you and your needs. Our list researched this for you already.

3. Quality of tools and charting. What’s the point of trading if the charting tools and platform sucks. Honestly, this will make or break you as a trader. So, it doesn’t hurt to take the extra time to ensure you’re using the right platform, simulated or not. The better the sim, the better prepared you’ll be for the real thing.

Top 3 Stock Trading Simulators

If you want to play with the big boys, or girls for that matter, it’s essential you play the same game.

No two traders are the same and quite frankly why should they be? We all have different wants, needs and strategies that work for us. Hence why I don’t point to one stock market simulator and declare it as “THE BEST”.

With that in mind, the three I listed are, at the very least, “among the best”. This is because they have consistently received high marks from both users and reviewers.

All of them are terrific trading service platforms, but what set’s them apart is the advanced features they offer. I urge you to examine them in more depth to see if they fit you!

Here’s my top five:

1. Thinkorswim by TD Ameritrade (great for practice, not so good for live day trading in 2020)

2. Trader Workstation (TWS) by Interactive Brokers

3. TradeStation – (Great all around broker)

4. Trade Ideas (stock scanner AND a trade simulator)

5. Trading Sim – (one of the best for serious sim traders with realistic sim environment)

What I Love About Stock Trading Simulators

Stock Trading Simulator

ThinkorSwim undoubtedly has the most sophisticated stock trading simulator available today and it’s highly recommended for all new investors. I can’t say enough positive things about it. To be honest, it’s a love affair and they are one of our favorite platforms.We even wrote a review about ThinkorSwim.

We love ThinkorSwim because it gives you access to over 400,000 economic data points from 6 continents. This platform contains some of the most advanced trading tools an investor can find. Period.

The scanners are completely customizable as well. Users can search for top gaining (or losing) small-cap by exchange or sectors, for example.

Moreover, the pairs trader allows you to try out different long/short strategies. And, there are scanners for stocks, currencies, options and futures contracts, so, as a beginner you don’t need to pay for stock scanners elsewhere…yet.

If you open a TD Ameritrade account, you’ll be automatically registered for the paper money account. Otherwise, you can register to try it for free for 60 days.

What may surprise you is that you don’t need a brokerage account to sign up for thinkorswim. I’d ask you to trust me on this, but hey, I’d rather you try it for yourself. Just register with an email address and open up the platform.

And if you need help setting up your platform, we have a TOS Course that shows how to get set up. Or, head on over to our blog where we cover this epic platform.

Trader Workstation: Stock Trading Simulators

We started using Interactive Brokers’ TWS as a secondary broker in early 2016, as it came highly recommended by another experienced trader in our stock market community.

To be honest, it is very popular among the “hard core” trading community but casual investors need not fret. Interactive Brokers’ Desktop Trader Workstation is considered one of the best trading platforms available for advanced traders.

All of the features of the TWS platform such as advanced charting, heat maps, multileg options orders are available in the broker’s simulated training platform.

Worth noting, novices will likely find Trader Workstation overwhelming. That’s why you can take our free Interactive Brokers Platform setup course if you want helping getting started with them.

Unlike Thinkorswim however, the simulator is only available to Interactive Brokers customers. Luckily, IB has recently got rid of account balance openings…in the past, it was required you needed to pony up 10 grand toopen an account, but due to the broker wars, that was removed. Yay for compettion!

What I Love About Trade Station

Stock Simulator

Another veteran entry in the world of stock market simulators is Trade Station. TradeStation is a direct access broker with a full-featured trading platform.

Their platform is the winner of multiple accolades and is one of the most trusted brokerages in the world. This simulator isn’t just for beginners though. It comes complete with research tools, highly customizable charts, stock chart indicators, strategy optimization capabilities,and access to the community forums where you can exchange ideas with other traders.

Due to its superb strategy testing, those who are systems traders really like it. It’s an expensive platform, but you can test it out for free simply by signing up for a paper trading account.

In fact, the platform is so well-received, non-brokerage clients can buy it separately.   However, the price tag is rather steep at $249.95 per month just for simulated trading. It beats losing $250 a month making mistakes in the real trading world though…

Don’t Be a Gambler

The bottom line is trading the stock markets a tricky business. Rarely is there a single trader – beginner or otherwise – who becomes hugely successful right out of the gate.

It’s a simple fact, practice does make perfect. One day of trading in a stock simulator can be worth weeks of training in real accounts or offline.

So that’s why paper trading is a great way to practice and test strategies. In fact, even seasoned traders go back to paper as they test new strategies, or make mistakes.

Keep in mind, successful paper trading does not guarantee successful trading with real money. However, it’s a start and “There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’ is done.” The bottom line is, you work hard for your money. The market is working hard to take money from you, so get the right training in a stock trading simulator before marching to battle with your “dollars and sense”.

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