How we research the Vanguard VAS ETF (ASX:VAS) and BetaShares FAIR ETF (ASX:FAIR)

The Vanguard Australian Shares Index ETF (ASX: VAS) and BetaShares Australian Sustainability Leaders ETF (ASX: FAIR) are exchange-traded funds (ETFs) operating in the Australian shares sector, and aiming to make investing as simple as possible.

How the VAS and FAIR ETFs fit in a portfolio

The Vanguard VAS ETF provides exposure to the largest 300 Australian shares, based on market capitalisation. This is a low-cost way to access top Australian companies through a single fund.

The BetaShares FAIR ETF provides exposure to the largest Australian shares and focuses on companies which operate ethically. FAIR has been certified by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA), as part of the Responsible Investment Certification Program.

See our ASX FAIR report – it’s totally free.

a gif of 4 etf reports

Okay, so we know what they’re designed to do, the sectors and strategies. Now what? One of the quick ways to compare ETFs like FAIR and VAS is to study the fee load. No one likes paying high fees if they don’t need to. Here at Best ETFs and Rask Australia, we begin by analysing the fees and ‘all in’ costs of an ETF or fund. Our team will score ETFs based on management fees, plus any other costs, then put them into quartiles by sector, strategy and across the entire ETF market.

To make this article easier to digest, we’ll just study the fees or ‘management expense ratio’ (MER). Using data for December 2021, the VAS ETF has an MER of 0.10% while the FAIR ETF had a yearly fee of 0.49%. As a result, VAS comes out on top. Keep in mind, a more useful metric to know is the fee quartiles that these ETFs find themselves in (note: quartile 1 is best). Meaning, we take all the Australian shares ETFs in our database and classify them into 4 quartiles, based on their fees. For example, any ETF which has a fee below 0.3% would be considered in our first (best) quartile.

How we study past performance

Time to look at past returns. Keep in mind, performance isn’t everything — and past performance is not indicative of future performance. It’s just one part of a much bigger picture. The reason we say performance is not everything is because of volatility of financial markets and the economy from one year to the next. Some ETFs and funds can put in a attractive return one year just to generate unsatisfactory returns the next time around. That’s why we prefer three-year or seven-year track records over one-year track records. It can smooth out the temporary performances caused by external factors. Both ETFs have achieved our three-year performance hurdle. As of December 2021, the VAS ETF had an average annual return of 15.33%. During the same time, the FAIR ETF returned 15.22%.

One final point: the ETF provider is important. In Australia, we believe there are a handful of stand-out ETF providers and many that are mid-pack or very fresh. As you guessed, the provider backing the VAS ETF is Vanguard. And Vanguard ranks highly for our scores of ETF providers and issuers in Australia. We consider Vanguard to be in Australia’s top three ETF providers for retail investors, advisers and institutions. FAIR’s ETF provider on the ASX is BetaShares. Betashares ranks highly for our scores of ETF providers and issuers in Australia. We believe BetaShares is one of the leading providers of index and non-index style products to retail investors in Australia.

What it all means

If you’d like to learn more about these two ETFs, be sure to visit our free VAS ETF report or FAIR ETF review.

In summary, the VAS ETF rates higher for our internal scoring methodology but not by much compared to FAIR.

Please, keep in mind, there is much more to choosing a good ETF. That’s why you should now use these skills to find the best ETF you can. If you want the name of our team’s top ETF pick for 2022, keep reading…

My #1 ETF of 2022

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From 200+ ETFs in Australia, our top investment analyst has just identified his #1 ETF for 2021 and beyond.

Low fees? Check.

Long-term growth potential? Check.

Regular cash returns? Check!

This ETF makes investing in ETFs "Super-Easy".

Simply click here to access the full ETF report, ticker code, and step-by-step investment guide. Our expert's #1 ETF report is completely free.

No gimmicks, no payment, no credit card info. Just click the link below and enter your email address. We'll send you the report right away.

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