Trader Tips
Oct. 24, 202316 min read

Best Day Trading Simulator – Our Top Picks

Tim BohenAvatar
Written by Tim Bohen

*Written by AI, Edited by Humans

A day trading simulator is a risk-free, virtual trading platform that replicates real-world market conditions. Designed to help beginner traders get their feet wet without diving into financial risks, it provides the perfect environment to develop strategies and gain confidence before trading with real money.

Want to know more about the best paper trading platforms? Let’s get to the content!

Table of Contents

What Is a Trading Simulator?

Imagine trading without risking your hard-earned money. A trading simulator serves precisely this purpose, offering a virtual environment that mimics stock market conditions. Beginner traders often use simulators to learn the ropes and build their trading skills. The simulated platforms enable users to trade various asset classes — stocks, options, futures, and even cryptocurrencies — using virtual money, giving a real-time experience without any financial risk.

What Is Day Trading?

For those new to the scene, day trading involves buying and selling financial instruments within the same trading day. Unlike investing, which typically requires a long-term commitment, day trading is all about quick decisions and timely trades. While it offers the potential for significant profits, it also comes with its fair share of risks, making it crucial for day traders to be well-prepared and informed. A day trading simulator can be a valuable tool in this learning curve.

The Importance of Day Trading Simulators

Don’t underestimate the importance of day trading simulators, especially for beginner traders. These platforms allow you to practice your trading strategies without risking your capital. You can make mistakes, analyze them, and improve — without real financial repercussions. It’s a safe space to learn how markets behave and how best to respond to market conditions.

On a related note, if you’re looking to dig deeper into the mechanics of day trading, you might want to explore more about the psychology behind it. Understanding your emotional triggers and how to manage them can be a game-changer. It’s not just about the numbers; it’s about how you react to those numbers. For a comprehensive guide on trading psychology, dive into the psychology of trading here.

Criteria for Choosing a Day Trading Simulator

Before you jump in, consider the following factors when selecting a day trading simulator.

Realism and Accuracy of Data

A good simulator provides real-time or near real-time data and a close simulation of actual trading conditions. This includes not only stock prices but also options strategies, order types, and other factors. The more accurate the data, the better prepared you’ll be for the real thing.

Variety of Tradable Assets

Look for simulators that offer a wide range of asset classes, from stocks and options to futures and even cryptocurrencies. This will allow you to practice different trading strategies and familiarize yourself with various market conditions.

You should also consider the types of stocks you’ll be trading. Low-float stocks, for example, can be volatile and offer both risk and opportunity. Knowing how to navigate these waters is crucial. For an in-depth look at trading low-float stocks, check out this guide.

User Interface and Ease of Use

The user interface should be intuitive, easy to navigate, and similar to what you’ll find in real trading platforms. This will shorten your learning curve when you transition to a live environment.

Extra Features and Tools

Many simulators offer extra features like stock charts, scanners, and indicators that can aid in your analysis. Some even have backtesting capabilities and a community of traders you can learn from.

Review of the Best Day Trading Simulators

My top picks for best day trading simulator are:

  • StocksToTrade Paper Trading — The Best Overall Day Trading Simulator
  • Thinkorswim paperMoney — The Well-Rounded Day Trading Simulator
  • TradeStation Simulator — The Options and Futures Trading Simulator
  • NinjaTrader Simulator — The Most Realistic Futures Trading Simulator
  • TraderSync Simulator — The Performance-Tracking Day Trading Simulator
  • Interactive Brokers Simulator — The Multi-Asset Day Trading Simulator

If you’ve decided to venture into day trading, simulation software should be your first stop. The market is flush with high-quality stock market simulators that help individuals refine their trading strategy without risking their hard-earned cash. From user-friendly platforms like Thinkorswim and TradeStation to specialized options like NinjaTrader, traders are spoilt for choices. Some platforms even offer mobile apps, allowing friends and family to compete in a stock market game of sorts.

Choosing the right broker is as important as choosing the right simulator. Your broker will be your gateway to the market, and the wrong choice can hamper your trading efficiency. If you’re looking for a rundown on the best brokers for day trading in 2023, here’s a ranking you shouldn’t miss.

StocksToTrade Paper Trading — The Best Overall Day Trading Simulator

Alright, let’s talk about StocksToTrade. I’ll be upfront; I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for this one. Why? Because StocksToTrade was crafted by traders for traders, offering an intuitive interface complete with easy-to-navigate charts and user-friendly tools. The platform allows you to engage with a variety of asset classes — from commodities like gold to forex markets and even cryptocurrency. The virtual funds you start with give a real brokerage account vibe, minus the need to link an actual bank account.

StocksToTrade also addresses a common gripe many traders have with stock simulators—the lack of realism in trade executions. Here, you have the option to tweak your demo accounts to simulate real-world obstacles like execution delays or Pattern Day Trader (PDT) restrictions. They even let you adjust commission settings to simulate trading with different brokerage firms, enhancing the authenticity of your trading experience.

Our Opinion on StocksToTrade

StocksToTrade isn’t just a game; it’s more like a full-scale trading boot camp. One of the standout features is its sophisticated analysis tools, perfectly in sync with the paper trading module. These tools utilize real-time data to help you prepare for live trading of securities like Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) shares. Available both online and as a mobile app, the platform provides a 360-degree trading environment. The only drawback? Its wealth of features may be overwhelming for beginner traders, and the subscription costs can add up. But for the serious trader aiming to excel in stock trading, forex markets, or even the cryptocurrency world, this is a superb choice.

It’s all part of the best trading platform I know.

When it comes to platforms, StocksToTrade is first on my list. It’s a lightning-fast trading platform that integrates with most major brokers. It has all the trading indicators, news sources, and stock screening capabilities that traders like me look for in a platform.

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Thinkorswim paperMoney by TD Ameritrade — The Well-Rounded Day Trading Simulator

TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim paperMoney is a well-rounded trading simulator. It offers a robust platform with a wide array of tradable assets and advanced trading tools. The user interface is incredibly user-friendly, suitable for traders of all experience levels.

Our Opinion on Thinkorswim

In terms of experience, interface, and toolset, thinkorswim stands out. It’s excellent for both beginner traders and seasoned investors. We appreciate the real-time data and variety of tradable assets. The learning curve might be a bit steep, but the platform offers extensive resources to get you up to speed.

TradeStation Simulator — The Options and Futures Trading Simulator

TradeStation offers a sophisticated trading simulator ideal for those interested in options and futures. Their platform comes with excellent charting tools, scanners, and a well-designed user interface.

Our Opinion on TradeStation

For those who are more into options and futures, TradeStation’s simulator is a solid choice. It also allows backtesting of trading strategies, a feature that sets it apart from many competitors.

NinjaTrader Simulator — The Most Realistic Futures Trading Simulator

NinjaTrader is known for its advanced charting capabilities and high-speed data analytics. It’s especially popular among day traders focusing on futures markets.

Our Opinion on NinjaTrader

While NinjaTrader’s learning curve can be steep, it provides the most realistic futures trading simulation. The advanced charting capabilities and community support are added bonuses for those willing to dive deep into trading futures.

TraderSync Simulator — The Performance-Tracking Day Trading Simulator

TraderSync offers a unique twist with a focus on journaling and performance analysis. It aims to help traders identify mistakes and improve their strategies.

Our Opinion on TraderSync

For those looking to not just trade but also analyze their performance and strategies, TraderSync provides excellent value. The journaling feature is a standout, offering an additional layer of introspection to your trading practice.

Interactive Brokers Simulator — The Multi-Asset Day Trading Simulator

Interactive Brokers offers a versatile simulator that is ideal for those who want to try out various asset classes, including stocks, options, and even international markets.

Our Opinion on Interactive Brokers

Their platform provides realistic market conditions and is suitable for traders of all experience levels. Its access to international markets is a unique feature that broadens your trading horizons.

How To Use a Day Trading Simulator

Using a stock simulator is as easy as setting up a new bank account. You start by depositing virtual funds into a demo account provided by the brokerage firm or provider of your choice. The process is similar to setting up a real brokerage account, but without connecting to a real bank account. Once you’ve got your balance sorted, you’re free to trade a plethora of assets—from shares of companies to commodities and even cryptocurrencies. You can place orders as you would in a live setting, offering a similar experience to real trading. Just remember, while you’re learning, your losses and gains are just numbers for now.

Steps to Set Up a Simulator

Setting up a simulator is generally straightforward. Most platforms only require an email and a password. Once you’re in, you’ll typically get a fixed amount of virtual money in your paper trading account. From there, it’s all about making trades just like you would in a real trading environment.

Creating and Testing Trading Strategies

The best part about simulators is the freedom to experiment. Use them to test various trading strategies — whether it’s day trading, swing trading, or options strategies — without the risk of losing real money.

Transitioning from a Simulator to Live Trading

When you feel confident enough in your trading skills and strategies, transitioning to a live account is the next step. Remember, start small. You don’t have to risk all your capital at once. Get your feet wet, and as you gain more experience, gradually increase your trades and exposure.

The Pros and Cons of Using a Day Trading Simulator

Like anything, using a stock market simulator comes with its pros and cons. On the plus side, they allow individuals, from stock trading beginners to seasoned players, to test strategies risk-free. You can even share your results with friends or clients for advice or opinions. On the downside, these demo accounts can’t replicate the emotional intensity of real trading. In a simulator, your investment in index funds, forex markets, or companies like Apple and Tesla lacks real-world weight, making the strategy work a bit different from a live setting.

Advantages of Simulators

Simulators offer a risk-free environment to learn and test strategies. They provide a wealth of educational materials, and many offer community support. They’re particularly beneficial for beginner traders who are still getting a feel for market conditions.

Potential Limitations of Simulators

While simulators are useful for practice, they can’t entirely replicate the psychological pressures of real trading. You might act differently when real money is at stake, which is a limitation to consider.

Key Takeaways

Day trading simulators are invaluable tools for anyone looking to enter the trading world. They offer a risk-free environment to develop skills and strategies. However, they’re not a complete substitute for real-world trading and should be used as part of a broader learning plan.

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  • Premarket Prep with StocksToTrade lead trainer Tim Bohen
  • Bryce Tuohey from Small Cap Rockets giving a market open webinar each day
  • Tim Bohen back at noon with his afternoon Double Down review
  • Small Cap Rockets’ Matt Monaco in the after-hours sharing his game plan for the next trading day

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Do you use a day trading simulator to test new strategies or practice other skills? Let me know in the comments!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Day Trading Simulators Suitable for All Trader Levels?

Absolutely, from beginner traders to seasoned investors, simulators offer valuable insights and a risk-free environment to test strategies.

How Long Should a New Trader Use a Simulator?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It’s about how confident and comfortable you feel. Most traders spend at least a few months on a simulator before going live.

Can I Test Options Trading Strategies on a Simulator?

Yes, many of the top simulators like thinkorswim and TradeStation allow you to practice options trading strategies, providing a comprehensive trading experience.

What Exchanges Are Supported on the Best Day Trading Simulators?

You’ll hear me say it a million times: the best day trading simulators support a variety of exchanges. TradingView is a prime example. They offer a wide range of exchanges, including European ones. Subscriptions often dictate the number of exchanges you can access. Look for a button or feature that allows you to toggle between different currency exchanges as well.

How User-Friendly Are These Simulators for Individual Users?

We’re here for the long haul, and that means considering the user experience. Individual users should find the site easy to navigate. Whether you’re on a computer or other devices, the version should be responsive. People generally prefer platforms that are intuitive and user-friendly.

What Research Tools Do These Simulators Offer?

Remember, we’re here to identify high-risk to reward setups. Research is crucial for that. The best simulators offer a library of studies, articles, and information. Some even offer courses, games, and tips to help you sharpen your skills.

How Do These Simulators Handle Investments and Portfolio Management?

You don’t have to mirror my techniques, but you should know that the best simulators allow you to manage investments effectively. They offer portfolio tracking and even integrate products recommended by financial platforms like GOBankingRates. Especially for European traders, it’s essential to choose a simulator that aligns with your investment strategy.

Can You Give an Example of Other Features These Simulators Offer?

Sure, besides the main features, these simulators offer other things that can be useful. For example, some have a point system to gamify the experience. Others might have a recognizable logo that assures you of their credibility. As a stock trader, I find these additional features can sometimes make or break the experience.