May. 17, 202412 min read

What’s a Stock Screener and Why Do You Need One?

Tim BohenAvatar
Written by Tim Bohen

A stock screener is a tool that filters stocks based on your preferred criteria. Once you run a scan, it’ll give you a set of stocks that match your preferences. It’s how pro traders cut through the noise of over 18,000 stocks!

All traders want to get on the best trades before others do, but checking for trading opportunities manually isn’t realistic. Seconds count in the market, and knowing how to use a stock screener effectively could be the difference between a profitable trade and a losing one.

What is a stock screener, and what does a stock screener do? Let’s jump right in and learn more about them!

What Is a Stock Screener?

A stock screener is a program that helps you sort through the thousands of stocks available on the stock market according to your criteria. Using a stock screener increases your chances of finding securities that match your trading strategy.

Most stock screeners are part of an overall trading platform, which usually comes with charts, a news scanner, and other features. You can also find screeners provided on brokerage platforms.

Some screeners don’t just screen for stocks. You can find screeners for mutual funds, crypto, ETFs, and more. 

Most good stock screeners cost money, but you can also find free screeners. Here are some of the best free stock screeners available today.

Do Stock Screeners Work?

Stock screeners work, and they’re an integral part of a trader’s arsenal. They’re one of the most basic tools for traders and investors.

I use StocksToTrade to screen and chart stocks that I’m watching. It’s a killer screener app that lets you customize filters to help you search for the stocks you want to trade. 

Try it and see how it changes the way you trade — sign up for a 14-day StocksToTrade trial for only $7!

Why Use a Stock Screener?

You use a stock screener to filter for stocks that fit your trading strategy. This way, you can quickly find the handful of stocks that fit your strategy and dive deeper into their charts. 

Different stock screeners cater to different kinds of traders. Check out my list of the best growth stock screeners and best overall stock screeners for recommendations.

Importance of Using a Stock Screener

Using a stock screener is important if you want to be a self-sufficient trader. There’s no other way to comb through over 18,000 publicly-traded securities on stock exchanges without making your eyes bleed.

Looking for trading ideas and opportunities without a stock screener usually leads to random trading. Random trading leads to random results — that’s how you blow up your account.

The right search criteria help you find the stocks you want to trade. Read my guide to the best stock screener queries to learn more about getting the most out of your searches.

Advantages of Using Stock Screeners

One of the biggest benefits of using stock screeners is customizability. You can tweak their filters according to your needs, meaning you can search for any stocks you want, whatever the criteria may be.

Your stock screener usually offers pre-built stock filters. They’re often made by traders or other experts to use right off the bat. You can also modify them according to your needs, so you don’t have to make a filter from scratch. Some of them even offer user-made stock filters to use.

Stock screeners also increase your response time. The better class of screener will allow you to keep watchlists, so you can keep tabs on your results from previous scans.

How Do Stock Screeners Work?

Stock screeners work by filtering stocks according to the metrics you choose. Then, they’ll list the results so you can dive deeper into each stock and see whether they’re worth trading.

Top screeners like StocksToTrade have dozens of screening parameters to tailor your search according to your needs.

How to Use a Stock Screener

The most basic use of a stock screener is to search for stocks by a set of criteria. You plug in the criteria or use a pre-built screen. Then, the screener gives you stocks that match your chosen criteria. 

From there, you can look further into the stocks to see whether they fit your trading or investment strategies. This helps you make educated trading decisions.

Choosing stock screeners can be difficult. That’s why I have a guide on what stock screener criteria you should use when making your picks.

How to Make a Stock Screener

You can make a stock screener by inputting your preferred criteria in the platform. You can either create a screener from scratch or edit a pre-built screener provided by the screening tool.

Here’s one of my standby stock screener setups, the top percent gainer scan, as an example:

In my top percent gainer scan, I look for stocks with share prices between $0.25 and $20, with a trading volume over 100,000 on the day, and up more than 5% on the day. This gives you a list of liquid stocks that are up big on the day. 

Once you come up with a scan you’ll frequently be using, you can save the settings so you can use it repeatedly without recreating it every time.

What is the Best Stock Screener to Use?

There’s no “best” stock screener for everybody to use. What there is a stock screener that fits your needs and helps you reach your trading goals. 

In my experience, the best way to know which stock screener is the best for you is to simply try. Get a good feel of each scanner’s performance and what it brings to the table. Nobody says you have to stick to one screener, so try as many as you like and find the screener that works best.


I personally love StocksToTrade. I might be a bit biased here, but it’s the number one trading tool in my arsenal for a reason. It’s a robust and powerful screener that lets you dive deep into the stock’s details. 

It’s also got an insanely customizable desktop app that lets you build screeners easily. Don’t want to build your own screeners? StocksToTrade’s got you covered — you can access trader-made screeners, so you can trade like the pros right off the bat.

Another reason I love StocksToTrade: it has Oracle, an algorithm-based chart analysis tool. This nifty piece of technology spots the day’s most tradable stocks to give you actionable trade signals. 

See how useful algorithms can be — sign up for NO-COST Oracle trade alerts now!

Final Thoughts

A stock screener is a tool that helps you find stocks that fit your trading strategy. You need one to filter out the stocks that you’re not looking for, reducing the time spent looking for tradable stocks. Essentially, it helps you separate the wheat from the chaff.

Why is screening so important? You need to screen stocks so you can capitalize on trading opportunities faster. Without one, you risk missing trading opportunities and random trading.

Different stock screening tools cater to different kinds of traders — some might be better for fundamental analysis, others might be better for technical analysis. 

Make sure you choose the stock screener that works best for your strategies. If needed, you can even use multiple stock screeners to bypass one screener’s limitations.

If you’re still looking for stock screeners, here’s one you should check out: millionaire trader Matt Monaco’s Alpha Scanner. Matt was a software engineer in a past life, and it’s a skillset that helped him succeed as a trader. Now, he’s used those skills to develop the Alpha Scanner based on his trading style.

Matt’s packed the Alpha Scanner full of trade alerts, live mentoring, and more. Can his trading style give you an edge? Here’s how you find out…

Sign up for the next Alpha Scanner LIVE broadcast for more information!

Stock Screener FAQs

What Is a Stock Screener and How Does It Help Investors?

A stock screener is a powerful tool that helps investors filter and analyze potential trading opportunities based on specific criteria. It allows users to screen for individual stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and other securities. Stock screeners provide options for custom screens, preset screens, and premium stock screeners to cater to different types of investors, from beginner investors to advanced day traders.

How Can Stock Screeners Be Used to Analyze Financial Ratios?

Stock screeners can filter stocks based on various financial ratios such as the equity ratio, earnings ratio, and dividend yield. These metrics help investors assess the financial health and performance of companies. Additionally, stock screeners can highlight companies with attractive dividend payouts, earnings surprises, and strong cash flow, providing a comprehensive view of potential investments.

What Advanced Features Do Premium Stock Screeners Offer?

Premium stock screeners offer advanced features like real-time alerts, detailed stock analysis, and access to additional parameters for more refined searches. These tools are particularly beneficial for active traders and day traders who need up-to-date information and advanced technical patterns. Premium options also include analyst recommendations and ratings to guide investment decisions.

How Do Different Types of Investors Use Stock Screeners?

Stock screeners are used by various types of investors, including self-directed investors, buy-and-hold investors, and technical traders. Each type of investor can customize their screening criteria to match their investment objectives, such as income generation, return on investment, or identifying breakout trading opportunities. Tools like Yahoo Finance and Stock Rover provide comprehensive data to support these diverse investment strategies.

How Do Stock Screeners Enhance the Trading Plan of Day Traders?

Day traders benefit from stock screeners by using them to identify candidates for trading based on real-time data and market conditions. These screeners can highlight stocks with high average trading volume, favorable market capitalization, and technical patterns that indicate potential price movements. This information helps day traders formulate and execute their trading plans effectively.

What Role Do Financial Metrics and Analyst Opinions Play in Stock Screening?

Financial metrics and analyst opinions are crucial components of stock screening. Metrics like cash flow, earnings growth rates, and fundamental metrics help investors assess a company’s performance. Analyst recommendations and ratings provide additional insights, helping investors make informed decisions. Popular screens and prebuilt factors from sources like Zacks Investment Research can further refine stock selection strategies.

How Can Stock Screeners Identify Stocks With Attractive Dividend Payouts?

Stock screeners can filter for stocks with attractive dividend payouts by focusing on cash dividends, contribution of dividend income, and historical dividend yield. These screeners help investors looking for income generation to find companies with consistent and high dividend payouts. Screening for these factors ensures a steady stream of income from their investments.

How Do Stock Screeners Assist in Finding Growth Stocks?

Stock screeners can identify growth stocks by analyzing metrics like 3-year revenue growth, 5-year forecasted earnings growth, and earnings growth rates. These tools help investors pinpoint companies with strong growth prospects and potential for significant future returns. Using these metrics, investors can build a portfolio of stocks with high upside potential.

How Do Stock Screeners Help in Assessing Market Conditions and Fluctuations?

Stock screeners provide valuable insights into market conditions and fluctuations by offering real-time alerts, market news, and updates on market capitalization. Investors can use these features to stay informed about current market trends and make timely investment decisions. This helps in navigating market volatility and capitalizing on favorable trading opportunities.

What Are the Benefits of Using Online Stock Screeners and Trading Platforms?

Online stock screeners and trading platforms, such as Trade Ideas and Stock Rover, offer convenient user interfaces and complete access to a wide range of screening metrics. These platforms allow investors to perform in-depth analysis and make well-informed investment decisions. Additionally, features like intraday alerts and scanning processes enhance the overall trading experience.

How Do Stock Screeners Cater to Different Market Segments and Sectors?

Stock screeners can filter stocks based on specific market segments and sectors, such as Communication Services, Apparel companies, and Canadian markets. This allows investors to focus on sectors with strong growth prospects or attractive valuation. By targeting specific segments, investors can diversify their portfolios and manage risk effectively.

How Do Analyst Recommendations and Ratings Influence Stock Picks?

Analyst recommendations and ratings are essential for stock picks, providing expert opinions on the potential performance of stocks. These insights help investors identify undervalued or overvalued stocks and make strategic investment decisions. Stock screeners that include analyst opinions offer a comprehensive view of the investment landscape.

How Do Stock Screeners Facilitate the Selection of Defensive and Cyclical Stocks?

Stock screeners can filter for defensive stocks and cyclical stocks based on their performance in different market conditions. Defensive stocks, which are less affected by economic downturns, and cyclical stocks, which perform well during economic expansions, can be identified using specific screening criteria. This helps investors build a balanced portfolio that can withstand market fluctuations.