A market order lets you purchase or sell a financial asset instantly at the best price currently available. Market orders take prices from limit orders on the order book. This means you can’t be 100% sure of the price you will get. Slippage can occur when you get a price different from what you expected.
Limit orders differ from market orders in that you can place them in advance with a set price. The exchange will only fill your order at the set price or better. You can easily place market orders on Binance in the exchange view. You can find them by clicking [Market] under the [Spot] tab.
The main advantages of market orders are their simplicity, immediacy, efficiency, and ability to, in most cases, completely fill. However, marker orders are at a disadvantage due to the risk of slippage and the fact you need to be present when executing the order.
There's more complexity to trading than just deciding to buy or sell. When you're buying or selling any financial asset like cryptocurrencies, stocks, or forex
, you'll come across various types of orders. From Fill or Kill
orders to stop-limits, market orders are one of the simplest and are often used by beginners. Let’s see what market orders are and how they work.
A market order is an order to immediately buy or sell at the best available price. It needs liquidity to be filled, meaning that it is executed based on the limit orders
already placed on the order book. If you want to buy or sell instantly at the current market price, setting a market order is your best option. For example, the price of BNB
might be rising rapidly, and you want to buy it ASAP. You're willing to take the market's price so long as you can purchase BNB instantly. In this case, you'd make a market order on your chosen exchange.
Unlike limit orders which are placed on the order book
, market orders are executed instantly at the current market price. There are always two sides in a trade; the maker and the taker. When you place a market order, you are taking the price set by someone else. For example, an exchange will match a purchase market order to the lowest ask price
on the order book. In contrast, a sell market order will be matched with the highest bid price
on the order book.
As mentioned, market orders require an exchange to have liquidity on the order book to meet the instant demand. As a market order removes liquidity
from the exchange, you'll pay higher fees as a market taker
when you place one. Binance's fee schedule
demonstrates the difference clearly between maker and taker fees.
It's much simpler to see the relationship between a market maker and taker with the numbers, so let’s see an example. Imagine you want to buy 1 BNB, and the current market price is around $370 (US dollars). You head to Binance and open the BNB/BUSD pair. To create your buy market order, you enter 1 in the amount field and click [Buy BNB].
After placing your order, the exchange looks at the order book. This ledger contains limit orders with a specific quantity and specified price to purchase or sell an asset. In this case, your market order to purchase 1 BNB at the market price (also known as the spot price
) will be matched with the lowest sell limit order on the order book.
As you can see, the lowest sell limit order on the book is for 1.286 BNB at $371.40 (BUSD). Your purchase market order will buy 1 BNB from the 1.286 BNB on offer, giving you a spot price of $371.40.
But let's say you want to buy 500 BNB at the current market price. The cheapest sell limit order available doesn't have the volume to fill your entire market buy order. Your market order's remaining volume will be automatically matched with the next best sell limit orders, working its way up the order book until it's totally filled. This process is called slippage
and is why you pay higher prices and fees (or receive a lower price) as a market taker.
To briefly recap, limit orders are orders to buy or sell a quantity of a financial asset at a set price or better. You can also choose whether the exchange can partially fill your limit order or if it must be totally filled. In the latter case, if the exchange can't completely fill your order, it won't execute it at all.
Market orders can only be filled with existing limit orders. Not everyone wants to take the price available on the market when trading or investing, so a limit order is a good alternative. You can use limit orders to plan out your trades in advance without needing to be at your desk trading.
Purchases an asset at the market price
Purchases an asset at a set price or better
Fills only at the limit order’s price or better
Manual (except for stop market orders)
Can be set in advance
Apart from these basic differences, market orders and limit orders are suitable for different trading activities and goals. Limit orders are typically better used:
1. When an asset's price has high volatility.
Placing a market order in a highly volatile market
can bring unexpected results. The price might change between the moment you create the order and when it executes. These slight differences can be the difference between profit and loss for arbitragers
. A limit order will ensure that you get the price you want.
2. When an asset has low liquidity. In this case, using a market order may cause slippage. This occurs when there is a low volume of market makers on the order book, and your order cannot be filled easily around the current market price. You'll then end up with a lower average sell price or higher average purchase price than you imagined. A limit order, on the other hand, will not completely fill if slippage takes the price outside of your limit.
3. If you already have a strategy. Limit orders require no interaction from you to begin filling and can be placed ahead of time. This means your strategies can still execute even when you’re not actively trading. You can’t do the same with market orders, unless you use a different type of order called stop market orders.
As we’ve seen, market orders are handy when getting your order filled is more important than getting a specific price. This means you should only use market orders if you are willing to pay a higher cost caused by the slippage. In other words, market orders are helpful if you're in a rush.
Sometimes you might be in a situation where you had a stop-limit order
that was passed over, and you need to buy/sell as soon as possible. So if you need to get into a trade right away or get yourself out of trouble, that's when market orders come in handy.
However, if you're not a complete beginner to crypto
and want to purchase some altcoins
with your Bitcoin
, avoid using a market order because you might pay more than necessary. In this case, a limit order is probably better.
When you're trading highly liquid assets with a narrow bid-ask spread
, a market order will get you a price close to or at the expected spot price. Assets with a larger spread have a much higher chance of causing slippage.
Let's say you want to create a market order to buy 2 BNB
. After logging in to your Binance account, head to the exchange view. Choose the BNB market you want (e.g., BNB/BUSD
), find the [Spot] tab, and select [Market]. Then, set the purchase amount to 2 BNB and click the [Buy BNB] button.
After that, you will see a confirmation message on the screen, and your market order will be executed.
Depending on the situation, there are four main advantages to using a market order:
1. Market orders are easy to use.
If you're looking to trade a highly liquid coin like Bitcoin or ETH
with a large market cap, a market order is a fairly safe option to use.
2. You can purchase or sell the full quantity you want of an asset. If you need to close all your positions or open one as soon as possible, a market order can almost always guarantee you'll be able to.
3. You can trade immediately. You might have time pressure to execute a trade, such as just before closing hours. You can be sure your market order will almost always be the quickest way to do this or just as quick as a limit order.
Although a market order has strength mainly in its speed, it does suffer a lot in the control you have. Its main disadvantages come from the fact that:
1. You can experience high slippage with low-volume assets. You may find yourself paying more than you planned or receiving much less. Without enough volume on the order book, you will climb up or down through the orders placed.
2. You can't plan out your trades in advance.
Some financial assets don't have markets with a fixed trading day or trading hours. You also can't always be at your screen ready to trade. If the market moves against your trading strategy
while you're asleep or not available, you won't be able to place a market order (unless you use a different type of order called stop market order).
A market order provides the most basic method for purchasing and selling financial assets. They're the best option for entering or exiting a market immediately. However, this all comes at the cost of losing the level of control you'll find with other types of orders. Your best bet is to consider the specific situation you're in and understand when it's best to use a market order or something else.