Two of the most popular total U.S. bond market ETFs are the Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND) and the iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG). Let’s compare them.
In a hurry? Here are the highlights:
- BND and AGG are the two most popular bond ETFs out there.
- Both ETFs track the same bond market index, providing broad exposure to U.S. investment-grade bonds.
- BND and AGG have had nearly identical historical performance.
- BND is slightly cheaper and more popular than AGG.
- BND holds slightly more treasury bonds than AGG, and AGG has slightly more exposure to mortgage bonds than BND.
- For all intents and purposes, these two ETFs should be considered reasonably identical.
BND vs. AGG – Methodology and Composition
If you’ve landed here, you already know that bonds provide downside protection and volatility and risk reduction for diversified portfolios, and you probably already know that total bond market funds provide broad exposure to market-weighted indexes of different bond classes, maturities, and credit levels.
The Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND) is the most popular bond fund out there. It was established in 2007. The fund seeks to track the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Float Adjusted Index, holding over 9,700 U.S. investment-grade bonds with an average maturity of roughly 8.5 years and an average duration of roughly 6.5 years.
The iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG) also provides similar broad exposure to the entire U.S. bond market. It was established in 2003. The fund seeks to track the Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index. This ETF holds over 8,600 U.S. investment-grade bonds with a weighted average maturity of 8 years and an average duration of 6 years.
BND holds slightly more treasury bonds than AGG, and AGG holds slightly more mortgage bonds. Consequently, one could argue that AGG is ever so slightly riskier. Both of these ETFs follow the same index, with Vanguard’s BND using the float-adjusted version. Both funds use representative sampling to track the index. The index excludes municipal bonds, TIPS, and high-yield bonds.
BND vs. AGG – Historical Performance
These two funds have delivered nearly identical performance since the inception of BND in 2007.
BND vs. AGG – AUM and Fees
Though both funds have extremely high liquidity, Vanguard’s BND is considered more popular with over $285 billion in assets under management. AGG from iShares has roughly $80 billion in assets.
Both funds offer very low fees, but BND comes out slightly cheaper. At the time of writing, its expense ratio is 0.035%. AGG has an expense ratio of 0.04%.
For all intents and purposes, these two ETFs are essentially identical, so you can’t go wrong either way. I’d be inclined to go with the slightly cheaper BND.
Disclaimer: While I love diving into investing-related data and playing around with backtests, I am in no way a certified expert. I have no formal financial education. I am not a financial advisor, portfolio manager, or accountant. This is not financial advice, investing advice, or tax advice. The information on this website is for informational and recreational purposes only. Investment products discussed (ETFs, mutual funds, etc.) are for illustrative purposes only. It is not a recommendation to buy, sell, or otherwise transact in any of the products mentioned. Do your own due diligence. Past performance does not guarantee future returns. Read my lengthier disclaimer here.