Dimensional Funds Vs. Vanguard- Which One Is The Best?

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Passive and enhanced index funds are two essential options for investors.

Vanguard is a massive provider of passive indexed funds, and DFA is a significant provider of enhanced indexed funds.

The debate on Dimensional funds vs. Vanguard has been here for a while. There are a lot of opinions on which fund is better than the other. 

How to choose one between DFA and Vanguard?

While different people will give different opinions, researching yourself and understanding how the fund works are the best way to decide which will work best for you. It is crucial to understand thoroughly about mutual funds before investing, as otherwise, you can end up losing your hard-earned money.

We have covered the critical aspects of DFA and Vanguard funds, allowing you to determine which is best for you and your financial goals.

What are the distinctions between Vanguard and Dimensional funds?

People frequently wonder what the distinction is between Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA) and Vanguard as it helps a lot to choose one. The following are some key differences.

Indexing vs. Asset Class Investing

Vanguard is well-known for pioneering work in creating and marketing index mutual funds or ETFs to investors. Index mutual funds invest in a specific index based on their investment objective, sampling the market for that particular asset class.

On the other hand, DFA tracks the entire asset class corresponding to its investment objective. Consider it sampling versus owning assets as the whole class. In terms of total underlying holdings, asset-class investing is much more diverse.


Vanguard and index mutual funds follow the stated index precisely and get the returns the index states.

DFA takes passive management a step further by employing academically based principles and focusing on areas with higher expected returns. On the equity side, these areas include small businesses, value businesses, and profitable businesses.

Owning the entire asset class and tilting the weighting towards these areas is to outperform the benchmark over the long term.


DFA and Vanguard are both very low-cost mutual fund companies compared to other mutual fund companies and, more specifically, additional active management funds. However, when comparing the two, Vanguard slightly outperforms DFA in terms of the lowest cost.

It is because index fund management can be low-cost. After all, it’s computer driven and is set to “auto-pilot” to follow the stated index. 

DFA is slightly higher cost as there is more that goes into it. They aren’t trying to guess the market but instead using time-tested economic theory to weigh their portfolios. All this requires more work than indexing, thus, has a higher cost.


A significant difference between the two is the efficiency with which they place trades. With indexing, once the stated index changes, all index funds that follow that index must make the exact change simultaneously.

DFA and asset-class investing don’t have to follow these same constraints. As long as the company fits into the asset class, they don’t have to buy or sell that company along with everyone else. It leads to avoiding having to buy or sell at artificially inflated or deflated prices.

So, which one is better? Dimensional or Vanguard funds?

It depends on your circumstances, goals, and financial situation. Check out the benefits of both funds that will help you to decide – 

Vanguard Benefits

  • Vanguard’s ETFs have some of the lowest expense ratios in the industry.
  • Vanguard offers third-party stock research reports from Standard & Poor’s, Thomson Reuters, and First Call.
  • Vanguard provides thousands of other mutual funds with no transaction fees (NTF).

DFA Benefits

  • DFA has been a world leader in developing tax-advantaged strategies and mutual funds for investors.
  • DFA funds have more precisely defined market segments, such as large vs. small companies, value vs. growth, and so on, resulting in better asset allocation controls and, ultimately, better returns.
  • DFA has very low expense ratios, similar to index funds, which save 1% per year in reduced expenses compared to actively managed retail funds.

If you manage your investments, you will not have access to DFA funds, and in this case, we will primarily recommend Vanguard investments. Vanguard funds will serve you well if you stick to a well-thought-out investment strategy.

If you already work with an authorized advisor to use DFA funds, consider whether a combination of Vanguard and DFA funds makes sense for your portfolio.

Vanguard and DFA are excellent low-cost options for capturing as many returns as the stock market offers. You can obtain the lowest costs by purchasing Vanguard directly, but some excellent low-cost advisers have access to DFA funds.

Choose either one, and you’ll most likely be satisfied.

However, because everyone’s situation and preferences differ, conduct thorough research before deciding.

Can you lose money due to investing in DFA and Vanguard funds?

Every fund carries some level of risk. You could lose some or all of your money if you invest in funds because the securities held by the fund can lose value.

It may also result in debt. 

One of my clients, who was having financial difficulties, took out a personal loan to invest in mutual funds in order to earn a good return. He made a terrible choice because, before investing, he only did a little research on mutual funds and, regrettably, lost most of his money due to market fluctuations.

This personal loan increased his debt burden, which was already high due to his numerous other loans. We had to consolidate his debt to assist him in paying off debt. Debt consolidation combines several loans or liabilities by obtaining a new loan to pay off the debts.

There are better ideas than taking out a loan or borrowing money to invest. You should always take this route with your own money so that even if you lose it, you don’t end up in debt.

Few things to consider before investing in funds

You can choose Vanguard, DFA, or even a different ETF; it is entirely up to you – but make sure you work with a fiduciary with a substantial investment philosophy if you want good returns. It is because:

  • They assist you in remaining invested by managing your emotions and behavioral biases
  • They rebalance you during market volatility
  • They help you in selecting appropriate investments for you and your life plan rather than the current fad

The financial world can be complicated and nuanced, making it challenging to navigate alone.

A professional and certified fiduciary is the best to assist those with a high degree of complexity, limited time, significant capital, and the goal of maximizing their return on investments and their return on life.


Choosing where to invest may be difficult, but researching and understanding your goals can help. You will increase your chances of success if you conduct this due diligence before selecting a fund.

About The Author: Lyle Solomon has extensive legal experience, in-depth knowledge, and experience in consumer finance and writing. He has been a member of the California State Bar since 2003. He graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, in 1998 and currently works for the Oak View Law Group in California as a Principal Attorney.

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