What Is a Limit Order in Investing?

Jason Williams

Posted June 14, 2024

Investing in the stock market can be a thrilling ride, but it’s also filled with complexities. So today I’m going to stray from my typical coverage and we’re going to do some continuing education. Because one powerful tool at your disposal is the limit order. Unlike market orders, which execute trades at the current market price, limit orders give you the power to specify the maximum price you’re willing to pay for a stock or the minimum price you’re willing to accept when selling.

what is a limit order in investing

This level of control can make a big difference in your trading outcomes. Yet I keep hearing investors asking, “What is a limit order in investing?” So, in case you’re one of those investors, let’s take some time to dig into one of the most powerful risk management tools you have at your disposal. First, we’ll cover what exactly they are. Then we’ll break down three of the most common types. And finally, we’ll cover just why they’re so important.

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What Is a Limit Order in Investing?

To answer the question “What is a limit order in investing?” and understand why limit orders are such an important tool in every investor’s arsenal, first we’ve got to break down what exactly a limit order’s purpose is and what it accomplishes. And the best way to do that is to think of a limit order as setting your own terms in the market. When you use limit orders in investing, you decide the price at which you want to buy or sell, providing price certainty and better managing risk. However, it’s important to note that a limit order doesn’t guarantee execution. The market still has to do its thing. And if it doesn’t reach your specified price, some limit orders will never be executed. But it’s this factor that really makes limit orders useful in volatile markets where prices can swing wildly.

But now that we’ve started to figure out what is a limit order in investing, it’s time to dig a little deeper. So next let’s dive into the most common types of limit orders. Then you’ll start to really see how you can use them to your advantage…

What Is a Limit Order in Investing: Buy Limit Orders

A buy limit order lets you purchase a stock at or below a specified price. This ensures that you won’t pay more than you want to for that stock. Buy limit orders are great when you anticipate a stock’s price dropping and want to snag it at a lower price. But examples always help to really drive a point home, so let’s give a quick example that really shows how easy and effective limit orders are when investing…

Imagine you want to buy shares of Company XYZ, which are currently trading at $50 per share. You set a buy limit order at $48 because the market has been volatile and you think it’s going lower before it goes back up. Your order will only execute if the stock price drops to $48 or lower, ensuring you don’t overpay. But, on the flip side, if you were wrong and the market goes up, this might be one of those limit orders destined for expiration without exercise.

What Is a Limit Order in Investing: Sell Limit Orders

A sell limit order allows you to sell a stock at or above a specified price. This type of order ensures you don’t sell for less than what you’re aiming for. It’s perfect for locking in profits when a stock’s price is rising or minimizing losses when a stock’s price is falling. But, again, an example is helpful to show just how simple and effective this part of the limit order strategy is too…

So let’s imagine you own shares of Company ABC, currently trading at $100 per share. You want to take some profit off the top to put into another investment, but you think the stock is going to go a little bit higher in the next day or two. So you set a sell limit order at $105. Your shares will only be sold if the price hits $105 or higher, ensuring you get the price you want. But, again, this limit order only executes if you’re right about the direction those shares are headed.

What Is a Limit Order in Investing: Trailing Stop Limit Orders

A trailing stop limit order is a bit more dynamic. It combines the features of a stop order with a limit order, setting a trailing amount that moves with the stock price. This helps you protect gains or limit losses while allowing for favorable price movements. And once again, I’ve got a pretty common situation for you as an example to show just how easy this complicated-sounding subject really is…

Suppose you have shares of Company LMN, currently trading at $75 per share. You bought them for $50 a share and are currently looking at a 50% gain. You think the stock is going higher, but don’t want to sacrifice that profit if you’re wrong. So you set a trailing stop limit order with a trailing amount of $5. Now, if the stock price rises to $80, your stop price adjusts to $75. And if the stock price then falls to $75 or below, your order to sell is triggered, protecting your gains.

What Is a Limit Order in Investing: Percentage Trailing Stop Limit Order

A percentage trailing stop limit order adjusts with the stock price based on a specified percentage. This method keeps the stop price at a consistent distance from the highest price achieved, adapting as the stock moves. It’s a little bit more complicated than the last trailing stop limit order we covered, but only because “percentage” sounds intimidating. So let’s have another example of how this limit order might be implemented in your investing strategy…

Say you hold shares of Company OPQ, trading at $100 per share. You’ve got a 50% profit so far and want to make sure you don’t lose that, but you’ve also got a feeling the market is going to take this stock higher. So, this time, you set a trailing stop limit order with a 10% trailing percentage. If the stock price rises to $120, the stop price adjusts to $108 (10% below $120). If the price then drops to $108, your order to sell is triggered, locking in your gains. Both kinds of trailing stops rise as the share price rises, but never adjust downward. So you don’t have to worry about changing them or losing any gains you’ve already got.

What Is a Limit Order in Investing: Limit Orders in Action

So now that we’ve covered the ins and outs of limit orders in investing, and now that you understand the three main types of limits orders investors use the most often, let’s see some examples of those limit orders in action…

  • Buy Limit Order Example
    • Scenario: Jane wants to buy 100 shares of Company DEF, currently trading at $60. She believes the stock will drop and sets a buy limit order at $55.
    • Outcome: The stock price drops to $55 within a week, and Jane’s order executes, getting her the shares at her desired price.
  • Sell Limit Order Example
    • Scenario: John owns 200 shares of Company GHI, trading at $150. He anticipates a price increase and sets a sell limit order at $155.
    • Outcome: The stock price reaches $155, and John’s order executes, selling his shares at the targeted price.
  • Trailing Stop Limit Order Example
    • Scenario: Emily holds 50 shares of Company JKL, trading at $200. She sets a trailing stop limit order with a $10 trailing amount.
    • Outcome: The stock price rises to $220, adjusting her stop price to $210. If the stock then falls to $210, the limit order to sell is triggered, protecting her gains.
  • Percentage Trailing Stop Limit Order Example
    • Scenario: Michael owns shares of Company RST, currently trading at $50. He sets a trailing stop limit order with a 15% trailing percentage.
    • Outcome: The stock price rises to $60, adjusting his stop price to $51 (15% below $60). If the stock price then falls to $51 or below, the limit order to sell is triggered, protecting his gains.

The Importance of Using Limit Orders in Stock Investing

As we’ve answered the question “What is a limit order in investing?” I’m sure you’ve come to see as that these are powerful and useful financial tools. But before I let you go put them into action, let’s take a minute to summarize just how they can help you manage risk and become an even better investor:

  1. Risk Management: Limit orders help you manage risk by setting specific entry and exit points, ensuring you don’t overpay or sell for too little.
  2. Price Control: By specifying the price, you can avoid the volatility associated with market orders, leading to better pricing and reduced slippage.
  3. Strategic Planning: Limit orders let you plan your trades strategically, taking advantage of market conditions without constant monitoring.
  4. Automated Trading: You can automate your trading strategies using limit orders, reducing the need for active management and emotional decision-making.

The Bottom Line on Limit Orders in Investing

The real bottom line here is that using limit orders is a fundamental strategy for optimizing your stock market trades. And by understanding and implementing buy limit orders, sell limit orders, and trailing stop limit orders, you can enhance your trading efficiency, manage risks, and better achieve your financial goals… all at the same time.

what is a limit order in investing benefits

Now, go try out your new knowledge by placing some limit orders of your own. But keep coming back to Wealth Daily every day to stay on top of the hottest investment trends, stay one step ahead of the crowd, and keep improving your financial knowledge. Happy trading!

To your wealth,


Jason Williams

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After graduating Cum Laude in finance and economics, Jason designed and analyzed complex projects for the U.S. Army. He made the jump to the private sector as an investment banking analyst at Morgan Stanley, where he eventually led his own team responsible for billions of dollars in daily trading. Jason left Wall Street to found his own investment office and now shares the strategies he used and the network he built with you. Jason is the founder of Main Street Ventures, a pre-IPO investment newsletter; the founder of Future Giants, a nano cap investing service; and authors The Wealth Advisory income stock newsletter. He is also the managing editor of Wealth Daily. To learn more about Jason, click here.

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