5 Best Performing ETFs of Last 10 Years [With Charts, 2023]

Alexander Voigt

By Alexander Voigt

Last Updated: May 19, 2023

We may receive a commission if you click on links in this article. Learn more.

The 2008 financial crisis was followed by one of the biggest and longest-lasting bull markets in history. The decade from 2010 to 2020 saw the S&P 500 index catapult from 1.123 to 3.793, just short of a 400% increase. The broad market has consolidated between 2020 and 2023, but various ETFs still stand out with outstanding performance during the last 10 years.

The overall U.S. stock market boom has been accompanied by a boom in the popularity of exchange traded funds (ETFs) as an investment vehicle. This rise in investor preference for ETFs is reflected in the fact that several of the largest asset management firms have converted former mutual funds into ETFs.

This article will highlight for you five of the best performing ETFs from various market sectors over the last 10 years. Several specific exchange traded funds have enjoyed investment returns that have even outperformed the overall stock market’s impressive gains.

best performing etfs last 10 years

What is an Exchange Traded Fund?

An exchanged traded fund, more commonly known as an ETF, has a very similar investment structure relative to a mutual fund. It combines the money of many investors into a fund that invests in several financial securities from the broad market. ETFs provide investors with access to create an investment portfolio in virtually any asset class, including stocks, bonds, and commodities.

For example, precious metals focused ETFs might be invested in 20 to 50 different mining company stocks, or hold physical gold or gold futures, or be comprised of a combination of all three investments.

The growing trend of ETFs replacing mutual funds as an investor preference is due to six main factors:

  1. ETFs provide exposure to more types of investments
  2. They are typically a low cost investment vehicle, offering lower expense ratios and low expenses overall
  3. ETFs are a more liquid investment, as ETFs trade throughout the day just like stocks
  4. They usually require a lower minimum initial investment
  5. Because of the way an ETF investment portfolio is managed, ETFs usually produce a lower tax liability for investors
  6. Passive investing in index funds has become more commonplace, and ETFs offer access to hundreds of different indexes

Benchmark

An exchange traded fund that makes it to the list of the best performing ETFs last 10 years has to be an outperformer relative to the market average. The SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) is up 153.94% since 2013.

spy sp500 benchmark monthly

The following tools have been used for analysis:


Best Performing Exchange Traded Funds of the Last Decade

Now, let’s get started with five of the best performing non-leveraged ETFs of the last decade in different market sectors.

1. Best Technology Sector ETF – iShares Semiconductor ETF (SOXX)

soxx technology sector etf

It should be no surprise that a technology sector ETF heads this list of top performing ETFs. This semiconductor ETF from BlackRock’s iShares, one of the largest creators of ETFs, was up nearly 1.000% from its lows in 2011 to its highs in 2021, making it the best performing ETF over the last 10 years. As of May 2023, the 10-year performance is lower but still at +596%.

The semiconductor industry is vital to virtually every piece of modern technology.

The SOXX fund is widely diversified, holding investments in more than 100 different U.S. and foreign market tech stocks – primarily mid-cap and large-cap.

SOXX’s top holdings include:

  • NVIDA Corp. (NVDA, 9.49%)
  • Broadcom Inc. (AVGO, 8.37%)
  • Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN, 7.74%)

Asset Allocation:

  • US Stock: 86.5%
  • Non-US Stock: 13.4%
  • Cash: 0.1%

Insights:

  • Assets Under Management (AUM): $7.28 billion
  • Morningstar rating for SOXX: 5/5
  • Expense ratio: 0.35%.

2. Best Health Sector ETF – iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF (IHI)

ihi health sector etf

The health care and technology sectors have battled for first place in the equities market over the past 10 years, as both have enjoyed exponential growth. At the top of the health care heap is the iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF (IHI).

The performance for investors is remarkable, with cumulative gains for the decade of about 317%.

IHI’s top holdings include:

  • Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. (TMO, 15.9%)
  • Abbott Laboratories (ABT, 14.07%)
  • Medtronic PLC (MDT, 8.84%)

Asset Allocation:

  • US Stock: 99.8%
  • Non-US Stock: 0.0%
  • Cash: 0.2%

Insights:

  • Assets Under Management (AUM): $6.34 billion
  • Morningstar rating for IHI: 5/5
  • Expense ratio: 0.35%.

3. Best Alternative Energy ETF – First Trust NASDAQ Clean Edge Green Energy Index Fund (QCLN)

qcln miscellaneous sector etf

While the alternative investments sector has underperformed compared to the overall stock market over the past 10 years, investors in QCLN have a cumulative return of 228%.

By looking at the chart, you will notice that the volatility of this ETF is noticeable. Between March 2020 lows and February 2021 highs, the fund gained by +457% but then fell by 47% of its value between February 2021 highs and today. Such volatile funds have a certain risk.

QCLN’s top holdings include:

  • Enphase Energy Inc. (ENPH, 9.47%)
  • ON Semiconductor Corp. (ON, 8.49%)
  • First Solar Inc. (FSLR, 8.18%)

Asset Allocation:

  • US Stock: 91.0%
  • Non-US Stock: 9.0%

Insights:

  • Assets Under Management (AUM): $1.4 billion
  • Morningstar rating for QCLN: n.a.
  • Expense ratio: 0.58%.

4. Best Consumer Cyclical ETF – VanEck Retail ETF (RTH)

rth consumer cyclical sector etf

The consumer cyclical sector was strong compared to technology and other sectors ETFs invest in. The ETF gained by 224% over the past 10 years and currently consolidates at a high level, only about 15% below its all-time high, while other ETFs lost 50% and more in the same period.

RTH’s top holdings include:

  • Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN, 21.49%)
  • The Home Depot Inc. (HD, 9.44%)
  • Walmart Inc. (WMT, 8.42%)

Asset Allocation:

  • US Stock: 96.7%
  • Non-US Stock: 3.3%
  • Cash: 0.1%

Insights:

  • Assets Under Management (AUM): $0.15 billion
  • Morningstar rating for RTH: 5/5
  • Expense ratio: 0.35%.

5. Best Industrials Sector ETF – Invesco Aerospace & Defense ETF (PPA)

ppa industrials sector etf

The Invesco Aerospace & Defense ETF performs exceptionall well compared with other sector ETFs and is currently only 3% its all-time highs. Also, the ETF outperformed the S&P500 during the past decade, up 221%.

PPA’s top holdings include:

  • Boeing Co. (BA, 6.57%)
  • Raytheon Technologies Corp. (RTX, 6.54%)
  • Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC, 6.52%)

Asset Allocation:

  • US Stock: 96.0%
  • Non-US Stock: 1.9%
  • Middle-East: 2.1%

Insights:

  • Assets Under Management (AUM): $1.88 billion
  • Morningstar rating for PPA: 4/5
  • Expense ratio: 0.58%.

Performance Table

ETF Symbol ETF Name Performance
SOXX iShares Semiconductor ETF 596.09%
IHI iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF 317.41%
QCLN First Trust NASDAQ Clean Edge Green Energy Index Fund 228.47%
RTH VanEck Retail ETF 224.84%
PPA Invesco Aerospace & Defense ETF 221.25%
SPY Performance Benchmark: SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust 153.94%

The performance is measured between May 2013 and May 2023.


Conclusion

The best performing ETFs of the last 10 years are the iShares Semiconductor ETF (SOXX) with +596%, the iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF (IHI) with +317.41% and the First Trust NASDAQ Clean Edge Green Energy Index Fund (QCLN) with +228.47%.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this review of some of the top ETFs of the last 10 years. While an oft-quoted warning to investors is “past performance is no guarantee of future success,” most investors still prefer investments that have a highly profitable track record of some sort.

ETFs offer investors an easy to understand investment vehicle and allow them to create a diversified portfolio of investments. At the same time, as the exchange traded funds listed above demonstrate, ETF investors also have the opportunity to concentrate investments in specific sectors or asset classes within the financial markets.

With more than $4 trillion in investor funds added to ETFs over the past decade, the popularity of exchange traded funds investing is likely to continue growing over the next decade as well.

Please consider that I have excluded any leveraged ETF in this statistic since those ETFs come with more significant risks for the investor.


FAQ

What is the best performing ETF historically?

Historically, the iShares Semiconductor ETF (SOXX) by Black Rock is the best performing ETF. Between 2011 and 2022, the ETF was up 1,030.12%. The ETF has exposure to U.S. companies that manufacture and distribute semiconductors and has an expense ratio of 0.35%.

Which ETFs beat the market?

ETFs with excellent management and a team of analysts beat the market frequently. Black Rock and Invesco are two of the most successful companies behind the best ETFs that frequently beat the market.

Related Investing Articles:

About the Author

Alexander Voigt is the founder of daytradingz.com. He has over 20 years of experience analyzing and trading the financial markets and has been quoted on leading financial websites such as Business Insider, Investors, Capital and Forbes.