Limit Orders Explained



Are you finding it difficult to decide which order type to use when buying Bitcoin (BTC) or Ethereum (ETH)? Different order types can affect your trades in different ways, so it’s crucial to understand the distinctions between them before you place an order. If you’re looking for greater control over your trades, you can consider using limit orders to cap the buying or selling price of a coin.

What Is a Limit Order?

A limit order is an order with a specific buy or sell price. To place a limit order, you need to set a maximum or minimum price you’re willing to buy or sell an asset. Your order will then be placed on the order book and will only be executed if the market price reaches the limit price (or better). Therefore, you may use limit orders to buy at a lower price or to sell at a higher price than the current market price.

Unlike market orders, where trades are executed instantly at the current market price, limit orders are placed on the order book and are not executed immediately. In most cases, limit orders result in lower fees because you trade as a maker instead of taker. As limit orders are automated, you don’t have to watch the market 24/7 or worry about missing a buy or sell opportunity while you sleep. 

However, there is no guarantee that your limit order will be executed. If the market price never reaches the limit price, your trade will remain unfilled on the order book. Typically, a limit order can be placed for up to a few months, but it depends on the crypto exchange you are using.

How Does a Limit Order Work?

When a limit order is submitted, it will be placed on the order book immediately. But It won’t be filled unless the coin price reaches the specified limit price (or better). For example, you want to sell 1 BTC at $20,000, and the current price is $19000. You can place a BTC sell limit order of $20000. When the BTC price reaches the target price or above, your order will be executed depending on market liquidity. If there are other BTC sell orders placed ahead of yours, the system will execute those orders first. Your limit order will be filled afterward with the remaining liquidity.

Another thing to consider when placing a limit order is the order’s expiration date. In general, limit orders can last up to 90 days. Unless you watch the market closely, you might end up buying or selling at a less desirable price due to market volatility. For example, the current market price of BTC is $28000, and you placed a sell limit order of 1 BTC at $29000. After a week, the price of BTC surged to $30000. As the market price has crossed the limit price you set, your order was executed at $29000. In this case, your profits were limited by the target price you placed a week ago. Therefore, it is recommended to review your open limit orders from time to time to keep up with the ever-changing market conditions.

Stop-Loss vs Limit Orders

There are different types of orders you can use when trading crypto, such as limit, stop-loss and stop-limit orders.

A stop-loss order is a market order that triggers when the market reaches your stop price. It’s an order to buy or sell a coin at the market price once the coin price hits the stop price you set.

When triggered, a stop-loss order turns into a market order and executes at the current market price. If the stop price isn’t reached, your order will not be executed. Sell stop orders can be used to minimize potential losses in case the market moves against your position. They can also be used as a “take-profit” order to exit a position and protect unrealized profits. Buy stop orders can also be used to enter the market at a lower price.

The difference between a limit order and a stop-loss order is that the former will execute at the limit price you set (or better), while the latter will execute (as a market order) at the current market price. But note that if the market price changes too fast, your order might be filled at a price that differs significantly from the trigger price.

Stop-Limit vs Limit Orders

A stop-limit order combines the features of a stop order and a limit order. Once the stop price is reached, it will automatically trigger a limit order. The order will then execute if the market price matches the limit price or better. If you don’t have time to monitor your portfolio closely, you can consider using stop-limit orders to limit the losses you can incur on a trade.

When placing a stop-limit order, you have to define two prices: the stop price, and the limit price. The difference between stop-limit orders and limit orders is that the former will only place a limit order if the stop price is reached, while the latter will be placed instantly on the order book.

For example, if BTC is trading at $28000 and you place a sell stop-limit order with the stop price at $27500. This means that if BTC drops to $27500, the system will automatically set up a sell limit order with the limit price you specified (for example, $27250) or higher. However, there is no guarantee that your orders will be filled. If the market moves too fast, there is a chance your order will remain unfilled.

Stop-Limit vs. Stop-Loss Orders

Both stop-limit and stop-loss orders are triggered based on your stop price. However, the stop-limit order, after triggered, will create a limit order, while the stop-loss will create a market order. You can also make use of stop-loss orders when creating your automated strategies on Coinrule.

When to Use a Limit Order?

You can use a limit order when:

  • You want to buy at a specific price below the current market price, or sell at a specific price above the current market price;
  • You are not in a hurry to buy or sell immediately;
  • You want to lock unrealized profits or minimize potential losses;
  • You want to split your orders into smaller limit orders to achieve a dollar-cost-averaging (DCA) effect.

Keep in mind that even if the limit price is hit, your order might not always be filled. It all depends on market conditions and overall liquidity. In some cases, your limit order might only be partially filled.

In comparison to market orders, limit orders are typically better used when:

  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 arbitrage traders. A limit order will ensure that you get the price you want, or better. 
  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.


A limit order can be a great trading tool when you want to buy or sell a coin at a better price. You may use it to maximize unrealized gains or limit the potential for loss. But before choosing an order type, you should understand the different options and evaluate how each one plays into your overall portfolio and trading strategy.