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Good Exit Strategies for Day Traders

When it comes to day trading, having a clear exit strategy is just as crucial as a well-planned entry strategy. Successfully exiting trades is key to locking in profits, limiting losses, and ensuring consistent success over time. However, far too many beginner traders put almost all their time into analysing potential entry points without considering their exit. This article will explore the good exit strategies for day traders.

The importance of exit strategies in profit protection

Having a solid exit strategy is critical for day traders. Without a plan to book profits or stop losses, one would just be gambling and not trading at all. Successful traders are distinguished by their strong exits.  

When first starting out in day trading, the focus is often on entering trades without much thought given to exits. This is a common mistake. Riding the ups and downs without an exit plan leaves one hoping to cash out at the perfect time. More often than not, trades are exited too late, and money is lost. Any profits made feel more like luck than actual skill.  

It soon becomes clear that locking in gains and controlling losses through planned exits is the essence of day trading. Entering trades is just the beginning – knowing when to take profits or cut losses is key. Setting up stop losses or take profits enables consistently locking in gains instead of waiting and praying.  

Exit Strategies for Day Traders

a. Stop-Loss Orders

Stop-loss orders are crucial for protecting capital in day trading. A stop-loss order triggers a sell order when the price drops to a predetermined amount, limiting potential losses if a trade goes against you. The most common types are fixed stop losses, which are placed at a set price level; trailing stop losses, which follow price to lock in gains; and guaranteed stop losses, which guarantee the exit even if the market gaps down in volatile conditions. Using appropriate stop losses is vital, though take care not to exit a position prematurely. Set them narrowly according to your risk tolerance, but still give each trade room to become profitable.

b. Take-Profit Orders 

Take-profit orders do the opposite job, securing profits from winning trades. They are placed at price levels where you aim to exit with a pre-set target profit. It’s wise to use take profits to lock in at least some gains once a trade becomes profitable rather than clinging on in hopes of maximising profit. Be disciplined and realistic in setting profit levels. Aim to lock in more profits as the trade moves further in your favour. Be ready to close only part of the position and give winning trades room to maximise gains. Getting the balance right is an art that improves with experience.

c. Time-Based Exits

Basing exits at particular times of day can also be effective. Many intraday patterns emerge at certain times in the daily cycles. It often pays off to close positions before lunchtime when volatility drops. And many short-term traders quit for the day by mid-afternoon or at least an hour before the market’s close to avoid unpredictable late swings. Always check historical performance patterns across different times and days. Combine with observation to determine when is best to exit for your particular trading approach and ticker. Then, set alerts and use discipline to close positions at predetermined strategic times, even if they are profitable. 

d. Volume-Based Exits

Utilising changes in trading volume as a signal to close out positions is another approach many short-term traders find helpful. Being attuned to volume spikes and drops can help determine when to exit trades effectively. For instance, watching for increasing volume on a rally in an upward trend can suggest strength behind the move, and the price may still have further room to climb. On the other hand, if volume starts rapidly decreasing during a price rally, it often indicates the move is losing strength and steam. This suggests the opportunity to lock in profits from long positions is diminishing as bullish conviction wanes. Similarly, a pick-up in trading volume frequently means increased selling pressure and momentum to the downside on sell-offs.

e. Price Action Signals

Paying close attention to price movements themselves is also essential to timely trade management for short-term traders. Tuning into key price signals provides vital information to help determine when best to take profits or cut losses. For example, making new highs or lows, breaking beyond critical support/resistance levels, reversing at key moving averages – these kinds of price developments give important clues as to shifting momentum and trader conviction behind a move. Common price patterns can also emerge to suggest imminent reversals or trend continuations. Some examples are double tops/bottoms, head and shoulders, and ascending/descending triangles.

Factors to consider when tailoring an exit strategy to your trading style

Here are some key factors to consider when developing an exit strategy tailored to your specific day trading style:

1. Timeframe

The timeframe on which you operate as a day trader significantly impacts when and how you will choose to exit positions. Short-term scalpers looking to profit from quick price fluctuations must utilise much faster exits, often exiting within seconds or minutes to capture tiny price moves. They continuously monitor the price action and volume in granular detail. At the first sign of a potential price reversal, they rapidly exit. Their tight exits allow them to scrape together small gains consistently. 

In contrast, longer-term momentum-style day traders are willing to hold positions for larger swings lasting hours. These traders assess the overall daily price trends and volatility levels, entering on momentum bursts and allowing room for normal retracements along a dominant directional move. Their exits focus more on locking in chunks of the daily trending range.

2. Trading Goals

Clearly defining what you aim to achieve from trading will shape many elements of your exit strategy. Those day traders focused on generating regular income streams will routinely employ tighter exits to bank smaller consistent gains. As soon as their profit target for the trade is reached, they immediately close positions and look to move into the next trade efficiently. Speculative traders who wish to capture occasional home run returns have vastly different exit rules guiding them. 

They tolerate wider swings and volatility on positions aiming to milk outsized moves. Their exits involve staging partial closes along assessed support and resistance levels while letting profit run during powerful impulse moves. Their goal is maximising capture of available range expansion from market volatility. Always match exit objectives to initial profit goals.

3. Strategy Rules 

For traders utilising clearly defined trading systems, optimising exits to align with the system rules and signals sets up internal consistency vital for long-term profitability. A breakout trader entering positions as prices push outside defined ranges or patterns like channels, flags or triangles will closely monitor for a failed breakout signaling exit. This failure strategy sees them exiting as soon as prices fall back within the prior range.

The strategy dictates strict exit discipline on failed momentum. A quant system trader will build automated exits based on their backtested indicators and formulas to match developed edge best. A trend follower buys pullbacks along a daily trend, using sanity stops if the overall assessed trend changes while exiting partial positions into counter-trend retracements. Exits correspond with strategy.

4. Risk Tolerance

A trader’s appetite for tolerating potential losses versus protecting open profits greatly impacts where exit levels are placed. Conservative traders with lower risk tolerance will utilise earlier exits with tighter stops to strictly limit the downside. They exit quickly with smaller losses if momentum stalls or reverses. 

Aggressive traders comfortable withstanding higher volatility and risk in exchange for greater reward potential employ loose exits, giving more room for trades to breathe and develop. They use wider stops or no stops at all, allowing prices to swing widely before considering closing their positions. 


Having strong exit strategies is a critical yet often overlooked component for day traders. Employing methods like stopping losses, taking profits, using time-based exits, and analysing volume and price action enables traders to lock in gains and limit losses effectively. Continuously refining your personal exit system to match trading style, goals, and psychology is vital to grow consistent profits over time.


What are the main types of exit orders used in day trading?

The most common exit order types are stop-loss orders to limit losses and take-profit orders to lock in gains. Trailing stops also follow the price to secure profits.

When is the best time of day to exit trades?

Many experienced intraday traders recommend exiting at least 1 hour before market close to avoid unpredictable late swings.

Should my stop loss and take profit levels be the same distance from entry?

Not necessarily. Wider stop losses allow more room for volatility, while tighter take profits systematically capture smaller gains. Risk vs reward depends on trading style.

Can I base exits solely on indicator signals?

Indicator signals can inform exits but also incorporate analysis of price action and volume to make enhanced exit judgments. 

Is it better to exit the entire trade simultaneously or use scaled exits?

Many favor tiered exits – closing a portion to lock profits while letting another portion run in case of further gains.

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