It’s an easy choice.

Keith Speights

Key Points

  • Ethereum has enjoyed strong momentum since its launch in 2015.
  • Major improvements are on the way with the Ethereum 2.0 upgrade.
  • While it’s still risky, Ethereum appears to be the best cryptocurrency to buy and hold for the long term.

Choices, choices, so many choices. There are thousands of cryptocurrencies on the market now. Just how many depends on whom you ask. 

You could go with metaverse cryptos. Or you might pick stablecoins pegged to fiat currencies. There are well-established tokens with huge market caps, and tiny ones whose supporters are hoping that they’ll break out. Out of all of them, though, here’s why Ethereum (CRYPTO:ETH) is my pick as the best cryptocurrency to buy right now.

A person with hand extended and an image of a globe with Ethereum printed on it.

Image source: Getty Images.

Undeniable momentum

Ethereum first launched in July 2015, and it has enjoyed undeniably strong momentum ever since.

Over the past six and a half years, the price of Ethereum’s native Ether token has skyrocketed by more than 121,000%. As such, an initial investment of $1,000 back then would be worth well over $1.2 million now.

Thanks to this phenomenal growth, Ethereum now sports a market cap of over $400 billion. That makes it the second-largest cryptocurrency in the world based on market cap, trailing only Bitcoin.

But Ethereum offers significantly more capabilities than Bitcoin does. Its blockchain is designed to support smart contracts. These contracts are automatically self-executing and don’t require the buyer and seller to personally interact. They make non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and a wide range of decentralized applications (dApps) possible.

Ethereum’s ecosystem included nearly 2,900 projects in late 2021. That’s roughly twice as many as the three leading so-called “Ethereum killer” cryptocurrencies — Solana, Cardano, and Polkadot — had combined. More than 40 of the top 100 cryptocurrencies based on market cap are built using Ethereum’s ERC-20 compatibility standard.

New and improved

Granted, Ethereum has its flaws. Its blockchain is sluggish, with the ability to process only between 15 and 45 transactions per second. Ethereum has also experienced scalability issues. In addition, transaction fees on Ethereum can be exorbitant.

These downsides have resulted in some developers defecting to other blockchains. Solana, Cardano, Polkadot, and Avalanche are just a few of the cryptocurrencies that have stolen some of Ethereum’s thunder.

However, a new and improved version of Ethereum is on the way. The Ethereum 2.0 upgrade will go a long way toward addressing the current issues. For example, it’s expected to support up to 100,000 transactions per second. The blockchain will be much more scalable. And transaction fees will be slashed.

The first phase of this upgrade is already complete. The second phase is planned for this year, with the final phase slated for sometime in 2023. With the promise of a better, faster, and cheaper architecture, I think that Ethereum is likely to gain even more traction over the rest of this decade.

Still risky

Because of its widespread use and high functionality, my view is that Ethereum is less risky than most other cryptocurrencies. However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t face some risks.

One of those risks is that the planned Ethereum 2.0 upgrade could be delayed. The timeline for the final phase of the upgrade has already slipped. It’s also possible that there could be technical issues resulting from the upgrade.

I think, though, that the single biggest risk of all for Ethereum (and for other cryptocurrencies) is that the market might shift to a “risk-off” environment. In this scenario, investors will become much more risk-averse, and will shift their money to more stable assets. 

There are signs that a risk-off mentality is gaining sway already. Cryptocurrencies, in general, have fallen in recent weeks. 

Still, Ethereum appears to be the strongest cryptocurrency to buy and hold over the long term. Its current advantages combined with the improvements on the way could make it formidable.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

Keith Speights has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Bitcoin and Ethereum. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.