I suppose you can buy etfs through another broker but whatever you do don't get a broker account with vanguard. They do not want you to trade. The minute you start trading you are confronted by a system so confusing and slow to update you have to wait a week to figure what went through. If you try to contact anyone either they can't speak English or they pretend they can't. They'll be sure to include long paragraphs about various securities regulations that have little or nothing to do with what you ask them. It makes you wonder about the mutual fund side of the company. If someone told you put all your money here and never take it out would you be suspicious?
I hope they (rep's at Vanguard) don't get complacent by all of the "I love Vanguard" messages BUT I too, have had nothing but stellar contact with them -- far better than any other company I've dealt with! VANGUARD, PLEASE KEEP UP THE GOOD JOB!!!
I moved to Vanguard 2 years ago from my prior broker. On a busy day I transact in $100K - $300K in total proceeds. While I agree the UI is not geared towards a trader, their fees are rock bottom, in fact I dont even get charged for borrowing shorted shares, or borrowing on margin as long as I have the money there when the trade clears, not to mention $0 commision when I trade in Vanguard ETF's. Not only that their service is unparalleled. I get a red-blooded American calling me back with an answer even for questions I ask online in some cases. I wager I get better service that what I pay for (if I compare to my prior broker.)