Estimation of GARCH models can be simplified by augmenting quasi-maximum likelihood (QML) estimation with variance targeting, which reduces the degree of parameterization and facilitates estimation. We compare the two approaches and investigate, via simulations, how non-normality features of the return distribution affect the quality of estimation of the volatility equation and corresponding value-at-risk predictions. We find that most GARCH coefficients and associated predictions are more precisely estimated when no variance targeting is employed. Bias properties are exacerbated for a heavier-tailed distribution of standardized returns, while the distributional asymmetry has little or moderate impact, these phenomena tending to be more pronounced under variance targeting. Some effects further intensify if one uses ML based on a leptokurtic distribution in place of normal QML. The sample size has also a more favorable effect on estimation precision when no variance targeting is used. Thus, if computational costs are not prohibitive, variance targeting should probably be avoided.
GARCH variance targeting non-normality heavy tails skewness quasi-maximum likelihood