If you'd like to read the rest of the guide, here's some links:
Part one - the basics
Part two - I think we're going to need a bigger boat
Part three - Rare trading for the win
Part four - Ahab and the whales (bigger ships, mo money)
Part five - Commodities, economies and route planning
What is rare trading?
Rare commodities trading is a fantastic way of making a huge pile of money in a small ship. It's possible to make profits in excess of 16K per ton. With a full cargo hold in an Adder, that's a nice 320K profit for a trip. If you're smart about your route, you can do that trip in under an hour. With a larger ship, you can make even more money, and even faster - a Cobra is the perfect ship for rare trading, but if you can't wait you can get started in a Hauler or an Adder.
So what is rare trading? In essence, you find goods that are only sold in one place and you cart them to the other side of known space to sell them. The further you carry the goods, the more they are worth.
Most of the rare goods can be bought for less than 5K a ton. They nearly all become worth around 16K more than this at a distance of 180LY from the origin system. This means to get the most profit from rare goods you need to fly one hell of a long way away.
The increase in sale price is an S-shaped curve - goods don't become worth much more at all until you hit 60LY away from where you bought them, and they tend to be worth around 8K more at 100LY, rising to 15K more at 160LY and 17K more at 200LY. the price really doesn't rise much more than that for any rare good regardless of how far you travel. Commander P2k captured a load of data to find the best fit curve, and if you're interested you can read about his research here.
This price increase is fairly common across the board, regardless of how expensive the rare good is in the first place. This means whatever rare goods you buy, you're going to make a decent profit on them if you haul them far enough. You can make 25K on a Leathery Egg from Ridley Scott in Zaonce, but most other items will net you 16-17K at max distance.
How do I make serious money from rare trading?
Buy low, sell high! It's simple!
except, it's not that easy - rare goods are rare. You will often find that you dock at a station that sells rare goods and there's only 3 or 4 tons available to buy. you could haul them to the other end of known space and make 80K, but if that takes you an hour you're not making much cash! Luckily, you're not competing with other commanders for buying rare goods - every pilot has their own allocation of rare goods at each station.
Each rare good has a maximum allocation of available items. You might see all of them available to buy straight away, in which case you're very lucky and you can load up and move on. If not, you can often wait around 10 minutes in the station and a second chunk of goods will come on the market. I have waited another 10 minutes and had a third chunk of goods arrive a couple of times, but it's rare. You'll never get more than the total allocation for the station in total.
If you look at the rare goods list above, you'll see an allocation value - this is the absolute maximum you'll ever be able to get of that item. You may get unlucky and not be able to get the whole allocation, no matter how long you wait.
Rare goods of a specific type don't respawn until you've sold them.
Assuming you're flying something larger than a Sidewinder, it's likely you'll want to visit at least two (and probably four or more) stations, buying up the rares, before you head out on your long journey to sell them. Once you get to the other end of your long journey, you'll be wanting to repeat the process for the return leg.
Let's assume you're sensible and decide to get something larger than a Sidewinder - in fact, let's assume your goal is to trade up to something classic and elegant, like ...
Rare trading in a Cobra is hands down the best way to be making serious money quickly before you hit the big ships (Type 6 and above). at 380K for the shipyard spec (plus another few hundred K for the beginner upgrades and cargo space) it's also a fantastic ship to explore in, fight in or just plain fly around in. You should definitely make it your goal to own one of these before you decide to go large.
Rare trading will mean you can pimp your cobra with a few hours of effort. Filling up on D rated items and a 4A FSD will get you a 20+ LY jump range and (assuming you keep your shields) 40 tons of cargo space. If you want to skip the shield you can push to 56 tons with a fuel scoop.
Of course, you might just want a big cargo bay, regardless of how ugly it looks or how well it flies, in which case ...
There's an ongoing discussion as to whether it's still best to trade rare commodities in a Type 6 at 1045K for the shipyard spec, or whether to just run normal trade routes - the devil, as always, is in the details, and we're going to get to that shortly. However, whether you're grinding it out on a normal route or running a long haul rare route, a Type 6 is going to do you very nicely indeed.
Planning your journey
You have 20-40 tons of cargo space, and you have decided to trade some rare goods - now you want to know where to go to buy them, and where to go to sell them. There's some excellent tools out there that will help you plan a rare trade route, and your second stop should probably be the Elite Rare Trader Site here:
Note, that I've said this should be your second stop, because your first stop should be looking at this route map.
(and here's a link to the original, created by Tom Gidden : https://github.com/tomgidden/elite-dangerous-tools/blob/gh-pages/Rares-Circuit-1.pdf )
This route map should be enough to get anyone started trading rares. If you're not sure where to start on the loop, I'd highly recommend dropping in at Lave then following the route map via Leesti to Diso to Orerre. Keep going until you're full, then begin the trek over to Witchhaul, sell everything, and kick off your return leg.
There's plenty of other routes out there, and you can make your own using the Elite Rare Trader. Because you're not competing with other commanders, you'll find people are more than happy to discuss their favourite trade routes.
Fuel scooping on the way
The most important thing to remember about your rare trade journey is that you'll be travelling over 150 light years in a single leg. There's places to stop on the way if you look, but you need to be careful that you've got enough fuel to get to the next station and you might find yourself running on fumes with a 10 minute supercruise to a station - or worse yet, arriving at a system with no fuel and no station.
To avoid having to find stations to dock at along the way, I highly recommend getting a fuel scoop and just topping yourself up at every scoopable sun on the way. Some people like to jump until nearly empty and then fill up (ideally in a safer system) but I prefer topping right up every time I can. Bear in mind you can't scoop every star you arrive at.
You can figure out if it's better for you to carry more rares (a fuel scoop is probably going to cost you at least 4 cargo bays) and buy fuel on the way - but remember that time taken docking eats into your profit margins.
Some people prefer to use efficient routes with more jumps - this saves fuel at the cost of time. I prefer using the maximum jump range possible and spending the time scooping - the choice is yours.
(See my next linked post for more details about efficient vs fastest routes - basically, you should always go fastest!)
Buying and Selling
Visit each station in turn, and buy as many of the rare commodities as are available. Fly to the next station. Repeat. If you're doing an end-to-end run, fill up, make the long jump, and repeat the process at the other end. if you're running a ring, you'll need to know what to sell at which particular stations - either memorise it, or just watch the commodities market for a profit per ton over 15K.
If you're doing a long jump route, once you're at the other end, you can normally make a decent profit by simply selling everything in one go. You might find you make a bit more cash holding on to one or two specific items for another jump, depending on how the route is planned. Remember the price curve and decide if another 1-2K per ton is worth the wait - and worth holding in your cargo bay. The most important thing is to buy as many new rare goods as you can get at every station on the route.
If you're flying a Hauler or an Adder, you'll likely find you can fill your ship by stopping, buying what's available and then heading straight on to the next point in the route. If you're flying something with 40+ tons of space, you'll likely need to wait around for the full allocation or take in a few more stops at each end of your route.
Some people prefer just finding a couple of stations 200LY apart with a large allocation and bouncing between them. If your jump range is good enough (such that the long leg of the journey takes less time than a couple of docking hops) or your cargo hold is small enough, then this can be a viable tactic too. Bouncing between Toxandji and Zeessze or Altair is viable, making a potential 300K each way, with 10 minutes at each end plus your transit time.
Some folks, especially in larger craft like a Type 6, Asp or above, will put the effort into longer circle routes which allow you to max out the cargo space while still running short distances between buy and sell points to avoid scooping. An example T6 route is listed here.
After flying rares for a week and getting my Asp (in preparation of some exploration) I've done a bit of number crunching and come up with a decent Asp route (and possibly Type 6 if you don't mind a bit of scooping). in an Asp, you can run this route with a 5B or 5A FSD without ever having to scoop.
I'm making around 1.2 to 1.5 Million an hour on this route.
All of the stations apart from Witchhaul(9) have at least 17 items in stock.
None of the items are illegal.
All of the stations are under 1000LS.
You'll be able to buy and go with an average of 10 items at every stop.
Running the route takes just over an hour if you don't wait at any stations.
|Destination||Station||At (LS)||Dist (LY)||Jumps||Max Stock||Sell From|
|Leesti||George Lucas||257||109||6||21||Coquim, Wuthielo Ku|
|Zeessze||Nicollier Hangar||489||26||2||18||Karsuki Ti, Jaroua|
|Wuthielo Ku||Tarter Dock||145||120||7||17||Leesti|
|Karsuki Ti||West Market||28||92||5||18||Altair, Zeessze, 39 Tauri, Witchhaul|
There's plenty of additional stops you can throw in if you want to shorten some of the longer sections - Throw in Delta Phoenicis after Witchhaul and Ariel after Jaroua, for example. You can also do the whole Leesti cluster (Diso, Uszaa, Orrere) if you want a few shorter hops or you're running with a lot of spare cargo space when you arrive.
You can skip Witchhaul if you want, and sell the Baltah'Sine goods in Wuthielo - but if you're loading up at the Leesti cluster you may be over capacity at that point.
Bear in mind that 6 jumps (4 minutes) takes less time than docking and less time than waiting for a refresh. It's also more fun. However, if you want to wait (let's say you only get 4 tons of something when you arrive) you'll get a nice big chunk after another 10 minutes at all of the stations listed above.
Diso Ma Corn Community Event (get it while it's hot!)From 11th May for a few days, you'll be able to get up to 50 units of Diso Ma Corn at Diso / Shifnalport. Make sure to fit this into your loop, or if you want to pingpong, try Rajukru or Jaroua as your other end. Good money is to be had! This event will stop at some point soon, at which point I'll try and remember to take this note out.
A huge thank you has to go to everyone who has spend time and effort researching prices, allocation caps and routes (as well as making the tools to simplify your rare trade route planning). I've found countless awesome threads on Reddit and the E:D forums filled with gems of info, and it's well worth doing a bit of your own reading and researching to find the best routes and tactics out there.
Once you've pimped out your Cobra or Type 6, you'll likely find that your next trading ship upgrade is so big that you make more money going back to the basics - except this time at massive scale (hundreds of tons each way).
Look out for my next post, where I'll go into details of trading in the larger ships.
If you're interested in the mechanics and costs of fuel, jumping, jump ranges and scooping take a look here where hopefully you'll be demystified.