Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fingerbob's guide to Elite Dangerous Trading, Part Five

Hi! Welcome to the last post in my beginner's introduction to trading in Elite Dangerous. This post, we'll focus on how to find a good trade route to make the big money.

If you want to see the rest of this series, here's some links to my beginner's guide:
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

If you're getting bored of trading and fancy heading out to see the sights, check out my explorer's guide here.

Are you prepared?

Hopefully you've been following along at home and you're in a ship that's big enough to justify normal commodity trading. If you're still in a Type 6 or smaller, you're probably best served by running one of the various rare routes I covered in my introduction to rare trading. If you're in something larger, or just want to get the hang of making the most of your space with normal goods, then let's go!

What do I buy, and what do I sell?

One thing it really doesn't show is the trade spread. This is the difference between the lowest you can buy the commodity and the highest you can sell it for.

Assuming you can afford a full hold of the most expensive items, then you are always best buying the item with the biggest spread - this has the largest profit potential.

I ran some numbers on the latest trade data from EDDB (and cross-referenced the results with MadDavo's dataset). please note that this is not ever going to be accurate, as the only people who have the full live trade database are Frontier Developments - until then we're relying on croudsourced data (this is true of Thrudds, Slopey's tools, etc).

All of the prices below are based on hundreds or thousands of sample values with anything that appears invalid stripped from the analysis. I'm calculating the lowest and average buy price of any good that has supply, and the highest and average sell price for any good (you can sell something even if the demand is zero, you'll just get an average terrible price for it).

Take a look here for a rundown of the top ten trades by economy pair for every commodity, ordered from largest profit delta to smallest.

Painite : DELTA 36497 SELL 360 < 35768 > 36497
Platinum: DELTA 19954 SELL 697 < 19706 > 19954

You can't buy Platinum or Painite anywhere. They have high sell prices, so if you're mining, they are the best things to target.  The average sell price is pretty close to the maximum, so you'll likely get a good deal at most stations.

In general, slave trading is the highest profit! unfortunately, the supply is low - they just can't crank slaves out fast enough to make it worth chaining gangs of them inside a Type 9. This leaves you with the obvious candidates of Palladium, Gold, Beryllium, Performance Enhancers, Consumer Tech, Progenitor Cells and Superconductors. Looking familiar? You're probably used to trading these commodities already, either through your own trading routes or those suggested by other tools.

You are not going to be able to pick the top two and hope to run them back and forth, however - because the economy of the systems and commodities comes into play, both in terms of what they care about (supply and demand balance) and how much they actually have to trade (supply and demand values). If we take Slaves out of the running for now, then it should be fairly obvious you can't trade Palladium one way and Gold the other - anywhere that sells Palladium at a good price will probably also be producing Gold at a good price.

So, what you actually want to know is the economy type that sells the commodity for the lowest price, and the economy type that buys the commodity for the highest price.

You can make a pretty good guess based on the infographic above. You can sell goods of just about any type in just about any station or outpost, but some economy pairs are much better than others, as the infographic indicates.

However, not every system is created equal. Some systems have a primary economy - and some don't. Systems with huge populations are likely to have more production capacity and more demand. Many systems have secondary economy stations mixed in with their primary (often of a different faction) and some stations satisfy more than one economy type (with varying results on the prices due to internal supply and demand satisfaction).

But, why guess? Let's just do the math! I've worked out the top pairings for every commodity type to validate the kind of routes you should be planning to take.

You'll see in the table that there's a breakdown of the top ten (by profit) economy routes. You'll also see the average supply in the starting economy. A small supply number relative to another economy source means it's highly unlikely you'll find a starting system with a large amount of that commodity (and potentially it won't be there at all).

I've also removed all the data for systems where the economy isn't obvious - this is a big proportion of the dataset and accounts for most of the outlier prices. You might be able to make slightly more if you expand your system search away from the obvious spots, but in general we're talking less than 5% difference on the best prices I've listed.

Again, these prices change constantly. I'll be updating the list every week or so.

How much money can I make?

As you can see from my prices by economy list, the actual sell prices don't vary hugely between different economies - but the supply and demand of the economies varies enormously. As expected, you're best off buying commodities in the economies that provide the highest supply and selling in the systems that have the highest demand.

Jump distances impact your time and profit, but fuel is a tiny cost against a large load (much less than 1% of your total profit even for a full tank) and 45 seconds per jump means a four or five jump trade route is likely cost effective if you can earn more on the trade. As an example, you can run a 10 minute route 6 times an hour, and a 12 minute route 5 times an hour. If you make 1.8K/t on the 10 minute run and 2.2K/t on the 12 minute run, you're going to make more profit on the slower run.

The absolute maximum profit you can make on Palladium / Consumer tech is 3.5K per ton. That would be awesome, but in all the various routes I've plied, the best I've managed on these two is around 2.8K - the buy price is never as low as you want, and the sell price is never as high. If you're making 2.5K/t or more, you're on a good route - stick with it.

With a Type 6 at full cargo (112) and a 10 minute 2.5K/t run, you're making 1.68 million per hour.
An Asp at full cargo (128) on the same run can squeeze 1.9 million.
A Type 7 at full cargo (232) can make 3.5 million. Hitting 10 minutes might be trickier and you're not going to be able to use outposts, so finding a 2.5K/t route will be a longer search.
A Type 9 at full cargo (532) can push 8 million an hour.

Stop with the statistics, and give me some examples!

using the table linked above, all you need to do now is figure out how many systems you want to visit and make sure you link the economies. For example, an obvious high earner is:

Palladium (Extraction to High Tech) with a max profit per ton of 1899
Performance Enhancers (High Tech to Extraction) with a max profit per ton of 1621

another, potentially less illegal, route would be:

Palladium (Extraction to High Tech) with a max profit per ton of 1899
Consumer Technology (High Tech to Extraction) with a max profit per ton of 1598

If you want a three station route, and don't mind being a slave driver, then
Imperial Slaves (Agriculture to Extraction) (1954)
Palladium (Extraction to Industrial) (1915)
Slaves (Industrial to Agriculture) (1866)

would fit the bill nicely.

The typical two jump trade loops will be:

Palladium -> Beryllium
Palladium -> Consumer Technology
Palladium -> Resonating Separators

Switch Gold with Palladium for slightly lower profits.

What should I avoid?

Apart from Tobacco and Slaves, Agriculture systems sell hardly anything that will ramp your profit. You might find an extraction station in an Agriculture system that can hit you up with some Silver, Indium or Gallium. If you're looking for easy to find routes, I'd skip them.

Industrial systems are also generally going to give you mid-profit items. If hauling Power Generators and Mineral Extractors is your thing, then throw an industrial stop in your loop but be prepared to take a hit to your profit per hour.

Just like the real world, the big money is in illegal items (weapons, drugs, slaves), shiny metals and huge TVs.

How do I pick a starting place?

Use the galaxy map, filter by economy type for the starting economy of your first planned stop, and then ramp up the population. You'll start to find candidate stars. check the system map (buy it or fly there) and check out the stations to see if they have enough supply to satisfy your needs.

Once you've got a starting spot, repeat the process for each hop in your route. You can speed this up by, after docking at candidate stations, checking the "exports to" for systems that are already expecting to get that commodity. Sanity check it is of the economy type that matches your next purchase.

Or, if you're feeling lazy, look at Thrudds or use Slopey's tool (or any of the alternatives). If you're hauling huge amounts of cargo around, don't be at all surprised if the prices are not what you expect when you arrive (or tank as soon as someone else jumps on your route).

You will mostly find that systems don't list the top candidates in their export list. There's two reasons for this - the first is that the supply is lower than another item (and you'll only see three items on the list). The second is that it's just not present. Because of this, you can't just rule systems out based on the "imports / exports" view in the system map. You can try and purchase trade data and then filter the map view to show the trade arrows, which will hopefully let you filter to exactly the commodity you want - if you see it flowing, great. If not, it might still be there but not in the supply you want, or it might be there but no-one is moving it.

Trade routes tend to show AI trade just as much as player trade, and an existing flow does show the route is possible - but it doesn't show that it's very profitable. If there's a lot of trade on the route already, chances are the supply is high but the commodity will be well off the price extremes you're looking for - if there's lots of traders hauling a commodity then the station won't be motivated to sell at a discount or buy at a premium.

Ultimately then, this means that the in-game tools are not much use for finding the best trade routes. You can't rely on the import/export panes, you can't rely on the trade route flow indicators and you can't rely on the system map to tell you what you need to know. You are going to have to go visit stations yourself and write down the prices somewhere (or take screenshots).

I find this pretty frustrating - you might really enjoy it. It's all down to your playstyle, I guess. I'd definitely prefer FD to put in some sort of trade prices log for pilots in-game, so you could see what prices were like at the stations you previously visited (instead of having to capture them outside the game). We can hope they add this at some point.

Using the in-station price list and the commodities profit spread data above, you can pretty quickly see if the buy or sell price is going to give you a good profit.

How far should I travel?

Finding your starting system, I'd recommend pushing out of the core (but obviously not as far as the outer rim systems). You want somewhere that's a bit backwater but has a large set of populated systems in a fairly close range.

For your jumps, don't be afraid to make a couple of hops - it's going to add less than a minute to each leg for every hop you make, and fuel costs are negligible these days.

Tools of the trade

Thrudd's Trading Tool:
Elite Dangerous Database :
MadDavo's price database :
Slopey's Best Profit Calculator :
EliteOCR :

There's plenty more tools out there if you look - but I'd recommend learning how to do this in the game as much as possible - I'm certain Frontier Developments will make our lives easier in the long run.

Wrapping up

Thanks for reading along, I hope you've found this introduction to trading a useful resource. I'll be continuing to update it over the coming months (maybe even with some pictures and videos) but for now I'm heading out into the wide black yonder to see the sights.

If you're interested in Exploring, check out my explorer's guide here.

See you out there, Commanders!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fingerbob's guide to Elite Dangerous Trading, Part Four

Hi! Welcome to the fourth  fifth post in my short series on trading in Elite Dangerous. This time out, I'm going to dig into the bigger ships a bit. The next post will be about finding the best trade routes - I was going to cover them both in one go but they deserve their own focus.

Bigger ships, more money

If you've been following along at home, I'd expect you've probably ground out a few normal trade routes, got the basics down, and (hopefully) tried your hand at some rare trading. If you're still hauling around semiconductors in a Cobra or a Type 6, then might I strongly suggest you read the post about rare trading and give the Lave / Witchhaul route a couple of runs - I'm confident that your income will be massively higher and you'll see a lot more of the galaxy than you've seen to this point.

Once you've got a Cobra, you can make over 1 Million credits an hour. Running the same route in a Type 6, with a little luck can get you close to 1.5 million an hour. I'll be giving some details in another post of a more optimal route in the Type 6 which lets you run with a mostly full hold and gets close to 2 million an hour without much hanging around.

At some point though, you'll start tiring of grinding the credits on someone else's route and you'll get the lust for a larger ship. After all, even at 2 million an hour you're looking at a lot of rare runs to get that Anaconda.

How can you speed it up? Rares don't really scale terribly well because of the caps on items. Even if you get incredibly lucky and get full allocations every time you dock, there's still a maximum return just because of the sheer amount of travel involved.

This is the point you'll likely look at upgrading your ship and cargo space and head out to find a lucrative short haul route. Let's take a look at what you could be flying.

(Please note, as of 2016 this is nearly a year out of date now! There's more ship choice and the game has changed pretty radically since I originally wrote this post.)


Lakon Type 7

A measly 17.5 Million credits will buy you a Type 7. This is the obvious upgrade from a Type 6. It's slower, uglier and fully upgraded can reach around 17LY when full of cargo, which will be a bank-breaking 216 tons (or 212 if you decide to plump for a docking computer).

The Type 7 is a large class ship - it can only dock on large bays which stops you from being able to use outposts. Bear this in mind when you're working out your routes.

Of course, to run decent trading routes you'll want to pimp it. You're recommended to wait until you've got around 23.5 million before you switch - you'll need around  20 million to get a nearly-top-notch version plus you're looking at another 3.2 million to buy a full cargo hold. If you then want to get the class A FSD that's another 3.5 million upgrade which adds around 3.5LY to your jump range.

Lakon Type 9 Heavy

Once you've got 76.5 million in the bank, you can afford the Lakon Type 9. The Type 9 is currently the ultimate hauler, with space for 532 cargo if you're insane and fly with only cargo bays. Most sane pilots will keep at least a class 5 shield giving you 500 cargo space (496 with a docking computer). On a good route, you can be making a million credits every run. You'll also start seriously impacting the local economy with the huge amount of cargo you move around.

Even larger than the Type 7, you're also constrained to docking only on large bays. Assuming you traded up from a Type 7, you'll be used to that by now.

How much should you keep aside to actually buy it? a round 100 million will be a good start - and add another 10 million to that for the 6A FSD. Here's a 97 million build but you'll need to fill it with cargo too.

Multipurpose ships


If you liked the Cobra, you'll love the Asp. At 6.6 million credits, It's a multi-role ship in the same style as the Cobra - slightly larger, slightly slower, slightly less manouverable. It has an enormous jump range, which means it's the perfect ship to start pushing out into the galaxy - and it's not too shabby at trading either, given that you can push the cargo space to 96 tons while keeping the stock shield. It's tricky to downgrade the shield class in an Asp - the 3A will just about stop you from damaging the hull if you graze a station but not much more. You can use shield boosters to give you a bit more protection.

Why would you buy this as an upgrade to a Type 6? Because it's beautiful and deadly. You can also outfit it for other roles (like taking a sightseeing trip, or mining, or a bit of pirating if you fancy). The Asp is more than capable in every role. It might not pay for itself quickly but you'll love the ride.

Another fantastic multi-role ship. at 57 million credits for shipyard spec, you can push this beauty past 250 tons of cargo space if you want, while retaining decent combat capability. If you are bored of the grind and closing on the "Type 9 or not Type 9" decision, this may be the ship for you.


You've reached the pinnacle of ships, both in cost (at a piffling 147 million with no upgrades) and capability. Of course the Anaconda can trade well (with well over 400 tons of capacity even when combat ready), but once you've bought one, unless you've gotta catch em all, you're likely going to be doing something else other than crashing economies. I've not come anywhere near my Anaconda budget yet. If you have one, try not to crash it!


The Imperial Clipper, at 22 million, is a great cargo hauler - nearly as capacious as the Type 7, but handles better. If you have the reputation, check it out. You'll need the reputation first though!

The Orca, at 48.5 million, looks pretty but it's basically a skybus. Until there's a motive to fly your superconductors in style, you're not going to benefit from picking the Orca above any other large capacity hauler.

The Federal Dropship, at 37 million, isn't great at anything other than making you feel like Bishop at the end of Aliens (or Ferro at the beginning). Not recommended for cargo hauling.

None of the other ships will gracefully carry more than a Type 6. That's not to say they're not fantastic - just that you'll be better doing something else than hauling eggs in them.

If you're looking for more details on the ships and recommended loadouts, then you should take a look at Broncho Saurus' ship progression guide.

Recommended upgrades (and downgrades)

Cargo bays

You want as much cargo space as possible, because that's where your income is coming from. More cargo is more profit. Get the largest bays you can in every slot. You might have trouble buying the larger bays, so you should be looking at High Tech systems. I've seen recommendations for Aulin, Styx and Asellus Primus. 


You might be tempted to reduce your shields where possible to fit in extra cargo bays. As always, you can run a ship with no shields at all - and you might even get away with it, but any large hauler is going to be slow as molasses and hard to dock. You're also going to run the risk of someone else flying into you while docking and you won't have much control over that scenario - I'd recommend always having at least some form of shields to take the brunt. Losing a Type 9 and your 500 tons of cargo is not going to make your evening.

Here's a link to some calculations on shield performance - look up your ship and see whether it's worth downgrading your class while upgrading the rating, often you'll get just as good protection from a lower class A rated shield than you do from the shipyard stock. Feel free to read up on the research if you want.

Power plant

In all the cases I can see, a class A rated power plant in a class one lower than spec is a great upgrade as long as you're looking for good performance and mass. They are definitely more expensive than the equivalent D of the stock class but they outperform in every other aspect (mass, heat rating, maximum power). If you want to get the absolute maximum power, then go for a stock class A.

Fuel costs

Before 10th March, fuel in large ships used to cost much more than smaller ships - but after 11th March all fuel costs have been set to the same value per ton. Bonus!

Now, all you need to worry about is whether to buy it at a station or whether to scoop it. You can work that out based on your scoop performance and your fuel consumption. I'll put some accurate formula here shortly.

Wrapping it up

Look out for the next post where I'm going to go into detail on finding trade routes (both inside and outside the game) and how to make the most profit without succumbing to the grind.

Part five - Commodities, economies and route planning

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Fingerbob's guide to Elite Dangerous Trading, Part Three and a bit

Hi! I was expecting my next post to be about trading in the larger ships, but I thought it would be worth sharing a few of the observations I've made from running the rare trade routes in my Cobra and my Type 6.

The first question I've been looking to answer is, "should I jump to maximum range and scoop, or should I use an efficient jump route?" - and I've got a definitive answer, at least for one set of upgrades.

The second question I've been looking to answer is, "How much fuel do I use to jump?" - and I've got a definitive answer for that, too.

Read on for more detail!

Jump to max range and scoop, or jump efficiently?

When you plan a route in the galactic map, you've got to make a decision between "Economical Routes" or "Fastest Routes".

The key difference is the amount of fuel you use overall and how far each jump will be.

When you select "Economical Routes" your planned route will take many short jumps as close to a straight line as possible - but it will aim to minimize the amount of fuel you use, so the route travelled may be quite winding and will likely have jumps that you don't expect to make if you draw a straight line between your starting point and your destination.

When you select "Fastest Routes" your planned route will aim to jump as far as possible based on your current max jump range, as long as you're heading in the correct direction. This route will have fewer jumps.

You'd expect that this would use the same fuel - or maybe even less fuel, since it's more direct - but that's not what happens.

Fuel use is not linear on distance. one 10LY jump does not use the same fuel as two 5LY jumps.

This is pretty obvious when you look at the fuel gauge and your rebuy costs, but it's not immediately obvious how much fuel you will use for a certain distance. If you want some more details on that, take a look in the next section.

You can decide between the two, but which one should you pick?

Flying as fast as possible within your maximum range

Always use fastest routes. you take fewer jumps, which means less time.

Flying as fast as possible exceeding your maximum range

Always use fastest routes, and scoop as much as you can until you can reach your last jump. You can check this (while you're scooping is the most efficient way!) by looking on your galaxy map - if you have a dotted line on your final jump, you can't make it all the way yet. If you have a solid line, you're good to go.

If you do care about your fuel costs, then always use fastest routes and scoop as much as you can on every jump you can. This way you'll only pay for fuel on your last jump (or you can scoop before heading in to the station if you wish).

Since the March 11th update, fuel costs are now tiny, even in bigger ships. Buy as much fuel as you can when you get to your destination.

Using economical routes is slower than jumping and scooping unless you have a rubbish scoop and you're bad at scooping.

And to prove it, here's some math! Yay!

How long does it take to scoop?

You can see the fuel scoop efficiency here:

I ran my timing tests with a 2B scoop (65 units per second max). There's 1000 units per one ton of fuel (let's assume 1 unit of fuel is 1 KG of Hydrogen) so scooping 60 units per second will take 17 seconds to fill one ton of your fuel tank.

The worst class 2 scoop scoops at 32 units/s. That would take around 35 seconds to fill one ton of your tank at just under max scoop.

You can safely scoop at 90% of your max scoop rate while staying at a decent temperature - I tend to fly into the star until I'm at 70% rate, slow to minimum supercruise speed and blip the throttle until I'm sitting at 90% scoop rate or above, then level out (and orient myself so the target jump star is above me). Once the scoop is finished, or even better nearly finished, I point up to the target star and accelerate at max, then charge the FSD as soon as the temp drops below 56.

How long does it take to jump?

Here's some timings taken in a Cobra with a 4A FSD and D class systems.

A jump will take around 43 seconds on average assuming you do the best job you can of jumping as soon as you arrive. This is made up of:

10 seconds waiting for FSD cooldown upon arrival
13 seconds of charging time
5 seconds countdown to enter hyperspace
12 seconds inside hyperspace
3 seconds to exit hyperspace

entry, exit and transit times can vary by a second or two each way depending on network connection, lag and other factors, but your own response times and piloting skill probably make as much if not more difference. I did manage to do a few jumps in under 42 seconds but it's pretty hard work.

If you round this up a bit, you can safely say that your typical jump will take 45 seconds.

Jump or scoop?

Bear in mind that you can be scooping during the FSD cooldown phase, so you can get 5 seconds scooping for free if you're smart. add another 30-50 seconds to fill your tank. On average, you're better off jumping to max and scooping rather than jumping twice, and you're definitely going to go much faster doing this than jumping three times to get the same distance. This also assumes you want a full tank at your destination.

If you're happy to arrive with a nearly empty tank, then you're always best off scooping and max jumping as long as you are competent at scooping, even if you have the worst class scoop. Better scoops save you more time (or money, your choice).

Example numbers

Here's an example from some runs I've made between Orrere and Witchhaul. This is in my Cobra with 4A FSD, D class just about everything else apart from the scoop (2B) and a full cargo load of 40 tons.

Jumping with an Economical route:

31 jumps (193LY as the crow jumps, but actually travelled 237LY)
Average jump distance of 7.65 LY
Total time for journey: 26.5 minutes
Total time just jumping: 22.5 minutes
Time taken launching and docking : 4 minutes
Fuel used: 59%
Fuel left on arrival : 41%

Jumping with a Fastest route:

11 jumps (193LY as the crow jumps, but actually travelled 208LY)
Average jump distance of 19.0LY
Total time for journey: 15.5 minutes
Total time just jumping: 8 minutes
Total time scooping : 3 minutes
Time taken launching and docking : 4 minutes
Fuel used: 130%
Fuel scooped: 55%
Fuel left on arrival: 25%

How much fuel do I use to jump?

Fuel use isn't linear, as I said earlier - so how can you figure it out? Well, here's the results of some of the tests I've run.

These are all in a Type 6 with a 4A FSD, but I'm pretty confident they'll be applicable to all ships / FSDs - just because the math is so close to correct. I'll be trying out different ships over the next couple of days to confirm this result.

(Update2 - Taleden has linked me to a dev post describing the correct formula for fuel costs, which also describes your maximum distance.)

Distance jumped -> fuel usage (3.0 tons max fuel per jump, 20.61LY max range)

4.05LY -> 0.08 tons
10.24LY -> 0.60 tons
15.15LY -> 1.44 tons
20.36LY -> 2.89 tons

Your fuel usage appears to be (update2! slight change to formula!):

((Jdist / Jmax) ^ Power) * Dcap

Jdist is the jump distance to the target star system.
JMax is your current maximum jump distance.
Power is specific to your ship's FSD class (see below)
Dcap is the drive capacity. See "Max fuel per jump" for each FSD class.

Power varies by FSD class.

FSD Class23456

(I had previously, incorrectly, guessed at Power as a constant for all ships - and given I'd worked out it was 2.3 or as close as possible in my tests, I'd assumed FD would pick some high-falutin constant, and the Universal Parabolic constant was a great match! turns out I was wrong.)

So, as an example, if you jump 16.0LY with a max dist of 21LY, a class 4 FSD and a max fuel per jump of 3.0 tons, your fuel usage will be:

((16.0 / 21.0) ^ 2.3) * 3.0 = 1.60 tons.

As a rough approximation, since you probably don't want to hit up a calculator every time you jump:

half your max jump distance will cost you 0.2 * Dcap fuel.
3/4 of your max jump distance will cost you 0.5 * Dcap fuel.

If you want to see the numbers / research methodology on this, drop me a comment!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Fingerbob's guide to Elite Dangerous Trading, Part Three

Welcome! This is part three in my short series of posts about trading in Elite Dangerous, and today's post is all about Rare Trading.

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 ...

The Cobra

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 ...

The Lakon Type 6 Transporter

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 : )

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.

Fingerbob's Asp route

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.

DestinationStationAt (LS)Dist (LY)JumpsMax StockSell From
LeestiGeorge Lucas257109621Coquim, Wuthielo Ku
AltairSolo Station670115522
ZeesszeNicollier Hangar48926218Karsuki Ti, Jaroua
39 TauriPorta 98042317
WitchhaulHornby Terminal2203729Baltah'Sine
CoquimHirayama Installation600109620
Wuthielo KuTarter Dock145120717Leesti
Karsuki TiWest Market2892518Altair, Zeessze, 39 Tauri, Witchhaul
JarouaMcCool City14372418

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.

What's next?

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.