How to Trade and Make Lots of Money in Elite Dangerous - Prima Games

How to Trade and Make Lots of Money in Elite Dangerous

by Prima Games Staff

We already talked about the plethora of careers available in Elite Dangerous. Now it’s time to put our shields up and dive right into the action. As a trader in a massive galaxy, you’ll want to focus on one thing most of all, making as big a profit as you can. This is possible when you’re piloting the right ship for the job. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks involved. 

The Dangers of Trading

As a trader, you’ll need to be careful and keep your head on a swivel for any pirates in the area. The quickest way from one point to another is a straight line, we can’t deny that. However, as a trader, you’ll want to take longer journeys to stations while traveling in Supercruise. This can be accomplished by simply detouring slightly while traveling towards your destination. If you happen to get intercepted by a pirate, you can simply throttle down your speed until you give in to the interdiction and get pulled from Supercruise. 

TIP: Giving in to the interdiction will allow your Frame Shift Drive to cool-off faster (10 seconds versus the 40 second cooldown you’ll receive if you fail to escape the Interdiction), which means you can escape four times faster than if you tried to fight it. 

More Cargo Space Equals More Profit in Most Cases.

This may sound like common sense but it deserves to be said. There is normal station to station trading which this article will focus on, and then there is Rare Trading thatwe’ll get into in a future article. Since the focus of this article is normal trading, you’ll want to make sure you have as much cargo space as your ship can handle. To purchase additional cargo slots, you can visit any Outfitting section in any applicable space station (Outposts don’t sell ship upgrades). Many times you can replace your shields with more cargo space, but as we mentioned above, pirates are a huge threat to traders, and not having your shields could mean the destruction of your ship and all your cargo. Once you’re sure you have as much cargo space as you need, it’s time to find a good trading route.

Trade Routes

First let’s get this out of the way. There are tons of great websites where you can find trade routes that other players have discovered and use to your benefit. However, the best way to find a good trade route is the old-fashioned way, on your own.

Since Elite Dangerous sports a bustling and ever-changing economic system, you’ll want to discover your own trade routes in order to maximize the amount of time that you can use them. For example, if only one person uses a trade route versus 10 people using it, it will last 10 times as long, which means you’ll make far greater profits off this before it becomes obsolete.

In order to locate a great trade route, you’ll need to understand supply and demand. Each station has different commodities in higher supply or higher demand. To break it down even more, there are five varieties of stations: High Tech, Refinery, Agriculture, Extraction and Industrial. By the same notion, there are 13 different categories of products with a mixture of defined items beneath them. It’s important to figure out and understand what each station wants. 

Example: You come across a station that specializes in the refining of raw metals. In order to make a profit off these refined metals you’d need to purchase them at this station and then locate an Industrial station, where you could sell them for a sizable profit.

Trading isn’t hard once you understand the math, but you’ll still need to account for the law. Quite a few of the independent stations sell things like Personal Weapons. These items, while legal in one sector are illegal in other areas, as the right to bear arms is not recognized throughout all of the galaxy. Another example of a possible illegal commodity is alcohol. If you purchase either of these commodities you’ll need to either locate a station that accepts them, or smuggle the goods into a larger station to sell to the Black Market.

Tip: Here’s a helpful infographic about the various items and where to buy them and sell them. 

Bulletin Board

Although you’ll spend the majority of your time studying the commodities board, checking your galaxy map and flying in and out of ports, you’ll also need to be aware of the current offerings on your station’s Bulletin Board. Although many of the quests here are for small wages, sometimes you’ll come across the perfect job for the perfect amount of cash. The best part about these missions, however, is that the cargo you need to transport is given to you freely, so you won’t have to purchase it. Make sure to check that Bulletin Board every time you empty your Cargo hold at a station.

Buy Low, Sell High

Just like real life, the economy in Elite Dangerous is all about watching your prices, buying low and then finding somewhere to find and sell it high. Do NOT simply purchase something and run from station to station hoping to sell it. Do your research and make sure it’s a worthwhile trip; after all, fuel isn’t free.

To figure out what to buy, look at the Commodities Market and check the included graphics. If anything ever says LOW beside the product, do not purchase it there. If it says MED, then it’s up to you, but your best bet is to locate the items in HIGH supply. Then you can head to a station that needs that product and sell it for a profit. 

Tip: Be wary of selling your goods to stations that import the item. Always make sure the profit is worth it before letting go of your hard-earned cargo.


In our previous article about the different Career paths, we mentioned Smuggling, and we’d like to go ahead and explain this side of the trading world. In order to be a smuggler, you’re going to need to be smart and fast, as the amount of barriers placed on smuggling is unreal. Various items like Alcohol, Tobacco, Weapons and other items may be considered illegal in some systems, and this means you’ll need to sneak into the station. Otherwise you risk being fined, your cargo confiscated or even worse, destroyed.

In order to sneak into a station you’ll need to take a risk, so make sure your cargo is worth it. Once you arrive at your target station, you’ll want to line up with the front entryway about 10KM out from the station. Then you’ll need to hit your boost and get up enough speed so that when you turn off your engine and activate silent running, you’ll be able to coast all the way into the station. Once you’re spiraling towards the station, make sure to keep your ship as lined up with the station’s entryway as you can, and pray your ship reaches the perfect heat levels before you reach 5KM.  If you have a Heatsink onboard, now is a great time to send it flying into the stars. 

If everything goes according to plan, you’ll quickly request docking and once more pray that they grant your request, and then activate your engines and steer yourself into the docking bay before you can be scanned by the security ships. 

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