TRADE: Basics - An Introduction to trading in Elite Dangerous - #00027
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Special times need special goods. You can make huge profits going to outbreak state systems. Comb through the mission board for "bring in the good stuff" missions. Usually, outbreaks need progenitor cells, performance enhancers, advanced medicines and basic medicines. If not needed in missions, you can sell these goods regularly at the commodities board. Profit is huge. Try it.
If you're greedy or just a fan of optimizing things, you should give one of the trade loop generators a go.
I strongly suggest using EDDB.IO, as its a wonderful tool and very convenient once you have learned using it.
A simple "Maximum range 15 ly, no settlements, where is the money" loop route by eddb.io tops out at 9.000 cr to 10.000 cr - the latter to be used for a short comparison:
With a 100 ton ship, you can do 4 of these loops or more per hour. That is 4 x 100 tons = 400 tons per hour with 10.000 credits each which results in about 4 million credits per hour.
With 4 million credits per hour, your time to 1.2 billion (threshold for elite trade rank and a full ship setup for most cmdrs) is less than 300 hours.
Still too long? Consider this: You will soon use a T7 (200+ tons of cargo), an Anaconda (400+ tons of cargo) or an Imperial Cutter (700+ tons of cargo) for trading.
A rough estimate would be that you transport ca. 300 tons from harmless trade rank to elite trade rank. Per run. This cuts your time-to-elite-rank-in-trading-and-full-access-to-shinrarta-dezhra-with-all-ships-and-modules-in-stock to 100 hours!
Still bored by thinking about trading?
If you're in a very small ship like a Hauler or a Cobra Mk III, consider Rare Goods Trading which not only creates income but also a lot of fun by visiting places you would normally stay away from.
Rare goods trading is basically buying exotic stuff you can only buy at one designated station, then transport it to a place with a high demand - which is basically any place more than 100 ly away. It won't make you rich in an instant, but for small ships it's the trade variant with the highest income.
Not to be forgotten, trade also includes selling stuff you have looted or mined somewhere and to some degree it also includes selling prohibited goods to black markets. Check the corresponding chapters on ed-howto.com for more about these.