Elite Dangerous Guide: Making money

elite dangerous horizonsWith Elite Dangerous being in the headlines and with 2017 looking to be a massive year for the game I thought it would be a good time to start adding to our popular guide again. So far we’ve looked at outfitting your ship, how to control it and told you the basics of navigation. In part  4 of the guide we are going to look at how to make your fortune in Elite Dangerous. If you wish to check out the other parts of our guide then simply click the relevant link at the bottom of this article.

There’s numerous ways to earn cash in Elite Dangerous but it’s important to realize that there’s no quick magical way to instantly get yourself millions so you can buy that expensive ship you have your eye on. It’s going to take time, patience and possibly a bit of a grind before you are in a position to purchase one of the highly desirable ships. You may look on some of the more experienced Elite Dangerous players with a hint of jealousy but it’s important to remember that we all started off in the same Sidewinder with limited funds.

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At the start you have very little to lose. If you get destroyed you can simply clear your save and start over if you wish and without losing hours of progress, so now is the time to practice your docking and getting to know the game because once you’ve invested a few hours you won’t want to start from scratch. Enjoy the freedom to take risks whilst you can.

When you are ready you’ll want to start earning some money and there’s a number of ways you can do this. Some methods are riskier than others and some offer better rewards than others. We’re going to take a look at the basics that should hopefully get you on your way.


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Exploring the galaxy and scanning stars, planets, moons and other things you find on your way is a great way to enjoy the beauty of Elite Dangerous. You won’t get far or be swimming in seas of cash but you will broaden your knowledge of the galaxy. This is an easy way to earn a few credits and can easily be combined with other money making tasks. simply scan systems using your system scanner or scan stars and/or planets etc individually and once you’ve taken the data far enough away from the source you can earn a bit of profit.

Bulletin Board Missions

The Bulletin board missions that you can find in the Starport Services are a good place to start. Here you can often find a wide variety of mission types each giving different rewards. Some missions may be riskier than others so choose wisely.

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My personal choice were Data delivery missions where you simply have to take the data stored in your ships memory banks to another starport in a neighboring system. Similarly you can transport cargo so long as you have enough cargo space. The rewards will likely range between a couple of thousand credits in the early stages. You should invest this money in upgrading your Sidewinder so more missions become available to you but keep an eye on your insurance cost and make sure you have enough funds to cover the cost should you meet an untimely death.

When selecting a mission you want to pay attention to the details such as the destination and make sure you can fulfill the mission. Some will be locked if for example you don’t have the cargo space but jump range isn’t necessarily something the game takes into consideration. Also worth considering is whether your actions will be seen as illegal by the system powers as early on you may not be in a position to sneak past security. Likewise if you are warned that enemy ships may attack you it might be worth looking for a safer mission unless you’re willing to take the risk. Also, note the destination you’re traveling to, and see if you can do two simultaneous deliveries to the same port, doubling your income!

Bounty Hunting

After a few missions you might want to upgrade your weapons and/or shields and head on out to a Nav beacon (found near the systems star). You’ll find many ships occupying space near to these beacons and the ones you want to pay attention too are the ones marked as “Wanted”. Simply target a ship in your vicinity and your ship will scan it. The information gained from this scan will appear in the bottom left of your HUD. If they are “Wanted” it will be written in red. You can fire on these ships without becoming wanted yourself and if you destroy them you will receive a bounty payment that you can collect from a starport (starport services: contacts: redeem bounty). The bounty tends to depend on the ship you attack. The harder the target the more you earn. Note that ‘Dangerous’ is a ranking and isn’t to be taken as a form of a ‘Wanted’ status.

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You’ll often see wanted ships being attacked by AI. Target those ships and monitor their shields. So long as you get a shot and  hit them before they are destroyed you will receive the bounty (unless in a wing), you do not necessarily need to get the kill shot. This little tip is worth remembering if you see a much more powerful ship but really want a lucrative bounty. Be warned though, bounty hunting can be …well dangerous but can be an excellent way to earn a lot of money relatively quickly. You can use the same trick at resource extraction sites but I find these areas much harder than the Nav beacon and have found myself overwhelmed by pirate ships.

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As you progress and improve your ship’s capabilities or indeed upgrade your ship altogether you can find yourself earning tens or hundreds of thousands of credits as you tackle harder bounties.


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Leading on from hunting down wanted criminals we turn to smuggling. Now this could be done a number of ways. You could purchase cargo that is considered illicit in other systems and sell it on the black market but we’ll cover trading later. Since we’ve been covering blowing up Wanted ships it’s worth noting that if those ships were carrying cargo then that cargo will be adrift amongst the wreckage. Open up your cargo scoop and you can take the items aboard your ship.

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Be warned that regardless of what the cargo is, it will now be illicit and therefore if you are scanned by the System powers security services you will be in trouble. Find yourself a starport and slip inside avoiding a scan though and you can make yet more money off the back of your kill. Whether this method offers enough of a reward considering the risk is debatable and to be honest I tend not to bother but it can be an option for you to consider. If cargo is voluntarily ditched by a Commander or AI then you can safely pick up this cargo without fear of penalty or repercussions.


Yar me hearties this takes us onto Piracy. You could if you’re feeling brave in your little Sidewinder try to hold up other players, obviously piracy is easier if you’ve a bigger and better ship so this might not be the best method for new players. Anyway simply persuade your victim to part with their cargo and sell it for a tidy profit. You can scan cargo with special scanners and Commanders may feel it better to cooperate than risk having to pay out the cost of insurance should they be destroyed.  Pick your fights carefully though.

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As well as hunting the wanted near Nav Beacons the next best method can be simple trade runs. Find what resources a Starport is paying above odds for and source those resources from somewhere that is selling at a lower price. Players have come up with entire trade loops which will produce a tidy profit. This essentially becomes Euro Truck Simulator in space.

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It’s a relatively low risk operation that can offer decent rewards if you have the patience. Taking on rare cargo can be even more profitable so long as you travel a fair distance away from where you buy them. There are dedicated sites that can assist you with trading although some may consider this as cheating a little bit. Personally I think if you can make sense of trade routes for yourself to start off then it merely becomes a time saver rather than using someone else’s work to do the heavy lifting for you.

Community Goals

Community goals can be very rewarding so if you find one within reach and within your capabilities then it’s well worth signing up and taking part. The more you contribute the better the reward will be. You can  potentially earn millions by taking part in community goals.

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There’s also the rewarding feeling knowing that you are doing something worthwhile that will have an impact on the game and is also a sure fire way to ensure you see lots of other players. The Elite Dangerous community is a fantastic one so it’s a good opportunity to meet like minded people.


Mining planets rings or asteroid belts is another way you can earn money. It lacks the excitement of bounty hunting but it can be a chilled out way to earn money and does give you some incredible views. You’ll need at least a Cobra MK III I believe and will need to outfit your ship especially for the task. Once your resources are refined simply sell them for profit.

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It can be frustrating being poor in Elite Dangerous but my advice is to try not to rush and enjoy the progression. It will be time consuming but ultimately rewarding. Yes it’s nice cruising in a 1 million CR  ship but my Viper MK IV is still my favorite ship and it won’t take  you too long to buy one. Elite Dangerous caters for many play styles and refitting your ship for different purposes is pretty simple to do so you can  always do the task that takes your fancy depending what mood you are in.

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As always this isn’t a complete list and there are other ways to add funds to your pockets but these should get you on your way. Feel free to ask if you have any questions or if you know another way to earn the big bucks then feel free to share the wealth. Elite Dangerous has a helpful community so never be afraid to ask. If there’s a particular aspect of the game you’d like to see us cover then feel free to drop us a message over on our Facebook page.

The complete list of our Elite Dangerous Guide can be found below. Simply click the one you want to see.
Part 1- Elite Dangerous Guide: Controls and the HUD
Part 2- Elite Dangerous Guide:  Outfitting Your Ship
Part 3- Elite Dangerous Guide: Navigation
Part 4- Elite Dangerous Guide: Making Money


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