Running RaresThe now infamous Rare-Run trading in Elite Dangerous is a get-rich-quick scheme for poor pilots that allows cheap cargo often purchased at <500Cr/T to be transported long distances and sold at a 15,000Cr/T profit. Numbers may vary, in this article we'll be looking at ship outfits rather than plotting a particular route or instrumenting profit margins.
Off that bat I'm going to say that you can fly across the galaxy in a stock sidewinder so long as you strap a fuel scoop to it. You will earn money faster if you can invest in that 8T of cargo space and a bigger Frame Shift Drive, and this article is about trying to help you maximise your profits. You don't need to drop 100K of upgrades to make this work, but it sure helps.
Pick your RouteWhen picking routes, take the Cr/T and the time it takes into account. A short run you can do frequently might make more than a long distance haul once you divide in the time.
In these articles I demonstrate two routes with different ships.
Rare Runs in a Sidewinder
127Ly Rare Run in a ZP Hauler
A massive 200Ly span in a Sidewinder and a shorter 127Ly trek in a ZP Hauler and the shorter route made a similar return in a lot less time, totalling almost double the hourly profits. I'd recommend you try a short route first time out - its easier, quicker and you'll be able to do it even if you can't afford a top-spec ship.
You may make more money on a 500Ly route, but it could end up taking you two or three times as long. Remember to take travel time into account and remember that two good payouts might earn more than one great one in the same amount of time.
Rare cargo can only be bought in small quantities, because they are rare. Hence the name. So while the profits per tonne are very high the overall yield isn't so hot. However the low-price per tonne and cheap ship requirements make them ideal for starting pilots.
Larger capacity ships gain no benefit if the cargo you can carry already has a maximum limit so I'll only be considering the small hulls and won't be thinking above more than 20T of cargo. It is quite possible to cross the galaxy in a Cobra3, and you can build a reasonably long range Cobra that can carry 52T if only you had a way to pack it with Lavaian Brandy to score that stellar paydirt.
Pick your ShipIn my Ship Focus - Adder article I talked about a couple of ultra lightweight adder builds capable of carrying up to 16T over very long distances and used example ships in the 150, 265 and 600K price ranges. You have to love the Adder for its balance of range, capacity and hardpoints, but here we'll be dialing that price point down and looking at some cheaper hulls to get the entry point into rare trading as low as possible. Some of these ships will look like tinfoil scuba gear and a swag bag, and they might flight like them too, but these are some of the lowest tonnage, longest range, ships in the galaxy.
All of the ships discussed here will be setup for a long trip and scooping fuel as they go. Scooping fuel is a little dangerous, as you can end up stranded with no way home if the destination star is unscoopable. This is especially a problem if you are running on fumes to maximise your jump range, so plan a known safe route with fuel stops wherever possible.
The SidewinderWith its small cargo capacity, the sidewinder isn't a gem but is our opening contender. A slimline refit including Fuel Scoop is added to a shop-floor Sidewinder. Shields and Guns are also stripped - you don't get much more bare metal than this.
With a high performance Class-B Frame Shift Drive our sporty sidewinder looks like this.
Range: 15.7 - 19.4Ly
Cost: 90,000 Credits.
With a Premium Class-A Frame shift drive you'll be making those long distance jumps and quick trips across the galaxy, but the 8T hold might be limiting.
Range: 19.0 - 23.6Ly
Cost: 197,000 Credits.
As you can see, the Sidewinder is a snap at under 100K Credits for a ship capable of making some long distance trips.
In this article Rare Runs in a Sidewinder I put these two sidewinders to the test to measure their profitability.
The EagleAlso consider a fighter, not a trader, the eagle is a small ship that will struggle on trading runs. As I'll cover in my Eagle ship focus, I'm not much of a fan of it as a combat or escort craft and its high price really puts me off recommending this an an early-game rare run ship.
Again this hull is stipped down with a slimline refit to maximise range, and undersized Power Distributer and Thrusters can be used to lighten the load.
The Performance Class-B Frame Shift drive gives you this:
Range: 16.4 - 19.4Ly
Cost: 216,000 Credits.
The Eagle is an expensive ship with its bulky Size 3 components, For a snap over two-hundred thousand, and a fifty percent larger hold than the sidewinder, the Eagle is worth considering. The Class-A FSD pushes the price tag well over half a million credits - too costly to be considered a "cheap buy"
The HaulerWhile its not an elegant ship, if its all about the benjamins then this might be the ship for you. The Budget edition Hauler can be yours for 82,200 Credits, coming out as our cheapest real ship by dropping the tonnage down one notch and fitting that Class-C Frame Shift Drive.
Range: 14.4 - 21.6 LY
Cost: 82,200 Credits.
The Performance hauler - if such a thing exists - can still be yours for around the 100,000 Credits range.
Range: 17.8 - 26.3
Cost: 117,000 Credits.
And for a real treat the Premium Hauler lets you trek the stars in some long range jumps. I've added a Class-1A Fuel scoop in here too, so that you can fly forever and increased that hold space to 16T to reach maximum earning potential.
Range: 19.4 - 32.4Ly
Cost: 313,000 Credits.
The Hauler has the competition beat hands down on price, range and capacity. Running a ship as light as this on fumes is going to add three of four light years onto that range - you'll be able to make 35Ly in a single jump with no cargo and fortune favours the bold.
Here is an example of the machine in action 127Ly Rare Run in a ZP Hauler
For pilots making their first long-range trips, these are the only contending ships. On paper the cheapest is the Budget Hauler at only 82K but the Performance Sidewinder takes the crown for new pilots because they already have the ship and only have to pay for the refit and frame shift upgrade.
The editors pick is the Hauler, stripped down to baremetal and with a Class-B drive. Its a little over a hundred K but still an affordable price for a poor-mans-build and will make a million credits in an afternoon of racing rares across the galaxy. If you can afford a Class-A in that hauler, then it'll really serve you well.
If you want details on freighters, try Rules of Acquisition - Carrying Freight for a discussion maximising profit per hour by moving as many tonnes as possible over short distances.
If you have a ship focus you'd like to see, a pilot academy article, or more rules of acquisition leave a comment below. Please like, favorite, share, and subscribe.
As always, fly safe.