Trading in Star Citizen is a Career that carries with it moderate to severe risk, but moderate reward and is most beneficial to a player who owns large ships which can transport large quantities of trade goods between one point in the universe to another. Trade currently consists of taking Cargo of varying legality from one point in Stanton to another point in Stanton using trade terminals to buy and sell those goods.
Trading will generally take the form of three types of missions:
- Trade lanes/routes: Consistent supply and demand between a producer and supplier. Often requires high volume transport at low rates. Only transporters and traders with a good reputation would be considered.
- On-Demand: Consumers in dangerous space or with infrequent demand will put out trade requests and generally accept a contract with the lowest bidder; though reputation and past service will have an impact on this choice.
- Emergency: Sudden shortages or major events create short-term, high-pay missions that are first-come, first-served.
Presently, delivery missions are the closest thing implemented in-game to trade missions. Currently (as of 3.18) these delivery missions have included potential NPC combat and a likelihood of having bugs which necessitate abandoning missions and selling off the cargo.
Lanes and routes
During this same version, trade mostly takes the form of freelance trade lanes and routes plotted by intelligent entrepreneurs who buy trade cargo from one point and sell it at another. This cargo may sometimes be legal (e.g., precious minerals and medicines) or illegal (e.g., SLAM).
Cargo such as Laranite is very expensive and can be sold for large profit margins, but often low in supply because of player trade saturation.
Because of the dynamic nature of the in-game market, Star Citizen also alerts players at regular intervals with a communication popup which supplies players with current information. Players can use this information to plan out the most profitable path to buy and sell their cargo. Unfortunately this can be very tedious because of the way the log is produced within the game, so players have sometimes implemented useful sites that are constantly updated with new information. Some of these sites are kept up to date with reasonable accuracy due to the community taking interest in updating information as they use certain routes.
Within the volatile in-game market, it is also good to note that paying close attention to items which are in overstock or understock may yield more profit, especially for traders with less cargo capacity. Commodity prices are in flux and change about every 8-10 minutes. For maximum profits from a commodity, buy goods when they are overstocked and sell them when they are understocked. Repeating the process at every commodity price update (which can be seen in the Journal tab of the MobiGlas menu).
Useful links for locating good trade routes are:
- UEX Corp: https://uexcorp.space
- SC Trade Tools: https://sc-trade.tools/home
Due to the nature of supply and demand and the effect of having an expensive load of Cargo, larger ships have the added danger of being prime targets for piracy. Players who have taken up piracy will often take up positions in known quantum jump lanes with ships that use Quantum enforcement to stall out ships carrying large quantities of trade goods. Because of the likelihood of pirates in these known routes, players will have to decide whether to accept higher risk, higher reward, or lower risk and lower reward in many situations. Although there isn't an automatic method of sharing profits for freelance trading, it is also a good idea to include other players as gunners or escort ships to ensure a safe arrival of the cargo you have purchased at your intended destination.
Pirates themselves will be drawn to trading runs because although it takes a significant amount of time to transfer larger quantities of Cargo from a ship that has been "soft-deathed" (permanently disabled), pirates are presented with often more than a million aUEC worth of cargo per captured ship with no input funding. Pirates then can use a Pyro RYT Multi-Tool with the tractor beam attachment to transfer cargo from the damaged ship to a ship that they brought along for just such an occasion. Once that cargo is in their own ship, they will likely have a pilot who doesn't have a CrimeStat to deliver the goods to a Trade & Development Division on a planet, or take that ship to be stored at a pirate-owned outpost such as Grim HEX until they can clear whatever crime stat they have obtained.