First off, I love this game. It is flawed and basic at the moment but I haven't been this addicted to a game for a very long time. Second, I may as well start by sharing where I am currently in terms of space credits http://i.imgur.com/xUJ3sKJ.png. I have never exploited the buy/sell glitch and accumulated a good amount of credits running rares before the nerf for many hours.
In this thread I will try my best to outline different tips so that people can become effective traders without having to rely on the routes of other players or even the public trade tools available. I don't really think there will be much new info written here as there have already been some great tips in the last 24 hours after the server-side economy fixes, but maybe some people can benefit. Scroll to the bottom for a tl;dr of sorts. It will take me some time to format so bare with me!
**DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT A BE ALL END ALL GUIDE**
What I have written here is just a collection of notes and thoughts of how I approach trading and the "rules" I follow when looking for trade routes. Please do not look at this guide as something to be following exclusively. I am sure there are better or comparable methods of trading. Furthermore, these suggestions may not always work as I have not yet explored trading to the full extent and do not fully understand it's mechanics yet. Once I hit Elite, I will dedicate a lot of time to helping newer or struggling players, find routes, and most importantly try to understand the trading system as well as possible.
I do not use any of the public trade routes. I don't generally ask or even want to know what routes other people are using unless they are something extremely lucrative like rares were. Instead I prefer to find combinations of commodities and systems that interact well, something I will cover below. The public trade tools are filled with inaccurate and sometimes troll information where someone enters an extra zero and then destroys your hopes and dreams without even knowing it. Pen and paper, or even better, a spreadsheet system works very well. It may be less data, but at least you know that data is reliable.
**YOUR ROUTES VS MY ROUTES AND WHY YOU SHOULD FIND YOUR OWN**
Last week I replied to a thread where people were asking how much credits per tonne everyone was making. I posted that I was making about 1600 per tonne and that one could find these profits by simply looking. I was down-voted, called a liar and accused of being bullshit, got angry messages, was blamed for poverty in the galaxy, and so on. These users were offended that I did not want to post routes publicly even though I had offered to help them in game or via PM. The reason is simple: You don't want to use my trade routes, or anyone else's.
After the economy fix, I am seeing plenty of 2200 credits per tonne routes (which I will cover below). However, the more people trade, the faster it depletes. You can half the return on this run within an hour if enough people hit it. It is not worth it for you to come to my trade route simply because you will not make as much as I make on it with a small group and within a few hours you will no longer have anything to do. In fact, by the time you manage to get to where I am, it could already yield a lower return than originally advertised. The biggest advice I can give is **find your own routes** as you will benefit the most from this. Using other people's routes GUARANTEES that you will make less than you potentially could unless the system doesn't work properly.
When you rely on others for routes, you will always be behind in the game of credits.
Have anything smaller than a Type-9? Be a man, drop your shields. Maximize your cargo. The shield slot gives you much more profit. Remove all hardpoints. With the smaller ships, you should have no issue fitting through station mail slots or avoiding interdiction and therefore not taking damage. An FSD is a must as you can find much better 1 jump routes further from core systems that have long jump ranges (16ly+). A good way of doing this is buying the lightest functioning upgrades for your ship. The best upgrades are NOT always the lightest so keep that in mind. Here is an example of how I got to 36ly unladen jump range with the Anaconda http://i.imgur.com/hsYbC7x.png.
Absolutely make sure that when you are buying a ship or cargo, you have enough left over for buy back. Risks are great but PLEASE carry enough for insurance. An extra few runs in your current ship will be worthwhile for the security insurance provides.
EDIT: The Type-7 does not fix in the smaller landing docks.
**FUEL CONSUMPTION, JUMP RANGE AND THE IDEA BEHIND 1 JUMP/IN SYSTEM ROUTES**
The question by liq3 was asked about whether or not a trade run actually has to be 1 jump and if there is anything wrong with a route being a few jump. The answer is simply no, it doesn't have to be 1 jump! But there is a reason I am for 1 jump.
It isn't just time you have to take into consideration. In a big ship for example, the fuel is expensive, so the more jumps I make, the more credits I spend on fuel OR the more time I use to fuel scoop. And yes, the extra time for jumps adds into it a bit as well, but for me personally, the fuel cost or refuel time plays a bigger role.
But I say do whatever makes you the most credits per hour. What I wrote is how I look at trading. I don't want it to be a definitive guide or anything of the sort. I am sure there are people making more than me, have more money than me, and are generally better players than me. The beauty about this game is that one can play it however the wish! So if it takes a few jumps, so be it. It is still profit!
**WHAT TO TRADE, WHERE TO SELL, AND HOW TO FIND TRADE RUNS**
For most, this will be the most important part. There really is no magic or secret to this and this has been mentioned several times in this subreddit. I will simply expand on it. The recent changes have made this process pretty straightforward.
My strategy is to travel at least 100-120ly away from Sol or Achenar, find a High Tech/Refinery system and then find an Extraction or Refinery system beside it. A wealthy high-tech system with a large population pays the most for Gold and Palladium. Extraction and Refinery systems seems to export these metals at the lowest price and import consumer tech and performance enhancers and other things that help workers. Populations seem to have an effect on this and low population systems seem to pay VERY well for imperial slaves imported from high population high-tech/refinery systems.
January 1st, 2015 addition: Refinery systems
After some suggestions by Mobius members, redditors and forum posters, I decided to check out Refinery systems to replace extraction systems with.
It seems that trade routes that use Agriculture/Refinery systems and specifically a refinery station within that system instead of Extraction systems yield as much profit and have more variety, essentially making them better. The principle is still the same as the using extraction systems. You buy metals like gold or beryllium at a refinery station, take them to high tech/refinery, and bring performance enhancers, progenitor cells or consumer tech back to the refinery station. The profit on the metals is almost as high but the profit going back seems to be higher than if you are going from high tech to extraction.
I am currently using is Agriculture/Refinery and the station is a pure refinery station. I also don't know if the system being used HAS to be both agriculture and refinery or high tech and refinery for this to work.
So essentially that's it. Get far away from Sol or Achenar. Go to High Tech/Refinery system. Buy slaves (not always works, you need to note the prices) Performance Enhancers, Progenitor Cells or Consumer Technology. Take it to an Extraction system beside it, sell those. Buy Palladium or Gold and take it back to the High Tech system. Rinse and repeat until the profits dry up, and travel away or parallel from the core worlds to the next high tech system surrounded by extraction. I always search for at least 3 runs in the general area so that when one dries I can go to the other, and bounce around as they recover. Once the recovery slows down, I move on.
For me personally, this practice works every time and yields 2200cr/t at first. I am around 200ly away from Sol and Achenar in Imperial space. For people in Federation space, travel to Juan or Njikan and start from there. I know both of those systems use to have good returns but I haven't been there for a long time and have no clue how they were affected by the server fixes. In Empire space, try Mudrama Kaze and Winifex. These systems are nearby and both had too profits. Again, not sure how well they are now but it should at least get you started. Yarigui also use to yield very nice in-system profit between Walker Station and Kier Ring, as well as the other starport there. Not sure about now.
**I HAVE X AMOUNT OF CREDITS AND Y SHIP, WHAT SHOULD I DO?**
- **New, sub 3 million credits, starter Sidewinder to Cobra**: Believe it or not, new players and those with a small amount of credits have the most flexibility when it comes to making money. Bounty Hunting and even combat zones yield respectable incomes. Mining can also do very well up to a few million. I personally made my first 4 million from mining and would recommend it to all new players. Its boring but the pay is nice and it is easy. Simply head to a system called Njikan, go to the inner ring of Njikan 4 (Pristine Reserves + Metallic), go to anywhere in the ring that isn't an extraction zone and mine away! Aim for gold, palladium, platinum and silver.
- As for trading, with the low cargo holds, you are best off running rares.There are great tutorials and sample runs of rare trading which I will link a bit later (placeholders here) and is your best bet for making money. All you need is the most amount of cargo possible, and the best FSD you can afford. Combine the galaxy map route planner with a route planner like CMDR Club (https://cmdr.club/routes) or use a pre-made route and you will soon be able to move up to a Type-6.
- **Type 6 to Python, 3 million credits up to 100 million**: Once you are in a Type-6, follow the equipment guide above, and you can start doing 1 jump or in system jump trades. Your big advantage compared to me is that small space outposts generally sell metals cheaper than regular stations. Definitely try to find an in-system run, as it makes things very efficient. You can still do rares and maybe make more but these runs are generally much easier. For example, if you find a 2200cr/t round-trip run with 100 tonnes of cargo and do one every 10 minutes (you can do this faster), you are making 1.3 million credits an hour. This should get you to an Asp within a day. Then go to a Type 7, then a Python. Easy!
- **Type-9 and Anaconda**: You don't need my advice. You could trade waste and still make a profit. Keep in mind that you can no longer land on outposts. Also keep in mind that the T9 has the turning radius of a large moon.
I have had great success playing in a small trade group of 3. With 3 people, the profits don't get dropped too fast and once they do, we can all just fly in different directions to the next high tech bases and see what does well where. Anything more than this will drain your profits very quickly making you move around more. Make sure you have some 5 runs pre-planned if you do this so you can jump from one to the next and let the others recover.
Dont wait for other people to do the work for you, find your own runs, it will yield more profits. Drop your shields, maximize cargo. Have buyback. Fly 120ly+ from the core worlds. Find a High Tech System, buy consumer tech, imperial slaves or performance enhancers. Sell to an Extraction or Refinery system. Buy high value metals like Gold or palladium and sell it back to the High Tech system. Pre-plan 5 or so routes so you can bounce between them every time profits die down in one area. Rinse and Repeat.
I will update this post with any requests and general formatting so consider this post as edited. Let me know if there are other things I should cover. I hope this helps. May the credits be with you, Commanders!