Best Elite Dangerous Ships to Forge Your Career With
The Sidewinder, that little ship we all start our adventures with, is an easily replaceable ship we start messing around in, our companion as we start to get brought into this new Universe. And yeah while it may be the very first ship you get, and the cheapest to find, it's not like it is complete dirt. It’s not the slowest ship in the game, it is quite maneuverable, and it has an OK jump range so you can start moving around the galaxy. It is a ship that has been around in the in-game universe for some three hundred and twenty years, or well, the design has.
The almost brick like ship has quite a bit of interesting history actually! Giving us a bit of insight of the progress and the advancement of technologies in the universe the game presents us with. The ones responsible for the designs may not be the most stylish or innovative since they haven’t changed the design for hundreds of years, but hey, if it works don’t break it. I just wonder why they picked this particular ship’s design to keep around and upgrade into interstellar travel. Hm, maybe it was the cheapest to do?
“Its original design was as a light support ship and it lacked jump capability. Modern compact drives have enabled jump-capable versions to be created, making this a useful all-rounder.” - Quote from Elite’s Shipyard description: (https://www.elitedangerous.com/en/features/shipyard#ship-07-image)
You can use this fragile ship to start taking on your first missions, start earning some money, and you could use this money to upgrade and deck out your ship. Though I recommend you don’t spend much on this ship, only what is necessary, and instead save your credits to buy a better ship.
Which ship should you buy next? Well that depends on the kinds of experiences you want to have, there are ships better suited for some things rather than others, and there are plenty to pick from with varying price ranges. The thing is how will you choose? That’s what I am here to help you figure out! Here I’ll give you a rundown of the ships you should pick to advance in your chosen career. I’ll be covering which ships you should move on to from the humble Sidewinder for each of the six possible careers in the game.
In Elite, there is no absolute ‘Best Ship’ all ships have unique specs, they're made with particular purposes in mind. They each have pro’s and they all have con’s. I will try to help you find what are the ones best suited for someone just starting and having a particular career in mind they want to get on from the get go. It’s also good to remember that bigger ships are not always better, nor are more expensive ones necessarily always better in everything either.
Ships For Trading
First let's look at ships for Trading, the absolute most lucrative business in game, and not the most fun for all players. Yet I would even recommend starting with Trading even if it is not the most fun for you, simply because of how many credits you can make in the least amount of time and effort. This could leave you set and ready to jump to another type of work you prefer and be capable of decking out more expensive ships at a faster rate, than just by making money on say Exploring which I will cover later.
After you've gathered some credits in your Sidewinder, and have gained a bit of reputation and experience with trading in nearby systems, you want to go buy a Hauler.
After you've gathered some credits in your Sidewinder, and have gained a bit of reputation and experience with trading in nearby systems, you want to go buy a Hauler.
It is the cheapest ship you can get to further yourself in the business of trading since this actually quite small ship can fit quite a large amount of junk in its trunk. This is a ship by Zorgon Peterson, one of the manufacturing companies that makes the ships and equipment in Elite. Zorgon Peterson specializes on small freighter and exploration ships. The Hauler does indeed have many things worthy of making them the most popular small cargo ships in space, cheap and capable.
This rectangular brick is the Type-6, and your next choice ship as a dedicated Trader. The ‘Type’ series, are all increasingly better ships, and as they get better they also get pricier. As you go further down the Type series they get more cargo space, and are therefore larger in size, and have more jump capability as well, which is great for trading purposes.
The next two in line are Type 7:
4. And the ever imposing turtle that is Type-9 HEAVY:
Funny enough that they skipped a ‘Type-8’, but the fact they call this ship Type-9 ‘heavy’ might mean there was a smaller or lighter version, maybe that lighter version was Type-8? Or maybe this name was just a sad and confusing attempt at adding a bit more originality into their naming. Heck, who knows, maybe it's just a mean nickname the ship was given. It’s not his fault he’s big boned!
Anyway for these ships it’s quite simple, get 6 then move to 7 when you can afford it without using every last penny to your name, make sure to have plenty of cushion money left for any upgrades the ship will need to suit your needs. Finally, go to Type-9, and again, make sure to have plenty of reserves. You always want to have much more money than the ship costs, because upgrades cost a lot too, often more than the ship’s original cost, if you want to give it all the best gadgets and gear. You should make sure to optimize things that are essential to your main occupation first, in this case what is most important for trading is the cargo hold and the FSD (Frame Shift Drive). So you can carry and sell a lot, without having to make so many stops along the way, oh and make sure to have a good fuel tank too. These are the things I would invest the most credits into for pure trading.
Lastly what I would recommend to top it off with is the Anaconda. One of the three behemoths in Elite.
This extra-large ship actually can’t hold as much as the Type-9, it actually holds slightly less. Though this is countered by the Anaconda’s much better FSD, plus its better maneuverability and speed. This, in the end lets you transport more cargo and make more money in less time. Actually the Anaconda sports the title of the ship that can travel the farthest distance in one jump in the whole game, and it has some incredibly high offensive power, making it appealing for several types of jobs.
“The Anaconda is the pride of Faulcon deLacy's shipyards. The design was first manufactured in 2856 by RimLiner Galactic… eventually owned by Faulcon deLacy… The Anaconda is a versatile craft that can transport large cargos as well as pack a decent punch . Some smaller navies use the Anaconda in the light cruiser and frigate roles.” - Quote from Elite’s Ship description
Heck this thing can have a docking bay on it for smaller ships like sidewinders. Yet I would not call it the end all be all ship, nor can any other of the other mega-ships be called that either. They still have weak points. They also change the experiences greatly, for example, if you want to bounty hunt with the Anaconda, you would just sit there as your turreted weapons shoot down other ships and your incredible armor and shields suck up the damage, skill from the pilot becomes not very necessary. This for me just takes the fun away from bounty hunting in my opinion. Because to me bounty hunting is more about the thrill of the battle and one Commander pitting their skills as a pilot against another in a 1 on 1 duel. Using whatever tactics they can to get the upper hand, and avoid taking fire. If you want to gain money fast and systematically, that is what trading is all about. This is why different careers suit different people.
If you plan to take the road of a hired gun instead, and partake in all the thrilling space dogfights to the death, plus also take on other missions that might leave you feeling like a hardened and experienced fighter pilot, this is the way to go. You won't earn money as fast as a trader, but you get to blow up countless enemy ships and get paid for it. You will want to know what are the reliable ships that will not only keep you alive in battle, but help you keep the other guy… not as alive as you. So after the Sidewinder you are going to want to get an Eagle.
“It has the distinction of being the only ship that has been so successful versions have been built for both the Federation and Imperial navies.” - Elite’s Ship description
This little guy has reason for being so popular, and is proof that it's not about how big it is, but how you use it.
This thing is the most maneuverable ship you’ll fly. It can stay behind pretty much any other ship bigger than itself. Also, pro tip, in a dogfight, you want to stay behind the enemy ship as much as you can. In a 1 on 1 dogfight maneuverability is directly related to how effective you are. The more maneuverable ship of the two that are fighting will definitely get to land more shots. The problem with an Eagle is pretty obvious though, it is a small vessel, that can’t carry a bunch of weapons. Also it is very fragile, taking hits in an Eagle is bad, very bad. That is why when you are in an Eagle you have to make sure you don’t let yourself ever be in your enemy's sights, try to avoid that as much as possible. Also, I recommend you stick to taking on Sidewinders, or other Eagles at first. You actually have to be pretty skilled to take on anything larger. Oh, and make sure you don’t crash into anything. Its shields and hull are so weak that crashing into anything, like an asteroid, will probably blow you up.
In bounty hunting you go and collect warrants after a successful kill. These are like vouchers that say you deserve X amount of money for a certain kill. The thing is these aren’t exactly linked to your character or an account, but to your ship. Which means, if you lose that ship, if it blows up and you have to replace it… well then that's bad enough, but you also lose all the bounties you collected. Did you spend hours collecting all those warrants that would have given you so many credits, enough to finally buy the your next bounty hunting ship you wanted and then you touched an asteroid or a wall too hard and went boom in your little Eagle? That sucks a lot, so make sure you cash in your warrants regularly. Oh if you ever accidentally hit any member of the security force while hunting bounties in an asteroid belt, PANIC, you have to jump out of wherever you are currently, as fast as you can. Run to the nearest station so you can get your bounty removed by paying a fee.
Anyway, moving on to that next bounty hunting ship.
I present to you, the Viper!
This is the ship you should be saving for after you get your eagle.
The viper is a ship I have spent a lot of money and time on. It is a decent ship to bounty hunt with but that's really all it's good for. Which makes sense as it was designed to be a fighter class ship, and actually renowned as a ‘top class’ fighter ship. With some decking out you can have a pretty versatile ship in combat, with its good maneuverability that is almost as good as an Eagle’s, but it also sports much better gun space on it, with two medium hardpoints and two small ones. This ship does not have a much better hull strength than the Eagle but it does come with considerably better shields. You should remember one can always upgrade a ship’s properties after getting it. Also keep in mind, the heavier and bigger a ship is the less the maneuverability it has, and the less the maneuverability it has the less effective it can be in a 1 v 1.
Still, even if it is slower, you can make up for that with big heavy guns that might even be turreted to make up for less maneuverability, it is all up to you and what your playstyle is. I personally prefer fast paced piloting action as I try to outmaneuver my opponent and manually keep them in my sights with my ability as a pilot. Putting my skills into my flying tactics and concentrating more on the power of my thrusters and guns.
The guy naming these ships seem to like giving some of them animal names. Which is weird, because in the game humanity moved on from Earth hundreds of years ago. You would think they would name them after something else. Also, all of those species they name the ships after would probably be extinct by the time the game is taking place in. While I was writing this I noticed the ships from Core Dynamics, like this one, have bird names, while the ones from Faulcon Delacy has snake names. I also realized that, it seems pretty dumb, considering Faulcon Delacy’s icon and symbol is a bird…
Anyway I’m pretty sure what you want to hear about is the Vulture’s key characteristics and not me babbling about silly details, so let's get to that. The Vulture is my favorite bounty hunting ship. It has a special position among other ships, with its two large hardpoints that let it take down larger ships with more ease than the Eagle or the Viper, and it is one of the most nimble ships in game. The only thing more maneuverable than the Vulture in the game is the Eagle, PLUS the vulture has incredible shields! Its jump range and hull strength are nothing impressive but they are both still better than what the Viper had.
Truthfully for me this was my ‘endgame’ bounty hunting ship. You can get ships that get way more expensive, that keep getting larger and less maneuverable though if that is what you want. Yet the simple fact that the Vulture can tackle the big ships, and also the smaller ones without much of an issue, makes it for me the best ship for bounty hunting. Having this not so expensive ship can instantly make you a terror to most other pilots. Some even call using this ship ‘cheating’. But hey, that just means it is that good.
You can still get this war-machine if you want to though. This thing has 5 hardpoints on it, giving it much more firepower than the Vulture. Though they have the same shield strength, the Python does have better armor. These things end up taxing its maneuverability as it has much less, leaving it something the Vulture can take down by outmaneuvering it. The biggest difference really is the price, a Python costing an insane 13 times more than a Vulture that already costs around 4 million credits.
5. Federal Corvette
Two words, Star Destroyer. This ship has the MOST devastating power output of any other ship in the game, and it also has better maneuverability than the Anaconda. This thing has actually been called the fear of the Anacondas, since it can rip through its shields. This beast is usually used by the Federation Navy for “...Anywhere the navy wishes to maintain a solid presence.”
The Federal Corvette would be an Awesome ship to own and take out hunting. It would also be fun to use with friends when the co-piloting update comes out, as you or your co-pilot can jump into one of the smaller fighters it can launch to support the mothership while another stays to steer the ship.
This is the ship I say would be my top bounty hunting ship. Though I would keep my Vulture around and switch between this power-house Monster and my swift hard hitting Vulture. Again every ship offers a different feel, and a different play experience, and I am not one to stick to a single style the whole way through. So let's look at the 3rd and least profitable career I’ve experienced, yet what I would find one of the more interesting and even fun: Exploration!
Exploration has to be one of my favorite things to do in Elite. Every person that sets out to explore doesn’t just get to find things no one has seen before, enjoy the beautiful sights of a to-scale model of the Milky Way Galaxy, and have a sense of wonder and adventure as you explore new regions. You also feel like you are contributing more directly to the community and are leaving a clear mark on the galaxy, as often whoever discovers a system gets to have their Commander’s name displayed as the person who found it.
Still, Exploring is the least profitable career to pursue, and it is also quite risky. Similar to bounty hunting you get something like the warrants, but they are information packets containing data on the new systems that you can later sell at a station. If you explode before handing those in… you lose that data. Trust me it sucks when after a week or more of gathering data you go boom losing all of that time and effort. You have to make sure to sell all your data as soon as you dock into a station. Make it part of your routine as a bounty hunter or explorer to cash in everything after docking. With this you can clearly see several of the drawbacks to exploring, again it’s all up to what you want to do in the end though. Also, I would actually recommend you do some other career first so you can build up money to get yourself a good ship for exploration and proper equipment you need to set out on a long journey, but it can also be fun to begin exploring nearby uninhabited space, building up experience and slowly getting enough for your next ship. So let’s start with the ships!
1. Diamondback Scout
I have a special spot in my heart for the Diamondbacks. This dainty and cheap ship is actually designed as a combat explorer. It is pretty decent for combat, and it has a great 11 light year jump range to start your exploration, and that is without upgrades or modifications. I recommend equipping some weapons just in case you need to defend yourself and would prefer to blow up your enemies than run away. It could also be good to use this ship to do some light bounty hunting on the side to help you save up more credits to upgrade this ship or get the next.
Oh, make sure to get the best discovery scanners you can get your hands on, the best fuel scoop, and the best power distributor you can get too. These are going to be your bread and butter for exploration, and also upgrading your FSD. Personally I don’t care so much about jump range, I have a more ‘It’s about the journey’ attitude, and less jump range just means you get to actually explore more instead of skimming over things. Despite that, I admit having a good jump range can be very useful. But for what you are going to need it for, for now an 11 lightyear jump range is perfectly fine even a bit less than that is ok. This way of thinking is also why I have stayed with my current #1 ship and the next one to be mentioned:
2. Diamondback Explorer
The DB Explorer! And this guy was Not easy to find.
A little tip if you are having a hard time finding any of these ships, you can look up in the community where they were last spotted. This nifty site: http://ed-td.space/en/18/Find+Ship, will help you find the ship you want, taking your current location into account and then telling you the stations nearest to you that probably have them.
Anyway my sweetheart the DB Explorer is a great ship for exploration. I don’t really need any more ships than this one, and it’s really not necessary to keep upgrading to more expensive ships after you deck this one out. Though there are ships with definitely better jump range than this one, that does not bother me. This ship also has the appeal of its SEXY engine revving as it speeds up, ahh it’s just so beautiful it makes me so happy every time… *Ahem* Besides that the ship is one of the coolest running ships in game (as in Temperature wise), especially when you upgrade its power distributor so it handles heat even better. This is very much a plus when it comes to fuel scooping. It also has a decent cargo hold, and can be a great ship for some smuggling with its low heat that allows it to silent run more time than most ships without overheating. Though things like smuggling are a topic I’ll touch in just a bit.
3. ASP Explorer
The ASP and the DB are at each other’s necks when it comes for the position of the best exploration ship. The determining factor of which to choose mostly comes down to which you prefer. The ASP has more internal space for modules and a better cockpit view, but it is way more costly than a DB Explorer. I also think the DBE is much more visually interesting than this pretty boring looking ship, though that’s just an opinion.
The ASP is more well-rounded though, capable of decent fighting and being able to hold more cargo making it good for trading too. It can also jump farther than the DBE after upgrading it, though those upgrades are going to cost you a fortune. Really they may call the DBE the “poor man’s ASP” but the way I see it the DBE does just as good a job as the ASP for less money, to me that’s a win. But hey if you have money to throw around the ASP can suit you just fine.
These next 3 careers I will be discussing are not nearly as popular as the others. I’ll still be arranging them in order of most potential profit to least potential profit. And sure, these may not be the most popular, and there are usually good reasons for that, but they do have things that make them quite appealing, trust me. Also, like I have been repeating on loop this whole time, it’s all about personal preference and the way you want to play.
I’ve spent barely no time mining in Elite, but that was back when it sucked. Mining has improved lately, though for most it’s still pretty dull. The appeal of mining is the potential money you can harvest from it. With a little bit of trading know how in your head you can go around selling the materials you gather at the highest prices possible and, in turn, make the largest profit possible. For this job make sure to have those little collector drones that collect the materials you mine, you also need a refinery on your ship to make those things sellable, and some good mining lasers. Even with its improvements I still think it’s a pretty dull career to pursue, so I still haven’t gotten back into it.
This “General utility vessel” isn’t too special, it has a better cargo hold than the Sidewinder, and that’s about it. It’s really all that matters to start mining. I can’t find much more to say except it sort-of looks like a space van… or is that just me?
2. Cobra MkIV
The Cobra Mk4 is really efficient at mining, with the space to fit a refinery, limpet controllers (those little drone collector doo-dads that pick up the materials for you), cargo and weapons. Adding in the factors of speed and maneuverability that let you run away from all the mean pirates.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, pirates out in the asteroid belts are around just so they can find miners like you and steal your precious cargo. You should panic if you are getting scanned by a pirate, try to boost away immediately without crashing into an asteroid. You might want to have some shaft launchers on your ship so you can throw off any targeting systems that lock onto your ship.
3. ASP Explorer
The ASP Explorer is pretty good at several things. One of those is mining, thanks to the space it has to fit the tools for mining. Though it does lack cargo space, it is fast and maneuverable, and can very easily defend itself if you equip it for that. It also lets you equip medium mining lasers.
4. Imperial Clipper
This ship is what I would call the best ship for mining around. Not as expensive as the Python, but actually faster and more maneuverable, with plenty of space for all your mining tools, and all the stuff you’re going to mine.
Ah, the illegal act of smuggling, the first missions I took and made my first credits from were smuggling missions I did in my little Sidewinder. Around my third smuggling mission is that I learned I can get caught if a helpful policeman gets suspicious and scans me. I was not fully aware of what I was actually doing, but it was the majority of the missions available in that little outpost I had as my main station I kept returning too. It was what became familiar to me. Until I decided to move, bored of my old neighborhood. By then I had an Eagle and was starting to bounty hunt. Now I’ve gone back to the good ol’ smuggling days, with my lovely Diamondback Explorer. Often you don’t need that much cargo space to hold all of the smuggling goods you are going to be sneaking under noses. With smuggling you just want a ship that can jump far and doesn’t overheat much. The ship that has a lot of both of these qualities is the DB Explorer. Smuggling is harder with most other ships, though as you get more advanced missions, the amount of cargo you can hold becomes more important. The DB Explorer can handle it fine though.
1. Hauler (again)
So after the Sidewinder go straight to getting a Hauler
Its good to multitask for some extra credits, you can start from the sidewinder even.
You can just trade normally alongside the Smuggling. Make sure to stack missions together so that you can make the most amount of money in one run without needing to go back to the station. You should really just think about Smuggling as illegal trading. I usually don’t trade some illegal things, like slaves, because I still have morals to the extent I care about virtual numbers that represent ‘slaves’. Anyway, you should find stations with black markets and make sure to mark those that do, so you can sell any illegal goods you might find ‘floating around’ in space.
2. Diamondback Explorer
The DBE is as cool as they come, temperature wise. That plus its jump range and cargo space make it the best ship for smuggilng.
Then move to straight to the DBE when you can. A few tips to smuggle goods are that when you jump in into the space around a station, place your ship straight in front of the entrance just outside the range of the station then get ready to request for docking as you speed up towards it and turn on ‘silent running’ a mode that shuts down your shields and does not allow the ship to emit heat, making it heat up quite quickly, but also makes other ships unable to target yours. Keep in mind that this does not work after a ship has targeted yours. Silent running prevents ships from targeting you, but does not prevent their scanners from working. After you engage silent running you have a limited time frame to get into the station before your ship overheats. So quickly move into the station as fast as you can after engaging silent running. The DBE is really good at staying cool so with this ship you don’t really need to rush so much when entering stations after engaging silent running.
If you want to really avoid fines then you have to make sure you don’t get scanned by the po-po. Also, these smuggling skills will be very beneficial to you if you want to go down the next career.
The #1 least pursued career, being a pirate. Why is it so infrequent to find a real player pirate when it seems like such a cool career to pursue? Well it’s simple really, piracy is a very high risk job that does not get you that many credits. But to me it’s appealing, the idea of having a name players fear from my reputation in the community. Being the ‘bad guy’ and ultimately doing the game good by adding to the community in a more positive way you may imagine seems like a lot of fun to me. This ends up adding to the experience of a living breathing galaxy and adds a kind of player lore. Also you have to admit, the NPC pirates are not much fun at all. Besides imagine if instead of NPC pirates and NPC security agents, you had real players in those roles. That would be much more immersive and just cool in my opinion, and more players pursuing piracy is a step in that direction. Also, it is better to go after actual players, considering they usually have the best loot, and it can be a lot more fun, because instead of just attacking a mindless NPC, you can make threats and bluff to try and get the cargo without making an infraction. It is just thrilling business for both you and the players you target.
I would not recommend becoming a pirate until after you have a ship that is menacing enough. No one is going to be afraid of a Sidewinder, or even an Eagle. I would recommend you start with at least a decked out Viper. Oh make sure to target their cargo bay by targeting it with ‘Y’ on a keyboard and focusing fire on that until whatever was in their cargo spills out into space, if the player does not cooperate with you and spill out their goods first.
I have already said pretty much everything there is to be said about the Vulture. Except, IT ALSO COMES IN PURPLE! Also, It is interesting how small it is for such a powerful ship, it often ends up as personal transport for some that want to either fly safe or project a certain impression.
As you can notice, for piracy good combat ships are needed. The best combat ships I mentioned earlier for bounty hunting serve very well here too. With a difference though. In piracy I believe more important than maneuverability is intimidation, and maneuverability does not necessarily intimidate. But a big ship with big guns does intimidate plenty.
3. Federal Corvette
Which is why to me the Corvette is my favorite ship for piracy. I am very sure not even Anaconda pilots will be all that brave against a Corvette.
Im sure most pilots will spill out what’s in their bowels at simply your demand, so they can conserve their ship and not lose more money and time repairing it or replacing it. After they notice a star destroyer is after them, I am pretty sure they won’t hesitate to either run away or give in.’
There are several more ships in the game that you can check out, and I recommend that if you have the time, the credits, and the dedication you should go try to check out all of them. Every ship is different, they all fly differently, and they all just have different feels to them. In the end you might end up using very different ships to the ones I recommended, simply because you like them more. These are ships I have mentioned will simply get the job you are looking to do, done, and do it well. They are not necessarily ships you will love to fly, those you need to go out and find yourself.
That is all, have a safe, and fulfilling flight Commander! And be careful out there among the stars.
Credit for all Images used to the official Elite Dangerous site: https://www.elitedangerous.com/en/features/shipyard#ship-20-image