Making Money in No Man’s Sky Using Trade Routes

There are lots of ways to make money in the game NMS. I’ll show you one way that takes very little setup from the beginning of a new game, and it can expand as you spend more time to make you even more money later in the game.

Using this method, I just ran my trade route for about 40 minutes and made 6.6 million dollars PER MINUTE. Then it takes about 4 hours of in-game time for the trade market to reset, so I can spend time grinding the missions and exploring, then I can do it again.

You can begin doing this 4 or 5 hours into a new game (as opposed to farming the large value items which also makes good money but requires all sorts of base building and crafting and resources). If you combine those, you will roll in cash. I won’t talk about item farming here.

PREREQUISITES

To begin, the very minimum you need is a hyperspace capable ship with an Economy Scanner. When I start a new game, I focus everything on getting those items as fast as possible. I’m not going to go into how to get those things, I’m going to assume you have them. If you want help with that, the internet is very useful.

SCANNING

If you get the Economy Scanner upgrade for your ship, you can see what kind of economies star systems have from your Galactic Map. Expand the description of each star (the R key on the PC) and it will show you details about economy, star type, conflict level (if you have a conflict scanner) and so on.

WEALTH LEVELS

There are 3 levels of wealth that a system can be: LOW, MEDIUM and HIGH.

Each level can be described in 8 ways, which is kind of confusing, but you get used to it.

LOW WEALTH ECONOMIES are described as:
Low
Declining
Destitute
Failing
Fledgling
Low Supply
Struggling
Unsuccessful
Unpromising

MEDIUM WEALTH ECONOMIES are described as:
Adequate
Balanced
Comfortable
Developing
Medium Supply
Satisfactory
Promising
Sustainable

HIGH WEALTH ECONOMIES are described as:
Advanced
Affluent
Booming
Flourishing
High Supply
Prosperous
Opulent
Wealthy

High wealth economies have more goods to trade, have better prices, and have better ships spawn. We will do EVERYTHING with high wealth economies. Medium and low wealth economies are pretty much useless for trading purposes (though sometimes you need to use them in the very early game because you don’t have the hyperspace range to find enough High economies).

ECONOMY TYPES

Each system also shows a type of economy. There are 7 different types of economies:

Advanced
Scientific
Trading
Power Generation
Mining
Manufacturing
Technology

Each type of economy can be called 4 different things, but they are all the same “type”.

For example, if the scanner says “Alchemical” or “Material Fusion” or “Metal Processing” or “Ore Processing” those are all ADVANCED economies.

If the scanner says “Scientific”, “Experimental”, “Mathematical” or “Research” those are all SCIENTIFIC economies.

The full list is here:

ADVANCED ECONOMY:
Alchemical
Material Fusion
Metal Processing
Ore Processing

SCIENTIFIC ECONOMY:
Scientific
Experimental
Mathematical
Research

TRADING ECONOMY:
Commercial
Mercantile
Shipping
Trading

POWER GENERATION ECONOMY:
Energy Supply
Fuel Generation
High Voltage
Power Gen

MINING ECONOMY:
Minerals
Mining
Prospecting
Ore Extraction

MANUFACTURING ECONOMY:
Construction
Industrial
Manufacturing
Mass Production

TECHNOLOGY ECONOMY:
Engineering
Hi-Tech
Nano-Construction
Technology

FINDING SYSTEMS

Look at the star system description and see which economy type the system is. Find that economy on the list and you can see which of the 7 main economy types that system is. Then look at the wealth level and see how strong the economy is. For example, you might see an economy that is Flourishing (HIGH WEALTH) Engineering (TECHNOLOGY economy) or an economy that is Balanced (MEDIUM WEALTH) Experimental (SCIENTIFIC ECONOMY). Make sense?

The subtypes don’t matter AT ALL for anything else. There’s no difference between a Construction economy and a Mass Production economy. They are both Manufacturing economies and that’s all that matters. There’s no difference between an Opulent economy and a Flourishing economy, they are both High Wealth economies.

SYSTEM COLOURS

The cool part is that they are not only described by name, but if you look at the Galactic Map and use the Filter feature (down arrow on the PC) you can Filter By Economy. Then every star on the map is coloured according to its economy.

Advanced is PURPLE
Scientific is BLUE
Trading is GREEN
Power Generation is RED
Mining is ORANGE
Manufacturing is YELLOW
Technology is CYAN

So if you need a specific type of economy you don’t have the look at them all and read the details, just look for the colour.

Once you find a star of the right colour, just look at the strength of the economy and try to find a HIGH.

TRADE ROUTES

Each type of economy produces certain trade goods that can be sold anywhere, but one specific other economy will buy those goods at MUCH higher prices than the rest. The trick is to buy all the trade goods that you can from one economy, and then travel to a new system of the right type to sell the goods at the best price, then buy the goods from that system and travel to the next and sell again and so on.

The trade economy is set up in cycles or “loops”. There are 2 separate loops, one with 3 economy types, and one with the other 4 economy types.

For example, Scientific systems buy the stuff from Advanced systems, Advanced systems buy the stuff from Trading systems, and Trading systems buy the stuff from Scientific systems. So, to make money you need to have 3 systems, one of each type, and travel to them in this order:

Advanced -> Scientific -> Trading -> back to Advanced

Buy everything you can at one system and sell to the next, where you buy everything you can and sell to the next, and so on.

The other loop is 4 economies and you have to travel like this:

Power Generation -> Mining -> Manufacturing -> Technology -> back to Power Generation

Those two loops include all 7 economies (a 3 loop and a 4 loop).

If you can find HIGH wealth systems of each type of economy in a loop, you will make lots of money very easily.

BUILDING A TRADE ROUTE

STEP 1 – FIND A SYSTEM

Use the Galactic Map with the Economy Filter. For example, let’s create a 3 system loop (Loop 1) and start with an Advanced economy. I would set the Economy filter on the Galactic map and start looking around for purple stars (Advanced economies are purple) that have a wealth rank of HIGH (so I’d look for economies that are Affluent or Booming or Flourishing, or other words off the list of economy types linked above). It can take a while, high wealth economies aren’t that common. You might even have to warp to another star to increase the range that you can look. Longer warp range helps. You might also have to start with lower economy stars until you can get a warp engine with the range to find more high economy stars.

STEP 2 – WARP TO THE SYSTEM

When you find a star system that’s the right economy type and the right wealth rank, warp to that system.

STEP 3 – VISIT THE SPACE STATION

Land at the space station so it’s in your teleport list. If you don’t land at the station, it won’t show up and you can’t teleport here from other systems. Also, get the suit upgrade from the suit vendor in the station. More storage in your suit is more cash in your pocket. Yes, the upgrades cost money but it’s an investment that pays off big time.

STEP 4 – VISIT THE ANOMALY

(If you have progressed far enough in the missions. This step is optional if you haven’t)

Take off from the space station and visit the anomaly. When you land, run up to the room where you research all the different types of upgrades. Beside the suit upgrade research room is a suit inventory upgrade. Buy it. Every system has one upgrade in the space station and one in the anomaly. Use both if you can. If you don’t have access to the anomaly yet, don’t worry, it will happen soon enough and you can make lots of money without this step.

STEP 5 – REPEAT

Take off and repeat steps 1-4 until you have one system of each Economy Type in either Loop 1 or Loop 2. I use a google docs spreadsheet to keep track of the system names, and which economy types I need.

EXAMPLES OF A TRADE ROUTE

So, say I warp around and I find the following systems:

Gravitang which is a Satisfactory economy, in Experimental.
Wobblybits which is an Opulent economy, in Mercantile.
Trashtopia which is a Booming economy, in Material Fusion.
Hurrdurr which is a Prosperous economy, in High Voltage.

First, I look at the lists above to figure out which wealth level and which economy type they are:

Gravitang: MEDIUM SCIENTIFIC (Satisfactory is in the “Medium” list, and Experimental is in the “Scientific” list)
Wobblybits: HIGH TRADING (Opulent is in the “High” list, and Mercantile is in the “Trading” list)
Trashtopia: HIGH ADVANCED (Booming is in the “High” list and Material Fusion is in the “Advanced” list)
HurrDurr: HIGH POWER GENERATION (Prosperous is in the “High” list and High Voltage is in the “Power Generation” list.

Looking above, we recall that Trade Route Loop 1 is “Advanced -> Scientific -> Trading” and we have one system of each of those types. Yay!

So, our route to start will be:

Trashtopia -> Gravitang -> Wobblybits -> back to Trashtopia

HurrDurr is in Loop 2, so we’ll need more systems in Loop 2 to work with that one. Gravitang is a Medium economy, but we can start with it and replace it with a High economy Scientific system when we are able to find one.

PRICE FLUCTUATIONS AND RECOVERY TIME

When you sell a lot of something at a station, the price crashes. We are going to be fucking with a lot of economies very quickly to make money. Once you do this for every system in your trade route, you then have to wait 4 hours for inventory to regenerate and for prices to come back to normal. If you try to run the same route before the economy stabilizes, you will make less money or lose money. Be patient. Go exploring or work on a mission or something, or just leave NMS running while you go outside. As far as I can tell, if you save and close NMS, when you reload the economy will be right where it was even if you reload hours later. The game needs to be in focus and running in order to let the economies recover.

You can tell an economy has recovered when there are the same number of trade good items for sale as there where when you first got there.

TRAVELLING TO TRADE

Let’s make some money. Once you have at least one loop set up, then you start raking in the cash. Here’s the trading process:

STEP 0 – EMPTY YOUR INVENTORY

Clear out everything you can from your suit. Put it all on your freighter or your ship or wherever you can. Every empty space that you can clear out is more profit. You don’t need anything while you are running a trade route (like oxygen or life support or beacons or refiners) so clear it all out. If you have a fully upgraded suit you can easily hold more than anyone has for sale. To start, you will only be able to buy and sell a small number of things, but this will improve as you get more money and more inventory space.

STEP 1 – TELEPORT TO A SPACE STATION

To start, land at (or teleport to) the space station in the first system in your loop. There are other places to go to make more money in trading (see Trading Posts at the end of this document), but for now just use the space stations. When you exit the teleporter on the space station, walk straight ahead to the trade terminal on the wall and use that to trade.

STEP 2 – BUY EVERYTHING YOU CAN

The trade goods will be at the very top of the list on the Galactic Trade Terminal. They will have green percentages, and they will say “Locally Produced”. High economy systems will have 5 of these for sale, Medium and Low economies will have fewer types of items, and fewer of each item for sale. That’s why we want High economy systems if we can get them.

You don’t need to memorize what the different things are in each economy type, just buy the green priced commodities at the top of the list. Buy as many as you can of the most expensive good, then if you have money or storage space left over, keep buying less and less expensive trade goods until you are full or broke. Look at the price per unit to buy the most expensive things first.

Don’t get sucked in to buying other things that are not marked as “Locally Produced” and don’t have green percentages. They will not earn you anywhere near as much. This is about buying and selling Trade Goods, not miscellaneous other items.

STEP 3 – TELEPORT TO THE NEXT BASE

Walk over to the base teleport and zap to the next system in the loop. Make sure you follow the correct order of Economy types in your Loop.

STEP 4 – SELL EVERYTHING

Don’t even bother checking prices and stuff. If you bought at the right economy type, you’ll make the most money selling at the next type in the loop. Sell all the trade goods you just bought. Don’t hold them and hope for a slightly better price elsewhere. We’re going for bulk sales over nickel-and-diming, and you won’t get better prices elsewhere anyway. Sell it all.

STEP 5 – BUY EVERYTHING YOU CAN

Same as before, but at this new system. Buy all the trade goods you can, starting at the most expensive.

STEP 6 – REPEAT FOR ALL SYSTEMS

Go to the next system, sell everything, buy everything, go to the next base, sell everything, buy everything, and so on. When you get back to the base you started at, sell everything and then don’t buy any more. You’re done.

STEP 7 – COUNT YOUR MONEY

You just made lot of units by walking through a half dozen teleporters, buying and selling. Yay! If this was your first time, you probably made less than you’d hoped, because you didn’t have enough money to really take advantage of the profits. That’s okay. The next time you go through, you’ll take your increased money and buy more and make more. And then you do it again and again and it keeps increasing. DON’T go spend all your money and then try to trade again with no cash. You need enough cash to buy all the trade goods that you can. So, for the first few times through, until you know how much cash you need, don’t splurge on stuff yet.

After you have lots of money (and you will, pretty quick) then the next bottleneck becomes suit inventory spaces. You literally won’t have enough room to store all the trade goods you are buying, which is why maxing out your suit is important. You make a percentage of the value that you buy, so the more you can buy, the more you can make.

STEP 9 – WAIT 4 HOURS AND REPEAT

In 4 hours you can do it all over again. Go for a little walk and make millions. Once you get the process down you can do a loop in 10 minutes or less.

WHERE TO GO FROM HERE

You can find more systems and make your loops bigger. I have 3 of Loop 1, all put together. I just run through all 9 systems and make a crapload of cash before I have to wait for things to replenish. I also have 3 of Loop 2, so I can run my 9 system loop then my 12 system loop and make enough cash to keep me for a long time.

So, for example, I have 3 Advanced systems, 3 Scientific systems and 3 Trading systems, all High economies. I can go through them like this, selling what I have then buying everything I can:

Advanced system 1 -> Scientific system 1 -> Trading system 1 -> Advanced system 2 -> Scientific system 2 -> Trading system 2 -> Advanced system 3 -> Scientific system 3 -> Trading system 3 -> Advanced system 1

And then I’d have to wait 4 hours before doing it again because I have just trashed all those economies and they need time to recover.

I also have 4 loops of Loop 2 (16 systems) that I can go through. That’s 25 systems to make cash from (9 in Loop 1, 16 in Loop 2) before waiting 4 hours. $$$$$

The more loops you have, the more money you can make before having to wait for recovery.

ADVANCED TRADING NOTES

Some advanced tips for once you’ve been trading a while.

BUY/SELL PERCENTAGES

If you look at a system in the Galactic map, you will see that each system has two numbers (buy and sell percentages). These are the percentages that the system will sell under the usual price and buy over the usual price. A good way to roughly judge the profitability of a system is to add the two numbers together, disregarding the +/- signs. So a system that is 75% and -18% would be 75 + 18 = 93. The higher the total number, the more profitable the system will be, because you can buy cheaper and make more from selling. Close to 100 is amazing, over 80 is great.

However, I find that as long as the number isn’t horrible (like in the 50s or 60s) what matters even more than the percentages is the amount of product available in a system. Sometimes you can get a really high scoring system with a high wealth economy and think it will be fantastic, but it only has 80 or 90 of the most expensive items available to buy even when it’s fully stocked. In this case, a lower percentage system with 160 of the most expensive item to sell is going to be far more profitable. Remember, this system is all about buy and sell in bulk, fast. If you lose a few percentage points, but can sell twice as much expensive product, you’re still much farther ahead. Worrying about maximizing the profit per item gets you nowhere if you sell a small amount of those items, compared to selling a lot of an item for a smaller profit per item.

So people talk about how important the percentages are, and they are important up to a point, but as long as you have a system in the 80s or higher, actually going to the station/trading post and looking to see what they have for sale can usually be more important. I often run a trade route 2 or 3 times, and then mark any systems that are low in supplies and go find other systems to replace them. They are annoying because rather than buying all of one or two items and having my storage be full, I have to buy three or four different things, and I end up filling my hold with low cost (and therefore low profit) items and wasting time managing inventory. Higher inventory of the expensive stuff is more overall important than percentage, imo.

Once you find good systems, ignore the numbers of item costs and percentages, except to use the loophole (see below) to buy at -79%. Other than that, there is NO THINKING involved in this method. Don’t do any math or try to game it. You’re wasting time for little gain. Just buy all, teleport, sell all, buy all, teleport.

LOOPHOLES FOR CASH

Remember how selling large numbers of things tanks the economy? Well, we can take advantage of that. Buy everything you can (buying highest priced things first) just like normal, but then immediately SELL IT ALL BACK to the same system. This will make the price percentage (the green percentages by each item) drop (and turn red if they go below zero). Then go back to the BUY menu and buy it all again. Then go to the SELL menu and sell it all again. Keep doing this until the percentage is below -70% (the lowest it can get is -79%). Then buy everything one last time and teleport to the next station and sell it all.

This technique means you get all of your goods for a massive discount and sell them for normal prices at the next stop. You can TRIPLE the amount of money you make per station this way. It takes a few minutes more, but the increased profit is worth it.

Using this loophole on my trade routes, I make close to 7 million units per minute that I’m trading.

I’d suggest waiting until you have a trade route up and running and you understand the process before trying it.

TRADING POSTS

Using the economy scanner in your ship you can scan for Trading Posts in the system you are in. They are bases on a planet that you can land at, and there’s one in every system that has a population. The economy of the Trading Posts is independent of the space stations, so you can trash the space station economy and the Trading Post is still untouched. So you can do your entire loop TWICE, once at the station and then one at the Trading Posts, meaning you can double the amount of money you make before having to wait 4 hours for the economies to recover.

Just make sure you do all of one type of loop at once. So, do all of the space stations in your loop first, then do all of the Trading Posts. Don’t mix and match.

SUPER DUPER ADVANCED TRADING POSTS

Did you know that you can build bases on a Trading Post platform (on the landing pads outside the roofed area)?. So a big-brain trick is to build a minimal base with just a computer, teleporter, biogenerator (to power the teleporter), and a few wooden floors (you need a certain number of items to upload a base and those are the cheapest to build) and then save it. Now you can teleport through your Trading Post loop just like you do your space station loop. Drop 10 carbon in the generator and teleport from one Trading Post to the next, buying and selling just like on the space stations. $$$$$

Combine this with the buy/sell loophole to make serious cash quickly. Once you have the basic raw materials it only takes a few minutes per Trading Post to set up. The longest time is flying to the Trading Post the first time, and from then on you just use the teleport.

Once you have it all set up, you can sit down and spend 45 minutes or an hour going through your long multiple system Loops on the space stations and then the Trading Posts and and make hundreds of millions. Whee!

Google Sheets Template

Also, I have a Google Sheets spreadsheet that I use to keep my notes in. This one has different tabs (looks across the bottom) and you can see how I fill in the various systems and then copy them into the list of trade routes.


https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1PrOG2-FH9N3XyIMsNmD_1mcXXfWp1mPP_pEJkTm18Cs/edit?usp=sharing



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