Galactic Trade

Trade in No Man’s Sky can be a bit difficult to really get a handle on. Sure, buy low, sell high is a standard concept most people can wrap their heads around. How to effectively utilize your freighter, when do you want a hauler for trade purposes, and why doesn’t ping-ponging between two complimentary systems work very well can be more difficult. Before I get started in my comments on the topic you should check out the wiki page on trade and familiarize yourself with the contents of that page. It is a great introduction to how the galactic trade network works and the overall concepts of I-T-E-M and C-A-R, which are very useful.

You should also be far enough in the game that your ship has a working hyperdrive and that you have a freighter to use for trade. While the concepts here apply to any starship, you will make the most money trading with a freighter. You should also be far enough in the “Expanding the base” missions that you can build a galactic trade terminal.

You will also want an economy scanner installed in your main starship.

Getting Started

On your freighter, build a galactic trade terminal. This terminal is your best friend for trade and allows you to generate units without leaving the safety of your freighter, though you will almost certainly want to. It also allows you to trade in systems that have no space station at all. Obviously you can scan for a trade outpost on planets in such systems if you want. Outposts on planets generally offer better pricing than space-based terminals.

Galactic Trade Terminal

The major benefit to having the trade terminal installed on your freighter, aside from convenience of it being right there is that you can change your inventory in the terminal interface to your freighter itself. This allows you to sell from, and buy directly to, your freighter’s inventory.

Buying merchandise directly into a freighter inventory

If you look at the 3 items at the top of my item list, you’ll notice they have little green circles. These are the “good ones” to buy. How do you make the most out of which of these to buy though? In my experience, but the most of the most expensive thing you can. The buy/sell profit system seems to be percentage based. If you make 5% on 10,000 units you make a profit of 500 units. If you make 5% on 1000000 units you make 50,000 units. Since trade goods seem to stack basically the same, you will make more money if your freighter is full of high value goods even at really low yields. In my experience, following ITEM and CAR though I make more like 20-100% on my trades!

Trade Routes

Trade routes consist of a series of planets you can rotate between to maximize profits and minimize the cost of doing business. They are great if you want to stick to a home area of space and play the regional trader. Read on to see why this isn’t the best choice early on. If you read the wiki page you’ll remember that there are two basic trade routes ITEM and CAR.

To identify the next system to jump to you first need to know what kind of system you are buying in. You can base it on what merchandise you are purchasing but that is more complicated than I like to think about when playing. On your freighter’s bridge open your “Freighter Warp Map”.

Freighter Warp Map

You will see a galactic map. Using the filter, change to economy and your map should look something like this.

Warp Map showing a “Mine” system

There are two key things on this map we are interested in. Your stars all change color when you select the economy filter. Their color will indicate what kind of economy they support. The icons in the bottom left system information region also show you what type of economy the system has. This prevents you from having to memorize the colors of stars to know where to go.

The second key thing is the “Destination” selection “q/e on PC”. I find it useful to select a waypoint or destination that is far away from me, typically the galactic core, and fly along the path to that destination. I do this for two reasons:

  • First, the space stations along this path will all have an exosuit upgrade for me until my suit is fully upgraded.
  • Second I don’t have to worry about the systems recovering from my economic actions before I return to them if I move in a line.

I don’t follow the path exactly, but I use it as a directional guide while picking the next system of the appropriate type. It helps to keep me from revisiting systems I’ve already been to when my goal is to explore as much as possible while raking in the units!

I-T-E-M Systems

Industrial, Technological, Energy and Mine: This is one of the two trade routes that make the most profit. To maximize your profits you need to buy on an indutrial system, then sell those goods to a technolgy system and buy their goods to sell to an energy system who’s goods you sell to a mine system.

  • Industrial systems have a little pair of cogs for their icon and are yellow stars.
Industrial System
  • Technology systems show a computer chip, which to me looks more like a book with little tabs coming out of it. their systems are a greenish color.
Technology System
  • Energy Systems show a battery for their icon and have red stars.
Energy System
  • And back to Mine systems like the one we started on. They have light orange stars and show the pickaxe icon.
Mine System


The Commerce-Alchemy-Research systems work exactly the same as the ITEM systems. Their icons/colors are “DNA/Purple” for Alchemy, “Beaker/Dark Blue” for Research, and “PocketWatch/Green” for Commercial.


By buying and selling in each system you jump to you can maximize your profits while exploring the galaxy. Don’t forget to scan the planets in each system, fight pirates and grab their cargo pods before they explode, and buy your exosuit upgrades at the space stations as you go.


Agathezol is a gamer, programmer, father, husband, and musician. When he's not writing blog posts nobody reads he generally writes protocol stacks, network code, and core telecommunications software but has dabbled in game design, web programming, mobile device software, and desktop software.

Categories: No Man's Sky, Steam