While the guide above is very good, it's now several years out of date. At this point, exploration is the fastest way to elite, if you know what you're doing, and can be completed in a couple of days if you know how to play the system. This means finding the right planets to scan, and ONLY scanning the ones that net you a lot of credits (unless you want to scan all of them; I'm focusing on the fastest way to reach Elite).EXPLORATION
I'm going to assume that at this point you've stepped out of the Pilots' Federation zone and are playing the game proper. The Road to Riches planner ( https://spansh.co.uk/riches
) is an excellent way to work up to the approximately 320,000,000 credits you will need to reach Explorer Elite.
The key is having a Detailed Surface Scanner, which will run you 250,000, fits in a 1 slot, and has the best return of any item in the game. Previously, scanning systems was a bit harder (so I gather) and it's become a lot easier. That makes for much greater earning potential.
When you enter a system, **always** "honk" using the Discovery Scanner. Once you've seen how many bodies are in the system, switch to FSS (Focused System Scanner) by bringing your throttle all the way down (while still staying in supercruise) and pressing
. Move your cursor around the system, hovering over the lighted areas. Use the right stick to move the signal to the different types of bodies. Once the signal matches up with the planet/moon that you're looking at, arrows will show up pointing to a circle. Pull
to zoom in. You may have to zoom in a few times if you're looking at a crowded area. Repeat until you've scanned the entire system.
Once you've done that, look to see if you've found any Earth-like worlds (ELW, green dots) or Water Worlds (WW, blue dots). If you have, you're going to set a course for them and use your DSS when you're in range. You should also look at your system map using
. Zoom in on the WWs and the High Metal Content (HMC) bodies. Use
to bring up the info tab on the left.
If you see anything that says "this planet is a candidate for terraforming", those are your targets. In order, you should prioritize:
Terraformable Rocky Bodies
Generally, when running through systems, I definitely scan ELWs and tWWs, and maybe the next two if I have time. I don't scan anything after ammonia worlds myself. Planets have more value if they've never been discovered before (generally when you're outside the bubble; this will almost triple the value) and if they have a higher mass. A useful table to guide your scanning can be found here: https://elite-dangerous.fandom.com/wiki/Explorer#Value_Calcu...
Once you've selected a target, you're going to map it using the DSS. Note the bottom right of the screen where it says a target number, like 6 or 7 probes. (An ELW or a tWW greater than 7 probes is quite the find!) If you use less than this number, you will earn an efficiency bonus. You need to reach 90% for the planet to be fully mapped. It may be worthwhile to engineer a more effective DSS, but that's a conversation for another time.
This all sounds more complicated than it will be, I promise you.
Your own technique may vary, but here's mine: if the target is 6, I approach the planet with the cursor as high up as it can be without saying Miss. As soon as the probes turn blue (in range), I fire. Then I quickly fire probes at 9, 6, and 3 o'clock, firing when the little mark is in the center of my cursor. (That mark tells you whether you'll shoot over the horizon or hit on this side.) Once you've made those four shots, hold
to see how you did on the far side. Once all of the scan circles are finished growing, aim your other 1-2 probes to the unmapped spaces. I've been doing this for a while and even without an upgraded DSS I can sometimes come in one probe under the target.
If your target is 7 probes, do the same thing, except make 5 shots (around 12, 9:30, 7:00, 5:00, 2:30 or thereabouts), holding back those last two probes to fill in the gaps.
Once you've hit 100% (actually >90%), move on to the next planet or system. Repeat frequently.
Once you're ready to redeem, go to any starport and turn it in at Universal Cartographics. If you are the first to discover or map a planet, you'll receive extra bonuses. You can keep track of your exploration income by going to your Codex => Stats => Exploration. The number will likely keep increasing, but as of 2021 the number is approximately 320 million credits.TRADING
The best way to maximize your trading profits is to go to https://eddb.io/trade/loops
and look for trading loops. I usually set landing pad to large, and demand/supply to around 1000 (season to taste). I set distance to no more than 25 LY because I don't want to spend as much time warping. FDev has played with the settings, and you may not be able to keep selling to the same place for the same profit. As a rule, selling a full T9 to a port with less than 2000 demand is going to hurt your sale price.
I use a Type-9, filled with cargo racks. With no shield (living dangerously), but with an advanced docking computer (not quite so dangerously; I'm not that crazy) I can carry 784 units. EDDB will give you loops where you can buy/sell back and forth between stations. TBH, my first Elite was trading like this. It can be tiresome looping, looping, (looping...) but it works.COMBAT
...good luck. FDev recently nerfed combat XP by changing Thargoid Scouts from counting as Elite ships sto something lower. Already, Elite takes thousands of kills... this just makes it longer. A *LOT* longer.
Focus on higher ranked kills. The higher rank you beat, the more XP you will earn relative to your rank. Once you reach Expert, the lower ranks will not count toward your XP at all. Look at this table for guidance: https://elite-dangerous.fandom.com/wiki/Combat#Ranks
Best of luck, Commander! o7