[Top 5] Elite: Dangerous Best Cargo Ships (And How To Get Them)

Elite Dangerous cargo ships
The tiny Imperial Courier escorts the mother of all freighters, the Imperial Cutter

Welcome to my article about the Top 5 cargo ships in Elite: Dangerous! Rather than writing about the top 5 cargo ships in the whole game, I’ve chosen to explore a broader range, detailing the best ships in each price range for a freighting commander.
While I have briefly touched on the jump range of each ship, it is vital to keep in mind that your jump range will differ depending on the amount of cargo that you’re hauling. Your jump range can also be increased by engineering your frameshift drive to be long-range, or by making other modules lightweight to reduce your mass. Therefore, quantifying whether a jump range is good or not is pretty difficult considering these variables.
I hope this information helps you choose the perfect cargo ship for your needs and budget!

5. The Adder (Best starter cargo ship)

The Pilot reviews the Adder
If you’re looking for a freighter ship, your first choice is likely to be the Adder. Looking like it belongs in a retro 60s comic about going to the moon, the Adder is available at an extremely low price point, and has a good cargo capacity for a ship of its size and price. 
The Adder also has a decent jump range for its size and price, meaning that it is a viable option for hauling cargo between systems. It also has 1 medium and 2 small hardpoints, meaning it is capable of defending itself against any pirates who may want to dig into your cargo. 
Overall, the Adder makes for a great step up from the Sidewinder for people who want to explore the world of trading and freighting. The combat abilities of the Adder make this ship on par with the Cobra in these fields, and can help you move up towards larger ships such as the Keelback.

Ship Stats

  • Cost: 87,808cr
  • Maximum cargo capacity: 30
  • Hardpoints: 3
  • Good manoeuvrability

What makes the Adder a great freighter?

  • Great price for new commanders 
  • Good jump range for beginners 
  • Your first step into the business of carrying cargo

4. The Keelback (Best for defending cargo on a budget)

The Pilot reviews the Keelback
The Keelback directly rivals the Type-6 Transporter. The Type-6 can carry more cargo, but the Keelback is able to flex that it’s a highly defended freighter. The Keelback can  launch a fighter, and possesses 2 small and 2 medium hardpoints. Therefore, the Keelback has the highest potential DPS of any other freighter ships within its price range.
It also has two thrusters that swivel depending on your control of the ship, and is undoubtedly one of the funniest ships to fly as a result of being able to see your thrusters wiggle if you adjust your roll while watching in the 3rd person camera suite. These thrusters mean that the Keelback is exceptionally manoeuvrable in regards to rolling, allowing for a skilled pilot to avoid any shots by pirates. However, the jump range is lesser than the Type-6, so you may prefer to fly the Type-6 rather than the Keelback.
On the other hand the Keelback makes for a great choice for an early, relatively cheap defended freighter. It’s a fun ship to fly, and can easily handle itself in combat situations. It makes for a good multipurpose ship, and all commanders should own a Keelback at some point in their careers. 

Ship Stats

  • Cost: 3,126,150cr
  • Maximum cargo capacity: 98t
  • Hardpoints: 4
  • Good manoeuvrability

What makes the Keelback a great freighter?

  • Highly defended against pirates
  • Great manoeuvrability for avoiding interdictions
  • Relatively cheap
  • Carries a good amount of cargo

3. The Python (Best for a medium-sized cargo ship)

The Pilot reviews the Python
The Python is likely one of the best medium-sized freighters in the game. It has the potential to carry 294t of cargo, and can also be heavily armed. It possesses 2 medium and 3 large hardpoints, meaning it can take on ships much larger than itself to defend against piracy. 
The Python can jump pretty far with engineering, but pilots must consider that any cargo added to this ship will significantly decrease how far the Python can travel in one jump. Combat ability and a high cargo capacity make this ship a highly capable freighter, but the jump range can inhibit journeys across great distances. Regardless, the Python is the mother of all multipurpose ships in the medium sized category, and is generally deemed the younger sibling of the Anaconda. Seriously. It’s like the front half of the Anaconda.
While the Anaconda was tempting to rank in 3rd place, the Python wins in convenience due to its medium size, meaning it can land on outposts that only possess a small and medium landing pad. Therefore, the Python doesn’t suffer from any landing restrictions that the final two ships on this list are subject to. Thus, if you’re looking for a flexible freighter capable of defending itself, the Python will be a fantastic choice. 

Ship Stats

  • Cost: 56,978,180cr
  • Maximum cargo capacity: 294
  • Hardpoints: 6
  • Average manoeuvrability

What makes the Python a great freighter?

  • Medium sized allows for landing on outposts 
  • Highest cargo capacity for medium ships 
  • Multipurpose, great value for money 
  • Great combat ability for self-defence

2. The Type-9 Heavy (Best for a cheaper bulk cargo option)

The Pilot reviews the Type-9 Heavy
The Type-9 Heavy is one hell of a cargo ship. It can carry the 2nd most cargo in the game, at a maximum of 790t. It’s the largest dedicated freighter in the game, meaning that the ship has pretty low manoeuvrability, meaning it has difficulty avoiding pirate interdictions. However, in case you get interdicted by hungry pirates, the Type-9 has 2 small and 3 medium hardpoints, as well as the capability of carrying a fighter hangar, you will be able to fight off any pirates in weaker ships. Due to the Type-9’s low manoeuvrability and massive hit profile (she’s a pretty chunky ship!), it is likely that you may have difficulty defeating strong manoeuvrable ships such as the Alliance Chieftain, or even a Python. 
If your Type-9 is shielded, it is often better to submit to any interdictions before boosting away from the enemy, and jumping back into supercruise. As the manoeuvrability in the Type-9 is lacking, meaning that your ship will be damaged if you refuse to submit to the interdiction, and it will be harder to jump back into supercruise.
The Type-9 has an average jump range, which will, of course, be weighed down depending on the amount of cargo you decide to haul. On the other hand, this behemoth possesses a massive fuel tank, sometimes allowing the ship to travel 100ly before needing to refuel. 
Overall, the Type-9 can carry almost as much cargo as the Imperial Cutter at a fraction of the price. While suffers from issues such as low manoeuvrability and a smaller number of hardpoints, it is still clear that the Type-9 can be a great freighter in systems with high security, relying on system security for protection, rather than taking a group of pirates on alone. 

Ship Stats

  • Cost: 76,555,842
  • Maximum cargo capacity: 790
  • Hardpoints: 5
  • Poor manoeuvrability

What makes the Type-9 Heavy a great freighter?

  • Carries massive amounts of cargo
  • Has enough hardpoints to defend itself 
  • Tanky, often quite difficult for pirates to take down 
  • Big fuel tank allows for the Type-9 to not need a fuel scoop, which allows for even more cargo

1. The Imperial Cutter (Best for carrying bulk cargo)

The Pilot reviews the Imperial Cutter
The Imperial Cutter is the sign of royalty. Literally. You can only buy this ship if you’re registered as a Duke in the Imperial Navy, which unfortunately requires hours of grinding. It’s also the most expensive ship in the game, at over 200,000,000cr. If you feel up for the massive time investment that this ship requires. You’ll have the best freighter in the galaxy. 
This ship has the potential to carry the most cargo in the game, at a whopping 794t. It has 1 huge, 2 large and 4 medium hardpoints. It can also carry a fighter hangar, and one of the largest shield generators, a size 8. All of these factors combined make the Imperial Cutter into a well-rounded freighter, possessing enough firepower to dispose of any pirates that may make an attempt on your precious cargo. Generally, it is best to follow the Type-9s rule on submitting to interdictions to better protect your cargo, due to the poor manoeuvrability of the Cutter.
It looks like a piece of art, built out of beautiful curved white metal, with silver and blue accents. The cockpit is massive, and filled to the brim of high tech systems, tinted by the imperial blue lighting surrounding you. It’s a beautiful ship, and the ultimate way to flex on other commanders who are less royal than you. 
If you are just looking to focus on freighter work, the Type-9 will be more cost AND time efficient, as the maximum cargo of the Heavy is only 4 units less than the Cutter. However, The Cutter is a masterpiece of a multipurpose ship, and can be tailored to suit any purpose. If you can get past the rank requirements and insane price, it will be well worth your time.

Ship Stats

  • Cost: 208,969,451cr
  • Maximum cargo capacity: 794
  • Hardpoints: 7
  • Poor manoeuvrability

What makes the Imperial Cutter a great freighter?

  • Highest cargo capacity in the game
  • Heavily armed, can easily defend itself against pirates 
  • A massive shield generator can absorb attacks from enemies 
  • Luxurious, and makes you feel like the royal Duke that you are!


The key for a great cargo ship is a good amount of large optional internal slots. Without this, your ship will not be able to carry a decent amount of cargo. Engineering unfortunately cannot increase the amount of cargo a ship can carry, meaning that this list is more definitive than lists focusing on combat or exploration. Whichever ship you decide to opt for, I hope it serves you well, and earns you big bucks on your cargo hauling ventures!

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Kathy Miller is an aspiring robotic wildlife photographer in Horizon: Zero Dawn. She is also a reluctantly good spaceship pilot in the world of Elite: Dangerous, too.
Gamer Since: 2005
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Top 3 Favorite Games:Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Elite: Dangerous, Borderlands 2

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