[Top 10] Elite: Dangerous Best Exploration Ships (And How To Get Them)

The cruise ship of the stars soars towards an installation to meet the locals!

Welcome to my review of the best exploration ships in Elite: Dangerous. While this list is generally correct in my personal opinion, it is vital for you to realise that all ships can be engineered into an exploration ship. I’ve even seen pure combat ships such as the Mamba engineered to focus on exploration. Therefore, don’t take this list too strictly, as any ship you’d like can turn into an exploration ship. You’ll spend a massive amount of time in your ship when you are exploring, so make sure you love it to pieces before embarking on any long haul trips. The Dolphin, which joined me on my exploration trips, isn’t a great explorer. But it’s still the ship I think of the most whenever I consider flying out to explore the galaxy. 
This list will guide you through good potential options, but every single ship can be worked into the ranking as long as you give it time and love regarding engineering.

10. Type-6 Transporter (Best for cheap long-range exploration)

The Pilot reviews the Type-6 Transporter
When looking at the Type-6 Transporter, you may not recognise it as a great exploration ship. It’s chunky, slow, and a ship marketed as a trader. However, after stripping down unnecessary modules, and upgrading the frameshift drive, the Type-6 can reach jump ranges comparable to the Asp Explorer. Furthermore, the lower price point makes it more accessible for beginner explorers.
The Type-6 also contains several internal slots, allowing for a decent loadout to be equipped for any exploration trips. Furthermore, the cockpit view of the Type-6 provides excellent visibility, allowing commanders to see wide panoramic views of nearby nebulae and other sights. However, while the Type-6 makes for a great beginner exploration ship, it is more expensive than the Cobra MkIII, which can compare to the abilities of the Transporter. 

Ship Stats

  • Cost: 1,045,945cr
  • Size: Medium
  • Unengineered max jump range: 30.73ly
  • Fuel capacity: 16t
  • Optional internal slots: 8

What makes the Type-6 Transporter great for exploration?

  • Can reach a good jump range
  • Good amount of optional internal slots 
  • Great cockpit view

9. Cobra MkIII (Best for early multipurpose exploration)

The Pilot reviews the Cobra MkIII
The Cobra MkIII is the best multipurpose ship for beginner players, allowing for commanders to explore trading, combat, as well as exploration. The Cobra possesses a sizable fuel tank for the ship's small size, allowing for multiple jumps before needing to stop to refuel. Although the Cobra doesn’t contain as many optional internal slots as the Type-6, it is a lot cheaper at just 349,718 credits, allowing players to easily explore their role in the galaxy before making any long-term commitments to a specialised ship.
However, the Cobra doesn’t possess much of a jump range. Generally, the Cobra will be a great hopper when crossing the civilised bubble, but will not fare well when attempting to explore deep space easily. Instead, the Hauler can jump further when suitably equipped, while remaining at a low price point. Ultimately, the Cobra is great for commanders who haven’t yet found their role in the galaxy, but may not be a viable option for exploration in the medium to long term.

Ship Stats

  • Cost: 349,718cr
  • Size: Small
  • Unengineered max jump range: 28.55ly
  • Fuel capacity: 16t
  • Optional internal slots: 7

What makes the Cobra MkIII great for exploration?

  • Cheap
  • Great starter ship, allows you to find your niche 
  • Large fuel tank

8. Hauler (Best for beginner exploration)

The Pilot reviews the Hauler
The Hauler is marketed as a beginner trading ship, possessing a relatively large cargo hold with an extremely low price point. Due to this focus, the Hauler was bound to have an acceptable jump range. However, when fully stripped down and engineered, the Hauler can reach up to a 40 lightyear jump range. Plus, it looks like it was ripped straight out of a retro comic about going to the moon. Live your classical-comics-in-the-60s fantasies!
The Hauler is definitely an exploration ship for beginners, and will begin to struggle with longer range journeys due to only being able to carry a small fuel scoop, as well as a small fuel tank. This means that trips can be time-consuming, with frequent and slow refuelling stops. Similar to the Cobra, it can make for a fantastic bubble hopper, but at a fraction of the price. However, the lack of larger optional internal slots  keeps the Hauler from being a suitable long-term exploration ship.

Ship Stats

  • Cost: 52,720cr
  • Size: Small
  • Unengineered max jump range: 37.29ly
  • Fuel capacity 4t
  • Optional internal slots: 6

What makes the Hauler great for exploration?

  • Great jump range when engineered
  • Extremely cheap
  • Can compare to higher ranked ships but with a much lower price point

7. Beluga Liner (Best for exploring in luxury)

The Pilot reviews the Beluga Liner
The Beluga Liner is one of the largest ships in the game, reaching over 200 metres long. It is the largest of the luxurious Saud Kruger line, and is a surefire way to flex your status as a commander. Flying around in this thing makes me feel like a super lux space bus driver! The Saud Kruger ships are typically reserved for hauling passengers on sightseeing trips, but should not be dismissed as potential exploration vessels. 
The Beluga is essentially a giant cruise ship, and manoeuvres better than you’d think for a ship of its size. It has enough internal slots to comfortably carry passengers as well as modules for exploration, including a fighter bay if you wish to explore in a smaller vessel. The Beluga also holds a massive fuel tank, allowing for many jumps before stopping to refuel. As a final plus, the cockpit view of the Beluga is large and interrupted, providing some of the greatest views of the galaxy from the safety of your ship. As an explorer turned passenger hauler, the Beluga remains close to my heart as a fun but luxurious ship to traverse the galaxy.

Ship Stats

  • Cost: 84,532,780cr
  • Size: Large
  • Unengineered max jump range: 30.09ly
  • Fuel capacity: 128t
  • Optional internal slots: 12

What makes the Beluga Liner great for exploration?

  • Extremely luxurious and enjoyable 
  • Bring anything you want on your exploration trips 
  • Can easily carry passengers 
  • Decent jump range

6. Orca (Best for long-distance passenger hauling)

The Pilot reviews the Orca
The Orca is smaller than the Beluga Liner, but is just as effective at hauling passengers over long distances. While its range doesn’t exceed the Asp or Diamondback explorers, it still proves to have the largest jump range of the Saud Kruger line.
The Orca has 10 optional internal slots, and can carry a decent amount of passengers across long distances. It is a fraction of the price of the Anaconda, while providing similar abilities regarding hauling passengers on cruise trips. Taking on sightseeing trips is a fantastic way to explore the galaxy, and was the catalyst behind my first trip to the galaxy’s centre in my Dolphin. Plus, being a Saud Kruger ship, it is also guaranteed that you will be flying in luxury when exploring in the Orca. Plus, the engine’s boost noise has a sound similar to the tone that plays when a plane pilot wants you to buckle up your seatbelt. It gets me every time.

Ship Stats

  • Cost: 48,539,887cr
  • Size: Large
  • Unengineered max jump range: 36.17ly
  • Fuel capacity: 32t
  • Optional internal slots: 9

What makes the Orca great for exploration?

  • Good jump range
  • Fairly cheap
  • Good amount of optional internal slots
  • Can effectively haul passengers

5. Dolphin (Best for heat management)

The Pilot reviews the Dolphin
The smallest of the Saud Kruger line, the Dolphin is notorious for running as cool as a cucumber. I’m biased towards the Dolphin, as it was my first ever ship after the Sidewinder. Upon buying the Dolphin, I picked up a passenger mission that, unbeknownst to me, was past the centre of the galaxy, over 30,000 light-years away from my starting station. I set off in my unengineered Dolphin, and ventured to Sagittarius A*, Colonia, and beyond. It took me just under 10 days to complete the entire round trip.
While the Dolphin doesn’t have a particularly impressive jump range, it is the most efficient ship I’ve ever flown. It runs so cool that you can simultaneously charge your next jump AND absorb fuel from stars at the same time without overheating at all. No other ship can do this. Don’t even try. Using this method, one can jump endlessly, with no resting periods between jumps, without stopping for fuel. The views from the Dolphin’s cockpit are also fantastic, and I can’t fault this ship as a bubble hopper. Personal opinions aside, this ship is nowhere near the best exploration ship - but it is the most efficient. It has a decent number of smaller internal modules, but not enough to get flexible with your load-out. The jump range is lacking  compared to other ships explicitly focused on exploration. While I deem it my favourite exploration ship, it isn’t the best ship on this list. 

Ship Stats

  • Cost: 1,337,330cr
  • Size: Small
  • Unengineered max jump range: 35.10ly
  • Fuel capacity: 16t
  • Optional internal slots: 9

What makes the Dolphin great for exploration?

  • Never worry about overheating 
  • Decent jump range
  • Very efficient hopper
  • Can carry a few passengers for extra credits

4. Krait Phantom (Best for mid-range multipurpose exploration)

The Pilot reviews the Krait Phantom
The Krait Phantom is one of the best multipurpose ships on the market, and excels at exploration.The Phantom can easily rival the Asp Explorer with suitable outfitting and engineering. It also possesses enough optional internal slots to comfortably carry any modules you desire for long-distance trips, meaning that you’ll never be unprepared. The massive long thruster on the back of the Phantom is beautiful, and flying with coloured engines makes you feel like a paintbrush in the night sky. It’s an extremely elegant yet hardy ship, which is perfect for my style of exploration.
So far, so good, right? The only real negative of the Krait Phantom is the cost. The Krait is extremely expensive for its abilities, and should be considered as a broader multipurpose ship, rather than exclusively for exploration. Both the Diamondback Explorer and the Asp Explorer deliver comparable performance regarding jump range and utilities, for a fraction of the price. If you’re seeking a great ship solely for exploration, the Asp or Diamondback will be a lot easier on your wallet.

Ship Stats

  • Cost: 37,472,254cr
  • Size: Medium
  • Unengineered max jump range: 34.79ly
  • Fuel capacity: 32t
  • Optional internal slots: 9

What makes the Krait Phantom great for exploration?

  • Great potential jump range 
  • Good amount of optional internal slots
  • Decent multipurpose ship

3. Diamondback Explorer (Best for accessible exploration)

The Pilot reviews the Diamondback Explorer
The Diamondback Explorer has an interesting design - it’s vaguely bug-like in nature. And just like a bug, it can hop far. EXTREMELY far. It has the highest unengineered jump range in the whole game, and so is excellent for players who aren’t willing to delve into the lengthy grind required for engineering. The cockpit view is highly immersive, with a wide-open canopy for viewing the galaxy’s wonders.
The Diamondback Explorer also runs cold, though not as cold as the Dolphin. This means that while fuelling, you seldom need to worry about the risk of overheating. This ship competes directly with the Asp Explorer, and the choice of which ship to opt for depends almost entirely on your preferences. 
One disadvantage of the Diamondback Explorer is that the fuel scooping process is fairly slow, even while using the largest optional internal slot available. However, this is likely a result of the large fuel tank, which can jump quite a distance before requiring more fuel. Overall, the Diamondback Explorer is a solid pick for commanders, especially those who aren’t prepared to explore engineering. 

Ship Stats

  • Cost: 1,894,760cr
  • Size: Small
  • Unengineered max jump range: 41.61ly
  • Fuel capacity: 32t
  • Optional internal slots: 8

What makes the Diamondback Explorer great for exploration?

  • Highest unengineered jump range in the game 
  • Great cockpit views 
  • Runs cool
  • Decent amount of optional internal slots

2. Asp Explorer (Best for exploring with a view)

The Pilot reviews the Asp Explorer
The Asp Explorer is the Diamondback Explorer’s main competitor. It’s a reasonably cheap exploration vessel, which has the potential to jump almost as far as the Diamondback Explorer. I see, I understand. You’re wondering why the Asp Explorer is ranked higher than the Diamondback Explorer, right?
The Asp Explorer has other advantages, such as more optional internal slots, allowing for an exploring commander to bring along whichever modules they feel necessary for their journey. The canopy also provides a better view, allowing you to see the space below your commander’s feet. Furthermore, the Asp Explorer also doesn’t suffer from the aforementioned fuel scooping issue, and will refuel extremely quickly in a matter of seconds. Because of this, the Asp Explorer will NEVER need to slow down to refuel, as skimming over a star to line up with your next destination will likely refuel your tank completely. 
While the jump range is marginally lower than the Diamondback Explorer, the other advantages of the Asp Explorer reward it 2nd place on this list. Plus, the brakes on this ship are awful. You will almost definitely approach a planet too fast, and crash into the service. You’ll be fine, but it’s something to keep in mind when piloting the Asp Explorer!

Ship Stats

  • Cost: 6,661,153cr
  • Size: Medium
  • Unengineered max jump range: 38.19ly
  • Fuel capacity: 32t
  • Optional internal slots: 8

What makes the Asp Explorer great for exploration?

  • Great jump range 
  • Great cockpit views 
  • Good amount of optional internal slots
  • Extremely efficient fuelling

1. Anaconda (Best for long distance multipurpose exploration)

The Pilot reviews the Anaconda
The Anaconda is the king of multipurpose ships. While it can handle many roles exceptionally well, the Anaconda, perhaps unexpectedly, shines in exploration. The ship is weirdly light for its size, and the massive frameshift drive allows the Anaconda to have one of the longest jump ranges in the game. Nobody knows how they managed this.
With 14 optional internal slots, the Anaconda is sure to have enough room for everything you could think to bring on your exploration trips, as well as having excess space to experiment with. With engineering such as making modules lightweight, the Anaconda can easily reach a jump range of over 60 light-years. The Anaconda jumps extremely far for its size, which, combined with the excess of optional slots, proves itself the best ship for an explorer to use. 
The one flaw of the Anaconda is that it cannot land on outposts because of its large size and may struggle to land on uneven planetary surfaces. Other than this, the Anaconda is truly exceptional in exploring the galaxy.

Ship Stats

  • Cost: 146,969,450cr
  • Size: Large
  • Unengineered max jump range: 41.45ly
  • Fuel capacity: 32t
  • Optional internal slots: 12

What makes the Anaconda great for exploration?

  • Carry everything you could ever need
  • Extremely high jump range for a large ship
  • The best multipurpose ship in the game, so can be repurposed for other activities 
  • One of the most trusted ships in the galaxy


I hope this article has proved useful, giving you the knowledge on how to take your first few steps into the black of the galaxy. We live in a beautiful area of space, and you can see many beautiful gas giants and nebulae in not too far from the inhabited bubble. Whether you're making a short trip to the nearby horsehead nebula, or travelling towards the centre of the galaxy and beyond, I trust that your ship will serve you well. Fly dangerously!

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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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