Hauling Profitably in EVE Online

The following is a guide describing how to transport goods for sale in EVE Online, in a profitable way. This content is derived from a syllabus for a class that I teach at EVE University. I wrote the original syllabus in 2010, and it has been improved considerably since then, thanks to revisions by numerous others - especially by my fellow teachers and professors at E-UNI. My heartfelt thanks to them. You can also find audio recordings of classes that I delivered using this guide here.

This guide was last updated on August 9, 2015.

Transporting goods from one location to another is one of the things that makes the economy of EVE Online work. Players can train characters to perform this important task - those characters who are dedicated to this function are typically called "haulers".

What is hauling?

There are three kinds of hauling in EVE Online:

  • Speculator haulers - These are people who make their own trade runs. They are entrepreneurs that profit from the differences in selling and buying prices in different locations. They use their ISK (InterStellar Kredits - the currency in EVE Online) to buy low, transport purchased goods, and then sell high to earn profits on the margins.
  • Hired haulers - These are people who arrange trade runs with other players. For example, they can help to improve the effectiveness of mining operations by providing transport of ores to stations for refining, or who by moving refined minerals to other stations for sale. Alternatively, haulers can also accept courier contracts offered by players on the market. Hired haulers either get paid on a percentage of the operation haul, or on a flat fee basis for contracts.
  • Courier Mission Runners - Not to be confused with courier contract runners, these are people who receive trade runs as missions from non-player characters in the game. Many NPC agents specialize in courier missions - paying for the transport of items to a particular location. Courier missions pay rewards in ISK and Loyalty Points which can be used to acquire valuable faction items.
The Amarr Bestower - largest potential cargo capacity of all the Tech I industrial ships

The Amarr Bestower - largest potential cargo capacity of all the Tech I industrial ships

Getting into hauling is relatively simple. All you need is a character with a fairly low level of ship command and trade skills, and a ship with sufficient cargo capacity - most commonly, industrial craft.

Hauling may sound like an easy way to make an income in EVE - and in fact you can earn millions of ISK per hour of effort, if you do it correctly. This guide will show how you can haul effectively and profitably, and how to avoid many of the common mistakes that many new haulers can make.

Establishing a hauler character or alt

Many players set up a separate alternate character, typically called an "alt" in game parlance, to specialize in hauling. There are several advantages to this arrangement:

  • You can keep the hauler character out of your corporation, allowing you to conduct hauling activities safely during wartime, if your corp is wardec'ed.
  • You can focus your alt's training on hauling-related skills, allowing them to develop a high degree of competence quickly. Even if your hauling alt is in the same account as your main character, you can train the required skills in less than a month by using one PLEX and taking advantage of the dual character training option.
  • If operating in a separate account, you can pair your hauler alt with your main character for mining ops or for hauling away salvage in missions, freeing your main character to focus on productive activities, like mining or killing NPC targets.

To set up a hauler alt in your main account, restart your EVE client, and then click on one of the blank boxes next to your main character portrait. You are allowed up to three characters in your main account.

To set up a hauler alt in a separate account, you can either register a whole new account with CCP on the main EVE website, or you can create an alternate character in your main account, and then pay a small fee (US$20) to transfer your alt into a new account, if you wish.

A useful guide to setting up a hauler alt can be found here: Creating an Alt Hauler

The Nereus - a good entry into the line of specialized Gallente-based hauling craft

The Nereus - a good entry into the line of specialized Gallente-based hauling craft

What is the best race for your hauler? In the long run, it is not very significant, as any character can be trained to pilot any ship, given enough time. There are fans of each race that argue about the merits of their industrial designs, but in truth, you can be productive in just about any race's industrial ships.

In general, if you intend to use a character just for occasional hauling runs, as an alt in your main account, your best choice is Amarr, as the Bestower offers the biggest Tech I industrial ship capacity and expandability. If your intention is to establish a dedicated hauling character in a separate account, then your best choice is most likely Gallente, as that faction offers several specialty industrial hulls that can be quite useful for different types of hauling.

View this helpful guide on the strengths and weaknesses of various hauling craft, so you can make an informed choice about your hauling character's race: Hauling

Essential hauling skills and equipment

To get started as a hauler, the absolutely required skills you need are:

  • Racial Industrial I
    • Spaceship Command III

You should plan to train additional levels of Industrial skill to unlock access to more advanced vessels of that type.

Additional skills that are invaluable to a beginning hauler include:

  • Cargo capacity expansion skills:
    • Hull Upgrades II - needed for Expanded Cargohold II modules, to maximize your industrial's capacity.
    • Mechanic III - needed for Expanded Cargohold II modules, and for Cargohold Optimization rigs.
    • Jury Rigging III, Astronautics Rigging I - to fit Cargohold Optimization rigs.
  • Ship piloting skills:
    • Warp Drive Operation: Helps with long warps. Each skill level reduces the capacitor need of initiating warp by 10%.
    • Spaceship Command: Reduces align time. 2% improved ship agility for all ships per skill level.
    • Evasive Maneuvering: Increases ship agility and acceleration. 5% improved ship agility for all ships per skill level.
  • Because you will most likely be filling most, if not all, of your low slots with cargohold expansion modules, you will need to develop sufficient skills to enable you to shield tank your hauler's ship. Essential shield tanking skills include:
    • Shield Management IV: 5% extra shields per level
    • Shield Upgrades: 5% reduction in shield upgrade powergrid needs per level; level IV allows use of T2 shield extenders
    • Engineering II & Tactical Shield Manipulation IV: Allows use of Adaptive Invulnerability Field II.
    • Optional: Shield Operation III or IV: 5% reduction in shield recharge time per level; level IV allows use of T2 shield boosters, though their value to a hauler is limited at best.
    • A note about tanking your industrial: in truth, if someone decides to suicide gank you in high security space, there is probably very little you can do about it in your Tech I industrial ship. All that your tank will do is slow down or discourage a casual attacker. If a suicide ganker scans down your ship, and decides that your valuable cargo should be theirs, they will almost certainly kill you, and there is virtually nothing you can do about it. Don't expect CONCORD to save you!
  • You will also need your hauler alt to exchange ISK and goods with your main character, and also to buy and sell items on the market. Therefore, you will need a modicum of trade and social skills:
    • Social I and Contracting I - at a minimum, so you can execute contracts and speak to NPC agents
    • Trade I - so you can set buy and sell orders

As you develop your hauler alt, you may want to invest in additional social and trade skills, so that you can speak to more agents and increase the number of orders, at lower costs. But the skills listed above are all you need to get started and to be a functional hauler.

Your starting industrial ship should be optimized for hauling in high security space, with the following equipment and fitting:

  • Low slots: Cargohold Expansion II modules - as many as you can fit. You may be tempted to also include a Damage Control module, so that you increase your resists and give you more time to escape an attack. In general, the trade-off of more tank for less cargo capacity is probably not worth it if you are trading in high-security space, to which most haulers will operate. To maximize your ISK, you need to be able to carry as much cargo as you can.
  • Mid slots: Shield tank modules - at a minimum, a passive tank consisting of as many shield extenders as you can fit. You may also want to increase your resists with an Adaptive Invulnerability Field module - fit one of these for every two or three extender modules.
  • High slots: Weapons are useless on an industrial. You may want to fit a tractor beam and salvager to help clean up wrecks or collect jetcans on mining operations, though that means training Survey III and Salvaging I skills.
  • Rigs: Cargohold Optimization rigs - buy only the Tech I variety, as Tech II versions are expensive and not required for success.

Fittings for hauling in low-sec and 0.0 space are different, which we'll cover briefly later.

Hauling capital requirements

Starting a new hauler alt character is relatively easy, but being able to do useful ISK-producing activities also requires a sufficient amount of starting capital.

  • Required: About 600K-1.5 million ISK to purchase a suitable industrial ship. Note: you will get a free starter industrial ship if you complete the Industry introductory career track - To find this, press F12, select "Career Agents", then "Industry".
  • Required: About 5-15 million ISK for good Tech II ship fittings (cargohold expanders, shield extenders, etc.) - you can start with less expensive Tech I fittings to start, cutting this initial cost by more than half, and then upgrade as you can afford. Definitely use Tech I rigs - the Tech II rigs are hideously expensive and not worth the extra cost.
  • Required but not urgent: About 1.5 million ISK for essential skillbooks - though these can be purchased as you need them over time.
  • Required: about 2 million or more ISK for buying goods for trade, if you want to become a speculative hauler, assuming that your initial hauls will be for common consumer or industry goods.
  • Optional: about 10 million ISK for courier contract collateral - almost all player-created courier contracts on the market require a collateral amount, which is refunded when you've delivered the package and completed the contract. The most lucrative courier contracts are also the most risky, and therefore require commensurate amounts of collateral, but 10 million ISK should be enough to start with fairly safe hi-sec courier runs.

In short, you can start a successful hauler alt character with about 10-20 million ISK in capital. It is possible to start with less than this if you only intend to use your alt as a mining operation hauler or for NPC courier missions initially. But to maximize your ISK-earning potential, you should begin suitably funded to pursue the hauling activities that interest you most.

How to conduct speculative hauling profitably

  • The hauler's most valuable resource for finding profitable trade routes is the EVE-Central Market Aggregator site: http://eve-central.com/home/. EVE-Central is a continuously updated database of buying and selling prices in New Eden, which uses the EVE Online CREST API.
  • Selecting and executing profitable hauls - This link describes a 12-step process that will enable any hauler to identify and execute the most profitable trades: Discover the Value of EVE-Central With a properly fitted industrial ship and a sufficient amount of capital, haulers can use this process to routinely generate as much as 3-5 million ISK per hour.
  • Avoiding the tax trap - the biggest danger with this method is the tax trap. Every sale incurs a 1.5% sales tax. As a result, haulers must be sure that their profits exceed 1.5% on every trade run, or they will lose money. You can improve this by training the Accounting skill. Accounting reduces the tax by 10% for each level of training, or 0.15% of the transaction value per level. The result is that if trained to level 5, your transaction tax will be 0.75%. (Note: Because the Accounting skillbook  costs 5M ISK at NPC "school" stations, you need to trade 667M-3.3B ISK before you save the cost of the skillbook, depending on skill level. Thus, it is not recommended that you start training Accounting until your transactions are routinely in tens of millions of ISK or higher.)

Hauling safely

Suicide gankers in high-sec and pirates in low-sec love to attack and destroy haulers, if they believe that they can make quick riches by acquiring your cargo. There are some practical things that you can do as a hauler, however, to minimize these dangers.

  • Never go AFK - Being "away from keyboard" is death. Don't be lazy. Even in high-sec. Watch your overview like a hawk.
  • Never autopilot - Never use autopilot to fly your ship, even in high-sec. When navigating to stargates, use the jump command instead, so your ship jumps as soon as you arrive. Be paranoid. There are gankers everywhere. Using the autopilot feature in the in-game map (the F10 key) is good practice for planning your routes - especially if you have the "Prefer Safer" option selected (F10, then Autopilot tab, then Settings tab). BUT never use autopilot to fly your ship.
  • Understand your enemy - Most pilots that conduct suicide ganks are not doing it to be mean. They are doing it to make ISK. Understand the mind of your adversary, and you go a long way to defeat them. An excellent recording of how the mind of a suicide ganker works can be found here: class recording of "The Dark Side of EVE"
    • Note: insurance is not paid on CONCORDed ships. This does not make you immune to ganking, however. If you are hauling cargo worth billions of ISK, you are definitely a prime ganking target. And remember, some people gank just for fun - even if you are carrying nothing.
  • Fit a tank on your indy - Casual gankers are looking for easy targets. Don't be one.
  • Use scouts - If you are carrying high-value cargo, consider using a fast frigate, shuttle, or covert ops scout to reconnoiter at least one system ahead. If you find high DPS battlecruisers or battleships lurking around a gate or in a system, consider taking a different route, or docking up to complete your hauling run on another day.
  • Be aligned - If you are hauling for other players, such as on a mining op, always align your ship with a celestial. Keep that celestial on your overview control panel, and be ready to hit the warp button.
  • Insure your ship - Insurance is your friend. It softens the blow after an "accident". Keep your insurance policy up to date, always. It's worth the investment.
  • Here are some additional tips for how to survive as a hauler: http://k162space.wordpress.com/2010/02/28/hauling-how-not-to-die/

Hauling in Low-Sec and 0.0

  • Beware of hauling in 0.0 and low-sec - hauling in 0.0 or even low-sec space (0.1-0.4 security status) is always risky. If you want to minimize potential losses, then stay in high security space for your trade runs in Tech I industrial ships, even if this means taking the long way around. Set your autopilot settings to safer routes. Know where the common piracy havens are located: Known pirate systems
  • If, however, you find the thrill of hauling jobs in nullsec and low-sec too alluring to resist, then follow some simple fitting guidelines to minimize your risk:
    • Put at least three Warp Core Stabilizers in your low slots to protect against being scrammed or warp disrupted. Note, however, that WCS modules will not protect you against Heavy Interdictors in null sec, as they can tackle anything if used properly.
    • A strong shield tank is always required in any hauler, no matter where you are going. Fit an Invulnerability Field or two to increase shield resistances, and Shield Extenders to maximize shield hit points.
    • Fit a Prototype Cloaking Device in a high slot, as it can give you the option of hiding in space if you escape an attack and then need to lay low for a while: http://www.eve-wiki.net/index.php?title=Cloaking_device
    • If you are hauling in null sec, fit a Microwarpdrive (MWD), so you can "burn out" of bubbles.
    • Rigs to consider when modifying your industrial for hauling in low-sec or 0.0:
      • Low Friction Nozzle Joints I reduce align time by 11.7%: http://www.eve-wiki.net/index.php?title=Low_Friction_Nozzle_Joints. Agility is everything when trying to warp away from danger.
      • You might also consider fitting a Core Defense Field Extender to improve the strength of shields by 15%. However, you do so at the expense of increasing your signature radius 10%, which makes you easier to target lock. Fit one of these only if you feel you truly need the extra shield hit points.
  • Low and null sec hauling tactics
    • Defeating gate camps: If you jump through a gate into low sec or null sec, and you find a camp of enemies surrounding you, do not panic: you have 60 seconds of cloaked protection. Use this time to examine the fleet size and composition. After assessing the situation, engage "warp to zero" to your target station, then quickly activate your defensive mods. If you have fit for fast alignment, you should be able to warp away before anyone can get a target lock on you. Even if they do manage to target you, your Warp Core Stabilizers will give you some protection from being scrammed or disrupted. And if they fire on you, you should have enough of a shield tank to take at least one volley of damage.
    • Burning out of bubbles: If you are hauling in 0.0, you can get caught in warp disruption bubbles. If you are caught in a bubble, double click in a direction that is the shortest distance out of the bubble, and which is not on a line between you and any enemy tackler. Then immediately start your MWD and then your cloak. Once out of the bubble, warp to a celestial @ 50-100km (ideally a non-standard distance) or to a safe spot. Enemies won't be able to target you before you cloak, but they may have time to de-cloak you before you are out of the bubble. Therefore, you need as much speed as possible from that one MWD cycle, before the cloak turns it off.
    • Docking up quickly: As you arrive at your station, engage your propulsion module, and then spam the dock command until you safely in station. After docking, check the Guests tab in station to see who is in there with you. Use Show Info on anyone there, to see if they have negative security status. These people are your biggest threats when you undock.
    • Undocking in low-sec and 0.0: Leaving stations is the riskiest part of low-sec hauling. When you undock, you have 30 secs of invulnerability to targeting and attack so long as you do not align, or activate any modules. Use that time to make a quick assessment. If you don't like what you are seeing, then press Ctrl-Space to stop your ship, and then dock up. If you decide to continue, warp to zero to your gate or safe spot, and engage defensive mods. Your only real vulnerability is if a bad guy bumps you far enough away from station that you cannot dock.
    • Use bookmarks - if you can use a cloaky ship, use it to create bookmarks at warp range (over 150km) in front of station exits, providing you with an instant undock. It's also good to create safe spots in systems that you intend to revisit, so you have a comfortable places to hide if necessary.
    • Beware of pipes - successive low-sec or null-sec systems with only two gates are known as "pipes", and they can be very dangerous, as they are often camped. Study the star map before you make your hauling runs, so you are aware of these danger spots. And if you can scout them in advance with a cloaky covert ops ship, and make some bookmarks in safe spots there, that will give you some additional options when traveling through them.
    • Pick a good time to haul - to minimize your risk, haul when the pirates are asleep, typically between 06:00 and 11:00 EVE time. You can see the times of the lowest numbers of players logged in here: http://www.eve-offline.net/?server=tranquility

Advanced hauling topics

  • Carrying sensitive or high-value cargo
    • A courier contract box alone will not protect your goods from being cargo scanned!
    • If you put your goods in a secure container, and then make a courier contract with that container, then the items in the container will be "double wrapped", and protected from cargo scans
    • Once upon a time, anything put into a "Corporation Hold" on an Orca was immune to cargo scans, and if the Orca was destroyed, anything in the "Corporation Hold" would not drop, thus making the Orca a popular ship for hauling. As of the Retribution update, this is no longer true. "Corporation Holds" have been replaced with "Fleet Holds", which are scannable, and will drop loot if destroyed.
    • Cargo bays on Blockade Runners, however, are un-scannable. This sounds like good news, except that it now makes all blockade runners a tempting target for gankers willing to try their luck. This means that when you fly a Blockade Runner, you should fit and activate a covert ops cloak whenever possible, even if your cargo hold is empty.
    • In Empire space, carrying illegal goods (indicated with a skull-and-crossbones on the item icon) can get you in trouble with customs agents
      • Customs ships randomly scan ships going through gates, or sometimes at stations - the higher the security rating of the system, the higher the chance of being scanned
      • If a customs ship suspects that you are carrying illegal items, they will send you a pop-up message, asking if you are carrying illegal goods
        • If you say "yes", they will confiscate your illegal items, fine you, and you will take a substantial faction-standing loss
        • If you say "no", then you should attempt to quickly jump through and escape, as they may attack your ship
      • Cloaks and fast-fitted ships make you more difficult to be intercepted, and traveling in systems with lower security ratings reduces the chances of being scanned, but only in null security space (0.0) can you transport illegal goods without fear of customs agents.
  • Courier contracts - contracts to haul goods are available from other players.
    • You can access these by selecting the Contracts button on your NeoCom, clicking the "Available Contracts" tab, then select "Entire Region" in the View field, and "Courier" in the Contract Type field, then click on the "Get Contracts" button.
    • Some general rules for the wise courier contractor:
      • Beware of 0.0 and low-sec - have a map, and avoid contracts that start, end or go through dangerous areas, unless you are properly fitted for the additional risk.
      • Beware of pirates - avoid courier contracts that start, end or go through known piracy areas: Commonly known pirate systems
      • If the contract looks too good to be true, it's too good to be true - beware of contracts that pay an absurd reward for very little or no collateral, as they may be an attempt to lure you into a gank
      • Be sure to have the "Exclude Unreachable" option selected when looking for courier contracts. You can select this by clicking in the area with "found X contracts". A set of options will appear. Make sure "Exclude Unreachable" is selected. This will make sure that you do not see contracts that start or end in a player-owned station to which you do not have access.
  • Courier missions - Many people run lower-level courier missions to increase their standings with NPC corps quickly. The standing increase for successful courier missions is lower than security missions, but you can run them faster. Level 4 courier contracts can be a safe and secure way to generate some fast ISK and loyalty points. Though not nearly as profitable as other activities in EVE Online, courier missions are relatively low risk and require few skills to execute successfully. This link describes how to make money effectively as a Level 4 courier mission runner: Making Money with Hauling - Level 4 Cargo Missions
  • Advanced hauling ships: Hauling
    • Specialized Industrial Ships
      • Training the Gallente Industrial skill unlocks several specialty hauling ships, each with a dedicated cargo bay:
        • Epithal, planetary commodities bay, useful for hauling goods from Planetary Interaction
        • Kryos, mineral bay, useful for taking refined minerals from station to market, or from market for manufacturing.
        • Miasmos, ore bay, fantastic for supporting mining crews.
      • Training the Minmatar Industrial skill unlocks the Hoarder, which has a large dedicated bay for hauling ammunition and charges.
    • Covert Ops Frigates: don't forget the usefulness of these small, fast, cloaked ships for transporting tiny but high-value cargo, such as blueprint originals.
    • Interceptors: also very useful for hauling small, valuable items, because of their very fast align times and warp speeds, as well as warp bubble immunity in null security space, making them very difficult to catch.
    • Blockade Runners: fast aligning ships that can fit covert ops cloaks, and therefore can warp while cloaked. The cargo bays of blockade runners are un-scannable by other players (but not by customs agents). Great for hauling valuable loads of under 10K cubic meters in low-sec and 0.0.
    • Deep Space Transport: extra-tanked industrials, with large capacity fleet cargo bays - nice for hauling moderately valuable cargo - built-in +2 warp core stability.
    • Orcas: very handy for mining operations, and a darned good large-cargo hauler, though not as large as freighters. See this guide for more details on the Orca: Orca Guide
    • Freighters: protected by their sheer bulk, very handy for carrying large volumes of goods in high security space
    • Bowhead: a specialized freighter designed to carry fitted ships, it includes a very large ship maintenance bay (over 1.3 million+ cubic meters, depending on Ore Freighter skill level).
    • Jump Freighters: can use cynosural fields to jump into 0.0 and low sec space; the only way to go for shipping large quantities of goods into low security areas

Developing a hauling character is supremely useful in EVE Online. By having one, you can transport the goods you need more safely, and it can give you a mundane but reliable alternative income stream. You can't go wrong making the investment in a hauler alt - so do so today!

Fly safe! o7