Whether you’re embracing the pirate’s life or you accidentally took the wrong item from the wrong person, you’re likely going to find contraband in Starfield at some point. When that happens, you’ll likely wonder how you’re supposed to get it past the authorities and who will even buy the hottest goods in the galaxy.
The good news is that Starfield does allow you to smuggle contraband across the galaxy relatively safely. The bad news is that doing so requires a lot of work, a ton of credits, and a little luck. Since you’re probably eager to stop reading and start smuggling, though, here is what you need to know.
Starfield: What is Contraband?
Have you stolen quite a few items in Starfield and wondered why the space cops haven’t been busting you for smuggling contraband? Well, it turns out that contraband and stolen goods are two different things.
Contraband in Starfield is any item that is any item that is marked by a special yellow icon in your inventory. It’s easy to miss this icon at a glance, but it’s a little yellow square with a dash running through it. You’ll find it just under the item’s name.
While some items (such as drugs from Neon or human organs) are obviously considered contraband, others are far less obvious. For instance, a seemingly simple piece of literature may be considered contraband in some areas. Countless stolen items may pass by without a second look, but certain stolen pieces of property will be flagged as contraband during scans. The wide nature of contraband items means that the best way to check if something is contraband is to look for that little icon. Anything else is just guessing.
Starfield: How to Smuggle Contraband
The easiest way to smuggle contraband in Starfield is to use a Shielded Cargo Hold. As the name suggests, a Shielded Cargo Hold is a special on-board storage space that can block incoming contraband scans.
However, Shielded Cargo Holds are not guaranteed to work. The exact formula for smuggling hasn’t been solved yet, but the basic rules are pretty simple. The more contraband you carry, the more likely you are to get caught. If you fill your Shielded Cargo Hold to max capacity, you are very likely to get caught. If you’re only smuggling a few pieces of contraband, you’re far less likely to get caught.
The basic strategy is to ensure that you always have significantly more Shielded Cargo Space than contraband. So, 50kg of contraband in a 50kg Shielded Cargo space will likely be flagged. 50kg of contraband in 200kg of Shielded Cargo space is much more likely to go unnoticed.
So, one of the best things you can do is simply acquire more Shielded Cargo Space. Larger Shielded Cargo holds are ideal, as is acquiring multiple cargo holds. More on how to do all of that in just a bit.
Alternatively, you can acquire a Scan Jammer. These devices are designed to increase the chances of passing a contraband scan regardless of your current capacity. While they will not help you if you don’t have a Shielded Cargo hold, they will essentially reduce the random percentage that determines whether you pass a scan or not. Again, the more Scan Jammers you have, the better your chances of passing a scan.
Finally, you can pick up the Deception Skill to lower the chance of a contraband scan succeeding. However, the points required to properly invest in this skill are generally not worth it early on. It’s definitely an option if you’re living the pirate life, but you’re probably better off relying on gear until you have the extra Skill Points to spend.
Just note that it seems like there is always at least a very small chance of failing a cargo scan. If you’re smuggling a single item in a 2000kg hold with multiple Scan Jammers, you should never have a problem. However, there is always some level of risk.
Starfield: Where to Find Shielded Cargo Holds and Scan Jammers
The two best ways to find Shielded Cargo Holds and Scan Jammers in Starfield are to either steal a ship that has them installed or buy them from a ship part vendor.
Stealing a ship may be your best option early on. Most pirate ships (i.e. Crimson Fleet ships) will have these contraband smuggling components installed. As such, the best thing to do is to disable a pirate ship, board it, kill the crew, and then register your new ship at a port. As long as you have the skills required to fly that ship, it will be in your fleet and you’ll be able to start smuggling contraband (relatively) safely with it. Just be sure to double-check the ship’s specs to make sure it has a Shielded Cargo Hold and Scan Jammers installed. The same goes for any ships you find in the world or through quests. Always check their parts to see what you’re working with.
Due to their highly illegal nature, most ship part vendors will not sell you Shielded Cargo Bays or Scan Jammers. Instead, you’ll need to turn to black-market vendors for your smuggling gear.
Again, the easiest way to purchase that gear is to join the Crimson Fleet. To join the Crimson Fleet, just keep committing crimes until the UC Vigilance reaches out to you. There, an NPC will ask you to infiltrate the group of pirates. Following that questline will eventually lead you to a special Crimson Fleet station called The Key. There, you will find vendors who are all too happy to sell you Shielded Cargo holds and Scam Janners for fairly steep prices. Just be sure to not betray the Crimson Fleet until you’ve gained access to their vendors.
Please note that I have heard of other vendors who will eventually sell you smuggling gear, but I have yet to personally locate them. However, keep an eye out when you’re buying new parts for your ship. If cargo is listed as “shielded,” you should be good to go.
Starfield: Where to Sell Contraband
The easiest place to sell contraband in Starfield is any local Trade Authority building. Trade Authority vendors play it loose, so they’ll always buy your contraband goods with no questions asked.
You can find Trade Authority centers in the following areas:
The Trade Authority vendor on Neon is generally the most accessible, though that can depend on which side of the galaxy you’re on and how good your grav drive is. Thankfully, they all function the same when it comes to selling contraband.
You may also run into the occasional Trade Authority ship during your travels. If you do, you’ll be able to board the ship and sell your contraband to those on board. It’s also a great way to avoid planetary scans.