How to smuggle and sell contraband in Starfield

Gamersadmin September 2, 2023

In Starfield, you may have some illegal contraband on your ship. Once you reach a patrolled area, like New Atlantis or Neon, your ship will get scanned by local authorities before you land. If you’re caught with contraband, you’ll get arrested.

Contraband items are labeled with a small yellow marker in your inventory, the same way stolen items are labeled with a red marker. Not every planet has patrolled areas, so you can take your contraband freely with you to most places. Or if you have a house on Nesoi from the Dream Home trait, you can always drop off your drugs there before heading to one of the more guarded planets. (That’s what we do!) But it’s also possible to sneak things in.

Under normal circumstances, stolen goods do not trigger the contraband scanners.

Our guide explains how to smuggle contraband goods past the scanners and then, once you’re through, where to sell contraband.

Where to sell contraband

While the thrill of doing a crime might be a reward in and of itself, the real prize for smuggling contraband in Starfield is the credits you get from selling it.

Image: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks via Polygon

Not many places will deal in smuggled goods, though. Luckily, the Trade Authority doesn’t have any hangups about that and will happily take it off your hands — and, better yet, they usually have more money on hand than most other vendors.

You’ll find a yellow Trade Authority kiosk at almost every settlement with a spaceport. Full Trade Authority storefronts are a little rarer, but you’ll find one in Cydonia on Mars in the Sol system and a big flashy one in Neon on Volii II in the Volii system.

What happens if you get caught with contraband?

The ships scanning you will stop you and ask to board. You can always deny them and fight to the death, but similarly to fighting officers after being caught stealing, it’s not really worth it.

If you let them board, however, not only will they confiscate your contraband, but they will also take any stolen loot (marked with the red emblem) from you.

A Starfield cockpit view shows where the player is prompted to pay a fine or go to jail from a Freestar Collective officer

Having one can of Aurora yielded a 753 credit fine for us.
Image: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks via Polygon

You can pay the fine and get your contraband taken from you, or you can serve jail time and lose XP. One canister of Aurora got us put in the slammer for seven days and we lost 1,000 XP for it, similar to what happens when you’re caught with a bounty.

How to smuggle contraband through patrolled areas

If you love smuggling goods, you can take the Deception skill, which is in the second tier of the social skill tree. It’ll make your ship less susceptible to contraband scans, decreasing your risk of being caught by 10% at rank one and up to 50% at rank four.

Starfield’s Deception skill appears in the social skill tree with the descriptions of different skill levels.

Image: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks via Polygon

You can also upgrade your ship to bypass scanners, but you’ll have to store your contraband in your cargo hold, not your inventory for this to work. Cargo holds like the “100CM Ballast Shielded Cargo Hold” give you 160 mass of shielded cargo space. You can also buy a scan jammer, which increases your chance of evading cargo ship scans by a set percentage.

The more contraband you have, the higher chance you’ll have of getting caught, even with the shielded cargo, so beware of trying to take too much into one of these guarded areas.

Where to buy ship upgrades for smuggling

Note that not many spaceports will sell this stuff, but we did find a guy who will: Lon Anderssen in the Red Mile on Porrima III (in the Porrima system, east of Alpha Centauri).

A big red circle highlights the Porrima system in Starfield, to the right of all the beginner areas.

Graphic: Julia Lee, Jeffrey Parkin/Polygon | Source images: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks via Polygon

With no perks, the “Scan Jammer – Single-Frequency” cost us 2,940 credits and adding a “Caravel V101 Shielded Cargo Hold” cost 2,548 credits. This price does not include the cost of upgrading engines and the like to account for the added weight. These two upgrades let us smuggle in one can of Aurora to Neon at a 65% chance to pass.


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