How to smuggle and sell contraband in Starfield

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Want to learn how to smuggle contraband in Starfield? Sneaking in a stash of illegal goods past heavily guarded areas is one of the easiest ways to earn credits fast in Bethesda’s sprawling interplanetary RPG – provided you don’t get caught, that is. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t exactly teach you how to do this effectively, so you may have already ended up getting stopped and searched by local authorities more than once.

Of course, you can always fight your way through by making use of the myriad Starfield powers. But if you don’t want officers hounding you at every stop and turn, then we’ve covered all you need to know on how to peacefully smuggle contraband here. Make sure to check out some of our Starfield tips and tricks to get some great advice for your travels, too.

How do you smuggle contraband in Starfield?

You can smuggle contraband in Starfield by unlocking the Deception skill or by having a Shielded Cargo Hold on your ship. You can also purchase a scan jammer to lower the likelihood of Settled Systems authorities successfully scanning your ship for contraband.

Scans will occur when visiting planets with major settlements on them within United Colonies or Freestar Collective airspace. If you’re visiting the likes of New Atlantis on Jemison, Cydonia on Mars, Akila City on Akila, or smuggling aurora into Neon on Volii Alpha, you’ll face the prospect of a contraband scan before you can land. If you’re caught smuggling illegal contraband, you’ll be arrested, have your cargo confiscated, and have to either pay a fine or serve some jail time.

Just to clarify, contraband and stolen items are not the same. Scanners will detect contraband on your ship when you go to land somewhere, but stolen items will not be detected. However, if you are caught committing a crime – including being caught with contraband – you will have contraband AND all stolen goods confiscated.

To recap, here are all the ways you can smuggle contraband onto a planet in Starfield.

  • Purchase or modify ship with a Shielded Cargo Hold by purchasing it from Lon Anderssen at the Red Mile.
  • Unlock and level up your Deception social skill.
  • Purchase a scan jammer and equip your ship with it.

You’ll be able to find the Deception skill through the second tier of the Social skills tab. Each rank gives you a greater chance of evading scanners, with Rank 4 providing a massive 50% extra chance. Conversely, you can buy ship upgrades like a Shielded Cargo Hold by heading to the Red Mile on Porrima III. Once there, you’ll need to talk to Lon Anderssen to purchase either the 100CM or 200CM Ballast Shielded Cargo Hold, which, aside from a greater cargo capacity, increase your chance to avoid scans. These can also be bought from Jasmine Durand, the Ship Services Technician aboard The Key.

Alternatively, you can buy a ship with a Shielded Cargo Hold if you have the credits, or complete the Mantis side quest, which boasts such a ship – the Razorleaf – among its quest rewards.

If neither of the previous methods strike your fancy, you can also get a scan jammer instead. This useful tool reduces the possibility of a scan flagging your ship for contraband. It is worth noting, though, that this is not a foolproof alternative. It only decreases the chances of authorities being alerted and doesn’t eliminate it entirely. With this in mind, we recommend smuggling contraband with the Shielded Cargo Hold as you’ll be free to roam the Settled Systems without having to worry about getting caught.

Before you go off upgrading your Deception skill and loading up on shielded cargo holds, be aware that there are several locations to sell your contraband that do not require a scan to enter. The Den space station in the Wolf system and the Crimson Fleet headquarters on The Key in the Kryx system have Trade Authority vendors, and neither requires a scan to enter. Simply head here and you can get offload your inventory of contraband items. But if you’re intent on selling in places like New Atlantis and Neon, Deception, shielded cargo holds, and scan jammers are your best bet.

There is actually a good reason to get caught smuggling contraband if you’re looking to become a space pirate. Being caught by UC guards committing a major crime is the easiest way to begin the Deep Cover Mission quest which gives you the chance to join the Crimson Fleet faction.

Where do you sell contraband in Starfield?

You can sell contraband in Starfield to Trade Authority merchants found throughout the Settled Systems. These vendors are willing to purchase any and all goods from you no matter if they’re legal or illegal, so you’ll be able to pawn your unethically sourced items with them. However, each salesperson will only have a certain amount of credits on their person at all times. This means that you will need to head to another shop or kiosk as soon as you’ve depleted one’s credit store.

The best, and often easiest place, to sell any contraband is at a trade authority kiosk. These can be found near the landing pad of most major spaceports, and you can simply offload your contraband there as soon as you land your ship.

What types of contraband are there?

There are currently eight different contraband items that can be found and sold in Starfield. These are:

  • Aurora
  • Black Market Antiquities
  • Harvested Organs
  • Mech Components
  • Sentient AI Adapters
  • Stolen Artwork
  • Va’ruun Heretic Writings
  • Xenowarfare Tech

That’s all you need to know for now on how to smuggle contraband in Starfield. If you’re after some better gear, check out the Starfield best armor and best Starfield weapons. And if it’s a better ship you’re after, take a look at the Starfield best ships and Starfield best reactors, as well as Starfield starship weapons and Starfield ship manufacturers. If you want to learn more, check out our guides on Starfield where to sell shipshow to assign weapon groups in Starfield, Starfield how to get adhesive, Starfield Red Mile location, Starfield Surgical Strike, and our Starfield money glitch page as well. And if you want to know more about when DLC is coming, our Starfield Shattered Space guide will help you out.

About the Author

Nico Vergara

Nico Vergara is a Trends Writer for When not writing about or playing RPGs, he spends time playing basketball, watching the latest movies, and brooding about his favorite sports teams.


  • Release Date: 06 September 2023
    • - 06 September 2023 (PC, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S)
  • Platform(s): PC, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series S/X, Xbox Series X
  • Genre(s): Adventure, RPG, Science Fiction, Space