All good space pirates know that you can’t just waltz around the galaxy, showing off your loot. No, you need to be a bit more careful than that. Otherwise, you might find yourself holed up in some sort of intergalactic megaprison, or hotfooting it away from oppertunist thieves. Starfield, like much sci-fi before it, revels in tales of space piracy and bounty – but illicit goods are only handy for you if you know how to fence them. And you absolutely don’t want to get caught with them aboard your ship.
What is contraband in Starfield?
In Starfield, contraband items are illegal in the Settled Systems. This means that, every time you head to a planet within the UC, a security ship will slide up to you and perform a security scan. At this point, if contraband is detected, you will get arrested (if you don’t play ball with the security forces) or enter a gunfight/dogfight, and get a bounty put on your head. If you’re arrested, you will be transported to the nearest police station, fined, imprisoned (at a princely experience point cost!), and you’ll lose your contraband and any stolen items – marked with a red icon – that you happen to have aboard. Given that contraband can fetch upwards of 100,000 credits, you don’t want that.
When caught with contraband, you’ll be given three options:
- Choose to pay the fine
- Agree to go quietly
- Refuse to be taken alive
If you agree to pay the fine, you’ll be transported to the city jail. You’ll lose the amount listed of credits listed in a dialogue option, all your Contraband, and all stolen items in ship/personal inventory.
If you agree to ‘go quietly’, you will lost experience equal to the fee, and in-game time will pass whilst you’re in jail. Some companions will judge you harshly for this.
The third option speaks for itself, and even high-level players will have a hard time fending off the police ships that’ll be sent after you. You will accrue a huge bounty on your head (I did this once, and it was upwards of 35,000 credits) and no one will like you. Don’t do this, it’s not worth it.
Where to find contraband in Starfield
Contraband comes in many forms; it can be stolen jewelery, expensive items pilfered from private collections, or simply just… black market goods. You will typically find it in Spacer hideouts, or aboard the ships of pirates and mercs. If you’re boarding enemy ships, head to the cockpit: very often, contraband can be found stuffed into nooks and crannies around the cockpit, or deep in the recesses of the cargo hold (to find this, look for a blue panel near the cockpit seat).
How to smuggle contraband in Starfield
Once you’ve collected some contraband, you’ll need to either get it planetside to sell it, or find a flying Trade Authority ship, dock with it, and sell it on there. From our research so far, it seems there’s no hard and fast rule to locating a Trade Authority ship, so chances are you’re going to need to get to a planet in order to sell your black market merchandise.
There are two ways to do this: you will either need a Shielded Cargo Hold, or a Scan Jammer. The Mantis ship comes with 120kgs worth of Shielded Cargo space, and you can get that pretty early. The Red Mile will also sell ship-building components, if you want to buy them. Detection percentage appears to be calculated based on the weight of all contraband items that you're carrying aboard your ship, compared to size of your Shielded Cargo Hold. If you’re only smuggling a few, small items, your chance of bypassing a scan sits at around 60-70% chance of success.
Alternatively, you can unlock and employ the Deception skill from the Skill Tree in order to bypass scanners – but this skill is pretty niche, and I think your points are better spent elsewhere.
Where to sell contraband in Starfield
Many vendors don’t want to touch the hot stuff. Fair enough – you’ve seen how much trouble even having it on your person can be. But one business concern is less scrupulous about handling dodgy merch, the Trade Authority. You will likely take less than the value of the item from these hagglers, but small skill upgrades in Commerce can take the edge off that a bit. Typically, these are the only people you’re going to want to sell contraband to; they’re easily accessible, and there’s no risk of repercussion in handing over your wares.
Here is where you can find various Trade Authority outposts, at least early in the game:
- Trade Authority - Neon (Volii Alpha, Volii system)
- Trade Authority - Cydonia, (Mars, Sol system)
- Trade Authority - New Atlantis, (Jemison, Alpha Centauri)
It's worth noting that you will also find small auto-vendors in the dockyards of most major settlements.
Personally, I think Neon is the best place to fence your misbegotten wares. Once you land, the area is small enough that you can easily get to the Trade Authority location. Better yet, if you do get picked up by the space feds and thrown into Neon’s jail, the police station is just around the corner from the shop. Twice now, I’ve been able to take back my contraband, bribe the officers, and simply walk my stolen goods to the fence.
That's a wrap for our guide on Starfield contraband. If you're just getting started, and need help with character creation, then check out our guides for the best Starfield traits, best armor and best weapons. If you're already well into your adventures in the Settled Systems, but find yourself stuck on a particular quest, then head to our pages on the Starfield Breaking the Bank quest, as well as our guides to the Crimson Fleet and Ryujin Industries questlines.