GTA 5 – Special Cargo Vs. Vehicle Cargo (The Good & Bad)

I’m a die-hard grinder and my favorite activity is hauling special cargo. For the simple reason that it’s the most profitable free-roam activity in the game, in the longer run that is. But… if you really want to get to know something you should also look at the bad stuff, otherwise you’re just a fanboy. So… let’s dive right in!


What can I say: I just love special cargo and I think it’s the best earning activity in the game, especially if you take time & effort (and the payout) into consideration. However, many players consider Import / Export (= car sales) a better way to earn cash, also for newbies.

Well… I do agree that there is an overlap but import/export is seriously not a good way for newbies to get started, at least not for those who want some quick cash. Why? Well….

Here’s a mini-guide. I didn’t put any effort into nice screenshots, you’ll just have to read some text.

Pro’s & Con’s

So here’s the thing… if you really want to know more about something you shouldn’t focus on the good stuff only. That’s boring: it’s the stuff you’d like to read or learn about anyway. Instead also take some time to learn about the bad parts as well. Even if you don’t think something can be bad you should always try and look for other opinions on the matter, even those you may not agree with.

Why? Well… because by doing so you just might learn something new.

So… here are my 5 pro’s and con’s regarding special cargo in comparison to import/export, hope you’ll enjoy.


Cheaper Startup

This is a double issue…. First the most obvious: a vehicle warehouse will cost you over one million GTA$ whereas a small warehouse can be bought for only a few hundred GTA$. So it’ll be a much smaller investment and as such also easier to get started with.

But there’s more… See, the second issue here is that you can start selling special cargo as soon as you have crates in your warehouse. Sure… it’ll be more profitable to get the most crates as you can (I’ll address this in the next items) but there’s no negative impact from selling right away.

Vehicle cargo on the other hand… sure you can sell a low or medium ranged car as soon as you grabbed it but it’ll be a bad strategy. For the simple reason that you can force the game to only get you top ranged cars (these get you the most profit) if you filled up your garage with low & medium ranged cars. …which will take time & effort.

Static costs & profits

Simple really… with special cargo you get what you pay for. One crate for 2k, 2 crates for 6k (= 3k per crate) and 3 crates for 18k (= 9k per crate) and the eventual sale price will depend on the total amount of crates you’re going to sell. More crates = more value per single crate.

With vehicle cargo on the other hand… Although there are no costs for stealing a car you do risk dropping the overal value (and thus your profit) if you get into car crashes. And unfortunately these can easily happen considering the bizarre way in which the NPC’s manage their cars. During both sourcing and selling….

Also: while you can easily do larger special cargo sales solo or get offered some bonuses * you can’t do the same for import/export. No import/export bonuses if you’re a solo player.

* With special cargo you can sometimes get a special crate.. You buy it for a higher price (for example 30k) but the buy mission is the easiest possible and the profit margin is usually between 90k – 140k.

Full control over sale amounts

If you’re a solo player and you noticed that your warehouse got filled up a bit too much then there’s no need to worry right away: the game allows you to sell smaller amounts (there are 3 choices in total) which also means less chance of multiple vehicles.

Although you can do somewhat of the same with import/export (there are 3 options to sell your car) this option is actually meaningless because…. it only eats severely into your profit while you’ll still face the same risks of damaging your car. Worse yet: in populated lobbies these options are meaningless because at best they’ll avoid NPC encounters, which won’t happen when there’s another player in your session anyway.

See: with special cargo there’s a direct use for the sale options: less cars means that you could enforce a single delivery vehicle, which means a calculated risk when selling in a populated lobby.

Less risks with NPC’s

Simple issue here… If you get killed by NPC’s while you’re buying or selling special cargo then that’s all there is to it: you got killed, you’ll respawn and get a new chance of defeating the enemies. With import/export on the other hand the NPC enemies will first target your car, and then you.

Meaning? If you get attacked you’ll be sure to see it cut heavily into your profits.

Heck… if you use a homing launcher on your enemies with special cargo then there’s little chance that your vehicle will explode. With import/export otoh….

More profit (in the longer run)

So I have my large warehouse nearly halfway full… The current price of my crates is 512k, I then buy 3 crates for 18k total and after doing the mission (which only takes me approximately 5 – 6 minutes) my crate value goes up to 570k. Meaning? Well…. 570 – 512 = 58k value increase. Then we deduct my 18k sale price and we have a solid profit of 40k

I earned 40k in 5 minutes. And if you have 2 warehouses you can continue purchasing crates to avoid the cooldown.

With 2 large warehouses I can easily make a potential 80k within 10 minutes, but this is assuming that the warehouse is already pretty full.

Import/export on the other hand bags you 80k when you sell a top range car (at highest difficulty) but after that you’ll get a 20min cooldown. Sure, you can use that time to source a new car and depending on the mission it is possible that it’ll last for the duration of said cooldown.

Special cargo on the other hand only got started. Like I said: the above situation happened while I had my warehouse nearly halfway full. And the more crates I have, the more overall value I’ll get. So what is 40k in 10 minutes for me now can easily raise towards 52k and probably even more.

Thing is: special cargo is more profitable, but only in the longer run.

Which brings us to the next section…..


As much as I enjoy doing special cargo I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not the ‘holy grail of grinding’, and here’s why:

Repetitive missions

Although the locations of the missions may vary the mission types aren’t all that extensive… Grab the car & go to the warehouse (optionally getting attacked by NPC’s), find the car looted and either shoot the running thieves, the helicopters carrying your crates, taking on Merryweather or you’ll have to find your crates yourself. Either way: you’re going to have to haul the crates in one by one. And the same thing happens when the plane crashes (and the police get onto the scene) or when the boat delivering your crates got taken over. And when you’re just in time to signal the incoming plane yourself. The end result is still always the same: having to haul all crates, one at a time, to your warehouse.

Oh… and then there’s the issue of your delivery vehicle getting stolen. Either by crooks or the police, you’re going to have to stop them and take it back. Sometimes the crooks also send you on a wild goose chase by making you find the vehicle by going over multiple signals.

This may sound like a nice varied mix to you but trust me… if you have 42 crates (= medium sized warehouse) or 111 crates (= large warehouse) to collect then you’ll be recognizing these individual missions soon enough. And it will get boring over time.

(I know I didn’t mention the police trap or the crooked trap….).

You’ll need more than a car for best efficiency

So this game is called Grand Theft Auto but… if you only use a car then prepare to get frustrated as soon as you see a helicopter fly away with your goods. Sure, you can look at their heading, try to get in front of them and then fire an RPG or homing launcher but still… how long is that going to take you?

Bottom line: for the best results you’ll need more than just a car.

Ironically enough this does not apply to import/export. Yes, there is a mission where you’ll need a cargobob but you can reach that using a regular car (and some stair climbing).

Multiple delivery vehicles

If you’re doing import/export solo then it’s simple: one car, one drive, one mission. If you have a large cargo warehouse and want to make the most profit you’ll have to cope with multiple deliver vehicles. Such fun having them parked all out in the open, ready to be blown up by the newest newbie, while you’re out on a delivery; way too far out to protect your investment.


Disclaimer: I never seen this happen myself, but there are so many examples that I do think it’s worth taking into consideration. Cargo warehouses can get raided while vehicle warehouse can’t.

Prone to bugs!

Last but not least… some special cargo delivery missions are bugged. It’s well known that the Titan mission can end up with one delivery that just refuses to drop. I’ve experienced the same thing with the Brickade missions: one brickade refused to make a specific drop while the other 2 had no issues.

Import/export on the other hand does not suffer from this.

Summing Up…

I think special cargo is the best way to grind… value goes up as you collect more crates, the value of the crates can’t decrease because of NPC’s hindering you and well… Considering the fact that you need to fill up a vehicle warehouse before you’ll only get top range cars I still think that import/export is not the best way to start grinding.

On the other hand I also think it’s fair to say that sourcing or delivering a car has never really bored me which has happened quite a few times with special cargo… You fly out and wow… “Go to the dropzone” the game tells you but your assistant never mentioned a plane. Ergo: Merryweather raid. Get ready to travel back and forth to collect all crates….

So my advice?

Do both!

Honestly, the best way to make money in GTAO is not to focus on one single activity but to combine and do multiple things. Seriously… I’m a level 390+ and I still do sightseer missions. Even though I own all properties in the game. Why? Because it pays nicely and it’s something different. And while I’m collecting packages my bunker, nightclub & MC businesses are also producing. Win-win.

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Helena Stamatina
About Helena Stamatina 3021 Articles
I love two things in life, games and sports. Although sports were my earliest interest, it was video games that got me completely addicted (in a good way). My first game was Crash Bandicoot (PS1) from the legendary studio Naughty Dog back in 1996. I turned my passion for gaming into a job back in 2019 when I transformed my geek blog (Re-actor) into the gaming website it is today.

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