As all of you probably know by now, money is kind of a big thing in GTA Online. You need a lot of it, but it's kinda hard to earn if you don't know what you are doing. Between our series of helpful guides and the power of the internet at your fingertips, it shouldn't be hard to pick a popular method that works for you.
However, for the perfectionists among you, just one of those methods isn't enough. Sometimes, when you're particularly anxious to buy an expensive item in the game and want to rack up a decent fortune in the least possible time, you want the best method, not just one of them.
Everywhere you look, you'll be told the same two things: crates and vehicle imports. For those of you who are new among us - and based on sales data there are a lot of you - crate missions were introduced as the first kind of CEO activity with the Further Adventures in Finance and Felony update back in 2016.
In order to run crates, you need a CEO office and a warehouse. That warehouse needs to be filled with stock, which then needs to be delivered. Vehicle exports function in a similar manner, requiring an office and a vehicle warehouse, with missions involving first importing (actually stealing) vehicle cargo then selling it off in an export mission.
The debate on which method works better has been raging on ever since Import/Export was released, and while there is no definitive answer yet due to the multitude of factors involved, one has a lot more people swearing by it than the other. With crates, you can factor in speed, cooldowns, the number of associates helping you, special cargo, and the payout multiplier based on how populated the session is. With vehicle imports, you have the quality of the vehicle and collection bonuses to consider, as well as the benefit of working with a team.
For the sake of simplicity, we'll assume you're playing solo in an otherwise empty public lobby. That means you won't benefit from the additional speed brought on by associates, but you also won't need to fear griefers raining on your parade.
Essentially, when working with crates, operating with a fully stocked large warehouse, you'll be earning around $GTA 220,000 each hour. These numbers have been crunched as seen in this spreadsheet put together by _Caith_Amach on Reddit. Now, this assumes you have a whole lot experience with these missions, memorized spawn locations, NPC behavior and more, meaning you can complete them in the best time possible.
Now, based on similar number crunching, seen in threads like this one, vehicle imports will see you hitting similar numbers that are marginally higher. The best estimate we've seen comes in at $GTA 225,000, a mere $GTA 5,000 more than crates. So, on their own, these methods are roughly equal in their efficiency, right? True enough, but the superiority of one over the other comes from their expandability - and in this regard, vehicle importing wins without question.
Crate missions generally take longer than vehicle exporting, meaning on average you can't fit as many additional jobs in between cooldowns per hour, and if you have two medium warehouses instead of one large one, you won't even have a cooldown to fill out with additional work.
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Vehicle importing, when coupled with either delivering collections or using the even more profitable top-range only method (which we will discuss below), will grant you great payouts while also leaving you time to do other activities, such as the two most efficient CEO missions, Headhunter and Sightseer.
The wonderful thing about coupling these methods is thanks to the way their cooldowns are set up. When you complete any CEO mission, a global timer is set on all CEO missions, with another, separate, longer one set on the one you've completed. When you play a round of Sightseer, all CEO missions go on cooldown. Complete an Import/Export mission, whichever is needed be it an import or an export, and when done with that, Sightseer will still be on cooldown, but Headhunter won't.
So, you go complete Headhunter, and then an Import/Export job, then Sightseer, then another I/E job, then Headhunter and repeat this cycle for as long as you want. Using this method, players have reported incomes of $GTA 420,000 and 430,000 per hour on several threads, with detailed run-downs of timers and profits.
This is something that's wholly achievable, but you'll need to learn the ropes. You'll need to memorize ideal techniques, spawn locations, routes and more to run both the Import/Export missions and the CEO work in the best possible times with the least possible loss in terms of repair costs on the former, but once you get the hang of these methods, the money will be pouring right in.
So what about that Top-Range Only method we mentioned before regarding importing and exporting vehicle cargo? Basically, it's a technique used to maximize profit when exporting vehicles by ensuring that you only roll these top-range rides when sourcing new rides.
Basically, this just uses the game's programming to full effect, so there's no glitch or exploit here. Basically, Import/Export draws from a library of 32 cars. So long as you don't have all 32, when you source a new car it will always be one you don't have yet. The idea is that you fill up your warehouse with precisely one of each ride, resulting in a full set of 32. Then, all you need to do is sell those which bring in the most cash, one at a time, and the next time you source a ride, you're guaranteed to get the same one again. This way, you don't need to resort to lobby-hopping to roll the best cars each time.
This is currently the single best and most efficient way to make cash in GTA Online - it is the ne plus ultra of earning in the game. One alternative is exchanging the CEO missions with managing a business from the Bikers update, however sometimes you'll need to spend more time with that than a cooldown, kicking up the routine. Sometimes you'll grab bigger profits than with the method outlined above, but at other times you'll lag behind, and overall, at the end of the line mixing CEO missions is the better alternative.
So there you have it folks, the final result. Import/Export missions and crates on their own are roughly identical when done well, but the former allows for greater expandability through the addition of CEO jobs to boost your money per hour ratio, making it the better choice overall. Not only is Import/Export a return-to-form for GTA Online, once again placing the focus on the stealing of cars, but it's the best way to make cash in the game too.
So, whether you want more cash to your name or more downtime in between cooldowns to do stuff you enjoy rather than what pays best, Import/Export is the way to go. After all, we're all playing to have fun, so if you're not particularly hurting for more $GTA, you can spend the additional downtime with whatever in-game activity it is that you get the most fun out of. Happy exporting!