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GTA V Online Guide: How to Play, Easy Money Tips, Build Rep Fast

Want to try GTA Online, but aren't quite sure what you should be doing? Here's a wealth of information and tips on how to get started, how to earn good money - and how to avoid getting killed by idiots!

Updated Oct 7th with Violent Duct mission tips (a really fast, easy way to earn cash and rep). Look for more additions as we continue to play the game. Feedback is welcome, and feel free to use the annotations to add your own tips if you wish. Several good ones have already been posted - many thanks to those who've provided additional info.

What is Grand Theft Auto Online?

While GTA Online is a massively multiplayer online game, you actually only play with 15 other people at any given time. It features pretty much the same open world as the single-player version, and you’re free to roam wherever you want. However, specific missions and activities are instanced – ie, you get put into an area where only you and whichever other players you’ve grouped up with directly can see each other.

While you’re wandering around the open world, you’re fair game for other players, so stay on your toes. If you want to play Online solo, load the story mode, and simply select GTA Online from the menu as “invite only.” Playing solo does limit your character’s development somewhat; the best way to play is to hook up with other players as soon as possible and spawn whatever instanced activity you’re interested in. That way you can keep out of the way of griefers, and simply concentrate on completing missions and having fun.

There are measures in place to discourage players from constantly killing other players, but the reality is, if someone wants to be an ass, they will. So when you’re in free roam, watch out for stuff like getting sniped the moment you exit a hospital after being killed. Cars can also be booby-trapped, so treat tempting-looking vehicles with caution and look closely at how they’re parked. If it doesn’t feel right, move on.

To get the most out of GTA V, you need friends to work with. Take the initiative and invite people to join you. Most of the time, people are happier to work together than waste money and time fighting each other.

What to do when you arrive in GTA Online

Watch for white dots

They’re the other players you’re sharing your server with. If you see one approaching you at speed, get ready. They might just be fleeing for cops, or simply passing through on their way to a job. But they might also be a griefer out for blood, so find cover, pull out your gun and stay frosty until you know what’s up. One thing to remember: most stores and businesses are PvP-free zones, where players can do little else than insult you. So seek refuge if you need to, and sit it out until the person moves on.

Find some friends. Or frenemies. Either will do

The best way to play GTA Online is to invite people to join you as a group – or simply wait for someone to initiate a group invite. If the people you’re playing with are a bit crap, you might want to go off and do some of the solo activities outlined below. But if it turns out they’re quite handy, you can keep on playing with them by using the post-job voting menu to replay the prior job (highly recommended if it’s easy and/or lucrative), or start a new one.

Group activities generate 20% more rep than solo runs. Also, it’s always worth playing a mission again to get a perfect score, as it’s always easier the second time around, and if you do get it all right, the Rep bonus is sweet.

Remember that if you are an aggressive player and kill a lot of other players, you’ll become a bounty target and will likely be hunted down for money. Also, if you’re a dick and yell at people, you’ll very likely get negatively ranked. Although it’s early days, it seems that Bad Sports are thrown into servers with like-minded players – which might be fun if you like that sort of thing, but should be avoided if you don’t want to fend for yourself against 15 other people who just love being jerks.

Don't grab the first car you see (unless it's a nice one). Find one that you can live with, as the first car you get is the one you're stuck with until you buy another.

What next?

First objective: Steal a nice car

When you arrive in Los Santos for the first time, don't steal the first car you see. Look around for one that you like - because the first car you steal is the one you have to use until you can buy a new one. Unlike the single-player game, you won’t be able to find premium cars initially, so look for something that’s decent enough to live with, and won’t piss you off over the long run.

When you earn a bit more cash, you can take a car you want to keep to a Los Santos Customs shop, go to Loss/Theft Prevention and buy a Tracker for it. It’s $2,000, but it makes the car yours - and lets you easily recover it should it go "missing". Get insurance too. It’s expensive, but it’s also worth it in the long run for reasons that’ll become clear. Like some twit stealing your ride and parking it at the bottom of a reservoir.

Second objective: Get a good gun

The Online version of Los Santos is a wretched hive of scum and villainy, and is not the sort of place you want to walk about armed with nothing but a semi-automatic pistol. So unless you’re Martin Riggs (look it up, kids), your immediate objective should be getting your hands on a decent gun so that you can at least protect yourself, or engage in some offensive combat should the opportunity arise.

Assuming you have enough money, the “best” gun to buy is the one you’re most comfortable and effective with. So that should make it a simple choice: buy whatever gun you use the most in the single-player game.

Third objective: Buy a garage

While pricey, this is the next thing you need to get. It’s where you can store your cars, and you really do need to do that.

Don't forget to sign up for Rockstar's Social Club. If you do, once you get a garage, visit the Legendary Motorsports website on your phone and buy a free Elegy RH8. This thing is an awesome base car for Street Racing.

What you should be doing

Building up your Rep

You can build up your reputation a variety of ways. If you’re a confident driver, you can annoy the cops and then evade them to slowly and steadily build up reputation. Just make sure you don’t hit more than three stars unless you’re really confident, as you’ll end up wasting a lot of time trying to beat the heat.

Doing jobs and generally helping fellow players makes you a “Good Sport” and will inevitably earn you Rep and bonus cash. So, ironic though it may sound considering you’re playing one of the most violent games around, resist the temptation to run around like an idiot, shooting everyone you see. And be pleasant to people, even if they’re not. Some players are quick to nerd rage, and if they do, just quit out of the group and avoid getting sucked into their nonsense.

Low risk money: Stealing cars

If you just want to do things solo, the safest initial way to make money is to steal cars. Cruise the streets looking for common everyday cars, which are worth good money. Once you’ve jacked your ride, head to the nearest Los Santos Customs shop. Don’t drive like an idiot: the more minty fresh the car is when you get there, the more it’s worth. Cars sell for between $3-$8k, which on a long-term average works out about $4.5k per delivery. A nice, steady income, particularly if you enjoy driving and don’t consider it a grind.

Big tip: don’t go stealing high-end sports cars, as those aren’t in demand. SUVs and Coupes are usually very good money. Sedans and econoboxes are generally worth less.

Also remember that you can only sell one car per in-game day, so that means one every 45 minutes or so. Keep an eye on the clock, and you can keep the green coming in, particularly if you combine it with another low-risk activity.

Another way of generating cash for cars is through Simeon. Check your phone regularly for his text messages in which he’ll ask for specific cars. Deliver that vehicle to him, and you’ll earn a nice chunk of change. And again, be careful when taking the car to the drop-off point. Speed of delivery is not as important as making sure your stolen ride arrives in pristine condition.

Key cars to watch for
  • Felon GT: $9,5k
  • Gallivanteer Baller: $9k
  • Lampadati Felon: $9k
  • Ocelot F620: $8k
  • Ubermacht Oracle: $8k
If you want to rob stores, get a face mask. This will help you avoid being recognized in the future.
Higher risk money: Robbing places

Knocking off stores is another good way to make cash, though obviously much riskier than a bit of grand theft auto. First of all, before you do any kind of hold-ups, buy a facemask from the store at Vespucci Beach (they have some fun ones). This is essential to ensure you don’t get recognized if you ever return.

Once you’re suitably equipped, start hitting stores and you’ll earn decent money. Note that the bigger stores outside of Los Santos generally yield more cash than smaller stores. Yell into your mic or shoot at the store fixings to make a shopkeeper hand over the money more quickly, always keep your gun trained on him or her, and always stay alert. Some shopkeepers will shoot back given half a chance, so don’t turn your back on them for more than a second or two. Once outside, jump into your car and floor it. The cops will be hot on your tail, but you can use your usual single-player avoidance tactics to shake them off. However, there’s an even easier way to do this…

Helicopters are the best getaway vehicles. You can steal one from the airport fairly easily. There's also one on the hospital roof.

Get to da choppa!

One of the keys to easy money is to steal a helicopter and use it as a getaway vehicle. But exactly how do you get one?

Grab a car, drive to the airport and go around the perimeter until you get to the fence near the flight school. With a bit of finessing, you can either drive through the fence or jump over it by using the nearby steps. Once you’ve negotiated this barrier, run over to whichever helicopter takes your fancy, and steal it.

Now the fun can really begin. Fly to your robbery target location, and land safely nearby, well out of line of site of the entrance to the business you want to knock off, so the shopkeeper can’t get an easy shot at you while you’re climbing back inside your chopper with your ill-gotten gains. Pull off your heist, and fly off.

This is a nice way to earn steady money – between $1-$4k per robbery (more if you shoot the shopkeeper and pick up the additional cash). The helicopter enables easy getaways, so head for the hills, flying perpendicular to any main roads, and find a nice spot in a wilderness area where you can hover until you’re free and clear. Then simply turn back to Los Santos and head to the next business you’d like to relieve of their money.

As you do more and more heists, your wanted level will increase, and eventually you'll have to deal with Los Santos PD helicopters. Flying under bridges is a good way to slow them down, as is flying over water at zero feet (just be careful). Don't fly too fast, as they'll very likely respawn in front of you. What you want to do is kite them, staying ahead of them, but out of visual range. Eventually your stars will start flashing and they'll give up. Once you've mastered this tactic, you'll be nigh on uncatchable.

Don’t forget to deposit your cash!

It might feel great strutting the streets of Los Santos with a huge roll of notes in your pocket, but like everyone else in the game, if you get whacked, you drop a bunch of that cash, which can then be picked up and pocketed by the whackee.

How do you avoid this? Don’t carry tons of money: as soon as you earn it, whip out your phone, bring up a browser and use the bank’s online service to make an electronic deposit. You can still deposit your cash via an ATM if there’s one nearby, but the phone is by far your best bet.

Bounty hunting is one of the most dangerous and exciting activities in GTA Online. This is for the confident and skilled only: otherwise you might end up being the guy in the background.
Shoot the red dots

If you’re confident about your shooting and combat abilities, you can hunt wanted people. Simply cruise around and look for red dots on the map. They’re targets with a nice bounty on their heads. Watch them from a distance, and then approach them at speed. Getting the jump on someone is half the battle in GTA Online. If you can initiate combat and get a few good hits in, you’ll swing the odds of success in your favor.

Obviously, be careful. Red dots are likely heavy PvP-er’s who do a lot of killing, so they’re probably not going to be chumps. However, it's this risk and danger that makes this aspect of the game really good fun. If you really want to test your GTA Online mettle, this is probably the best way to do it. Few GTA experiences will get your heart pounding as fast as a really good PvP encounter. But also remember that it’s just a game, and don’t get sucked into trying to get revenge if someone clearly outplays you. Learn from your mistakes, regroup and practice some more, otherwise you might end up getting yourself farmed, which is never a pleasant experience.

Violent Duct: grind big cash and rep the easy way

I had this as a quick tip, but I think it deserves a bit more explanation. At level 15, you can play the Violent Duct mission, which is a pretty easy job given by Gerald that pays a healthy $9k per completion. So far, it's the best time/profit ratio I've found to grind cash. It also awards 1k rep, which is a nice additional bonus that will help you level up quickly too.

The mission involves recovering a fat bag of coke by running the gauntlet of a bunch of thugs whose hideout is under an elevated freeway. First thing, grab yourself a shotgun. Unless you're really good with another weapon, a shotgun lets you tackle the mission very aggressively by running at the hoods and blasting the crap out of them. If this sort of tactic doesn't suit your style, simply hold back and use a long-range weapon to snipe your way to the target item. An AK-47 is ideal for this. It'll take a few minutes longer doing it that way, but it doesn't matter if it helps you complete the mission more easily. What you want is a safe completion, not necessarily a superfast one.

The best approach to this mission is with a team of two (or more). One person takes the right flank, and the other takes the left. Both of you run straight in, shotgunning everyone who gets in your way. Basically, it's a flanking exercise. The enemies are behind cover: run by them and then turn once you clear their cover and a couple of blasts will get them down. This is where the shotgun comes in handy, since it's devastating with this kind of tactic. There are about 10 or so targets to take care of, and once you've run the mission a few times, you'll learn a pattern that'll become second nature.

If you're playing solo, just pick a flank and follow the same tactic, but use more caution since you'll have all the enemies on the opposite flank firing at you. Run in, blast one flank, find cover and take care of any threatening targets by either aggressively running-and-shotgunning, or switch to your favorite long gun and take them out that way.

When you've got the coke, jump on one of the nearby bikes and head back to Gerald. Don't follow the GPS - take the fairly direct route straight there through the back alleys that you can see on the map. Once you've done it a few times, you'll be able to make the journey in next to no time.

Upon completion, like the mission and press RT to restart.

Quick tips

Recover your car from afar

If you ever find yourself miles away from your car, use your phone to do a quick job. Hey presto! There’s your car. Now just cancel the job and be on your way.

When it’s time to log off

Press start, select GTA Online and select “Leave.” That’ll make a hard save of wherever you are. Just quitting out can sometimes result in a loss of recent data that hasn’t yet been autosaved.

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