Despite Grand Theft Auto Online being over eight years old, Rockstar continues to update it every few months with new cars and fresh weapons. Maybe you want to jump in for the first time via the game’s new next-gen console ports. Or perhaps you’re coming back from a break and need a refresher on the ins and outs of GTA Online. Whatever the reason, here are some pointers for getting up and running in this online crime simulator that may never die.
Update 3/17/2022: A version of this story first appeared on 3/28/17. We’ve updated it with new tips about the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S ports.
If you’re returning to the game after being away for a few years, you might be ready to transfer your old character to your next-gen console of choice. The process is easy, but be warned: It’s a one-time deal. Once your character makes the leap to PS5 or Xbox Series X/S, you can’t go back.
This wouldn’t be a problem if you got to keep your old character on the last-gen machines, but you can’t. That version of your digital criminal is deleted permanently. Also, keep in mind that you can’t play with your PS4 friends when playing the PS5 port of GTA Online. So, while the next-gen console ports look great and feature some nice quality-of-life changes, remember you’ll be leaving behind all your friends who have yet to jump forward to newer hardware.
If you do want to continue playing with them, you can at least, after the transfer, create a new character on the old consoles and continue getting up to no good together on PS4 or Xbox One. That also comes with a warning: Your friends are going to make fun of you for having no money, cars, or cool clothes. So get ready to grind to escape their insults.
When creating a new character in the new console ports of GTA Online you get a few careers to choose from. While you won’t be locked into that career longer-term, it’s still important to pick the right career path to start out with.
Here’s some helpful info about each one:
Executive: This is the career to pick if you are mostly a solo player, as many of the various CEO missions you will tackle are easy to complete without a group of criminals.
Gunrunner: If you prefer action and explosions, this is the career path for you. Most of the missions here can also be tackled solo, but with all the combat going on, having friends would be helpful. As a gunrunner, you also get access to a large underground bunker, which is like an “evil lair” that features golf carts. With this bunker, you can then begin working toward unlocking better versions of some of GTA Online’s many firearms.
Nightclub Owner: If you love music and flashy parties, then I’d suggest starting GTA Online as a nightclub owner. Of the four career paths, this one will provide the most narrative. Some of the nightclub missions feel more like GTA V missions than your usual GTA Online content. And you get a sweet nightclub to operate, customize, and hang out in.
Biker: Of the four career paths Rockstar offers, this is the one I’d suggest most players go for. Being a biker in GTA Online is a blast, with a pleasing variety of action-packed missions and some interesting mechanics focused on riding cool motorcycles in formation with your crew. If you’re more a lone wolf this might not be the best choice, but if you plan on playing with a few pals, I’d strongly suggest buying some leathers and becoming a biker.
The career builder gives you $4 million to spend on setting up your initial career and in-game business. You might be tempted to hold on to as much of that as you can, but that’s not how this works: Rockstar only lets you keep $1 million out of that starter cash when you exit the career builder and begin the game proper. So, instead of losing that money, spend it.
In fact, when the game walks you through buying a car and some weapons, I’d suggest just spending as much as you can. It’s better to start GTA Online with a fast car and some powerful weapons, rather than with some extra cash.
Long, dumb name aside, this is a great package for new players. You get a bunch of cars, weapons, clothes, and properties right out of the gate. You aren’t going to know what to do with all this stuff right away, but eventually, you’ll be glad you have it.
If this version of the game goes away or is too expensive for you, GTA V also goes on sale fairly often. It’s often bundled with Shark Cards, which means you start the game with extra cash.
The story portion of GTA V will teach you some of the basics you need to survive in GTA Online, without any assholes, trolls, or fear of constant death.
Once you’ve finished up the first tutorial missions and objectives, go rob some convenience stores and use some of your hard-earned cash to buy new clothes for your character. Personalizing your character will help you feel connected to their journey from random thug to criminal mastermind. It helps that GTA Online has some incredible threads for you to try on.
Be careful though! Currently, new clothes are far more expensive than the older stuff sitting on coathangers. GTA Online has a bit of an inflation problem these days.
While it’s possible to play GTA Online by yourself, that’s not the best experience: friends make everything better, after all. I have fond memories of pals getting run over by a car, accidentally pissing off a cop and other shenanigans that made GTA Online more fun and entertaining. Highly recommended.
Friends are also useful for completing some of the more complex missions and activities, which have higher payouts than simply robbing a convenience store.
Contact missions are like standard GTA missions, but they separate you from the other players in a free roam session. This means you can focus on the objective without worrying about some random asshole killing you with a jet. Contact missions can be a fun way to make money, as they pay out extra cash for new players.
Contact missions are offered to you randomly via the in-game phone, but you can find them in the pause menu under Jobs as well. Just host a job and select “Rockstar Created,” where you’ll be able to play any contact mission. If you can invite a higher level friend, set these missions to hard. You get more cash and reputation points (RP).
Eventually, contact missions won’t be the best way to make cash, but if you are just starting out they are a nice way to transition from singleplayer GTA to GTA Online.
Rockstar is always doing weekly events for GTA Online. Keep an eye on the Rockstar Twitter account or Rockstar’s Newswire blog to know when things are hitting. These events can vary in quality, but many of them give players ways to make extra cash and experience. Events also bring weekly discounts to GTA Online, so if you want a new supercar or house, it pays to wait.
Keep an eye out for the double RP and double $ stunt races in particular, which dole out tons of money even if you don’t win. Speaking of stunt races...
Stunt races are a great way to make some cash and level up, even if you are playing alone. Not only do these pay well, but they are also a great way to earn more racing wins. This is important if you care about unlocking all the car upgrades and mods.
If you want to win stunt races more often, try hitting some curbs with your vehicle. This is a small but useful exploit that allows players to go much faster than intended. Also, even if it feels like you are going to lose a race, don’t leave the match. Even getting 4th place in a large race pays well and will award you with RP. This will help you level up.
GTA Online has lots of special gameplay modes. There’s a mode that allows you to live out your TRON light cycle fantasies, a tense stealth mode that feels inspired by Manhunt and a mode that recreates the Terminator 2 semi-truck chasing a bike scene.
These modes are especially fun with a group of friends, and you can even make a playlist mixing various modes together. Modes introduce new vehicles, weapons and areas of the map. Sure, compared to big heists, these modes aren’t going to make you rich quickly, but they are fun.
When you first start out, it might seem like everyone is running around with fancy sportscars, but that doesn’t mean you need to buy flashy, pricey stuff that you don’t actually need. Like the real world, it pays to save!
Eventually, you will have enough money to buy a whole garage of cool cars and motorcycles. But have patience. Don’t go broke before you even have an apartment. But also...
Save your money for larger homes that allow you to start heists. Once you do have enough money for a bigger house, do some research. It might seem silly, but you should drive around any prospective property first. Questions to ask yourself: does the locale seem busy? Is it near anything useful, like an Ammu-nation or a CEO Office? Note that such amenities will likely also attract other players, which can be dangerous.
If you have a friend who owns an apartment or home, hang out with them and do some heists. This can save you money, and then you too can own your own home.
Cars are some of the biggest symbols of status and wealth in GTA Online, but you shouldn’t worry about such appearances at first. Garages might seem cheap when compared to houses, but you probably won’t use them for a good while. Wait until you’ve filled up the garage that your house or apartment comes with before purchasing a separate garage.
Whenever a new gun is released, I tend to buy it and try it out. Don’t be like me. These new guns rarely replace my favorites. Once you find an assault rifle or pistol you like, just stick with it. Eventually, you will have enough money to afford everything, but you shouldn’t sweat it early on.
There are a lot of different businesses you can play around within GTA Online once you become a CEO. But for new players or folks looking to have fun while they make some cash, I recommend buying a vehicle warehouse and stealing some cars. Stealing and selling cars is one of the most popular businesses in GTA Online, which means you can find great guides and videos about it.
The basic loop works like this: You go to your office computer as a CEO and source a vehicle. Then your assistant explains where or how to get to and steal the car your client wants. After that, you bring it back to your warehouse, where it is stored. Steal a few more and you and some friends can then sell all the cars at once, making a nice chunk of cash in the process.
What I like about this business is that every part of it is enjoyable. Stealing fast, expensive cars is cool. Storing them in a secret warehouse is cool. You and your friends driving these badass cars to sell them to a rich client is cool. The game lets the leader know how the other players are driving if they are causing extra damage to the cars (this damage is taken out of the final cut), so there is also a nice sense of tension during missions.
Maybe lady luck is on your side! Or maybe not. Only one way to find out: Go visit the casino. It’s free to enter and you can get some free chips to gamble with too. You can also spin a big wheel at the front of the casino once a day and win a prize. It could be a dumb shirt or some snacks, or it could be a brand new car or a bunch of money.
Be careful around the casino, though. This area is popular with players, and as such, it might be dangerous depending on your lobby. Once you are in the casino, you are safe, but outside, it might be a warzone. You might want to activate passive mode, which prevents other players from killing you, before heading that way.
Heists are an exciting way to make cash, but they can also be frustrating and time-consuming if you’re not careful. You should try heists with friends, if possible, and only after you learn how to survive during longer firefights. You should also wait until you’ve leveled up enough to withstand more damage and have a good selection of weapons and bulletproof vests.
If you play with random players, use a headset, but try not to be a jerk. Heists are all about coordinating with other players. Plus some of the longer car rides can be boring, so having some folks to joke around with can help ease the tension and pass the time quicker.
When I first started playing GTA Online I spent hours grinding an easy mission that awarded good money... but after 3 days, I started hated myself for it. Now I only play what I like. Sure, it means I’m not the richest person in GTA Online, but I don’t mind. Now I’m actually having fun.
While money is important in GTA Online, you can still have a blast without spending much. You can start most jobs and races for free, so don’t stress too much about grinding to make millions. As they say, the best things in life are free.
It’s useful. To use this menu, hold down the PS4 touchpad, or the Xbox One view button, or M on PC. Through the interaction menu, you can store bulletproof vests, set your GPS quickly, change your outfit, split cash among your crew, and purchase ammo (though it does cost a little more.) That’s the price of convenience.
Another useful feature in the interaction menu is passive mode. Passive mode allows anyone to become nearly immortal and avoid other players’ bullets and cars. If someone just won’t stop killing you over and over, go passive. They might send you an angry message or call you a coward, but don’t worry about it. Passive is also a great way to avoid trouble if you want to get a haircut or check out a new car you just bought. If you need a break from all the killing and destruction, passive mode is always an option.
Walls allow you to take cover and avoid enemy gunfire, which is useful. You can also take advantage of an exploit while in cover. Normally, when you are low on health, you can eat something—but this requires sitting through a 10-second animation. While in cover, you instantly regain health while eating food instead.
Some GTA Online players might hate this tip, but there’s nothing wrong with buying Shark Cards if you need them. You might be busy, or you might not be able to devote days to catching up in GTA Online. Maybe you want a cool car, a nice house, or some fancy clothes. Shark Cards speed up the process, though they’re not actually necessary to enjoy GTA Online.
GTA Online can sometimes feel like a job. If you grind too much or focus only on making lots of cash it can quickly become boring or frustrating. So make sure that you have some time dedicated to just chilling. Go mess with the unstoppable train, try to find the jetpack, explore the desert with a dirt bike, find a boat, and cruise the ocean. Listen to some music. Don’t worry about that player flying nearby in a jet; they probably won’t attack you.