Joystick or H.O.T.A.S.
I strongly recommend you invest in a good joystick with "twist rudder control" as this will make it easier to dock at space stations (all space stations rotate in order to create artificial gravity). A Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick or similar will only cost about 40$ but add a lot to the immersion compared to mouse/keyboard control.
For even better control and immersion a H.O.T.A.S. (Hands On Throttle And Stick) is highly recommended, e.g.:
E:D provide a huge universe waiting for you to explore. Your ship comes equipped with a Basic Discovery Scanner that is used to scan for unknown astronomical objects within a certain 500 LS range of your ship. It require you to fly close before you can scan a planet and you may not be able to spot all objects within the system. The Intermediate Discovery Scanner has a 1000 LS range so it is a little better but I recommend saving your money and instead upgrade to an Advanced Discovery Scanner as soon as you can afford it. The Advanced Discovery Scanner has a system-wide range so it not only save you a lot of time but you are also certain to find all objects within the system.
After you have scanned a system you can sell you scans at a space station - you have to fly a certain distance however to be able to sell the scan data. If your ship is destroyed before you can sell your scan data all your scans are lost too so be careful if you have been on a long journey into unknown territories.
Notice: If you scan an unknown system and you are the very first to deliver your scans back to a space station you will not only get credits for your scan but those planets, suns etc. will be tagged with your name! So don't take too long getting back with those precious scans or somebody else may beat you to it!
The Asp Explorer is one of the best ships for exploration as it has the longest jump range.
Certain space stations sell rare commodities that are only available at that specific station so you can earn a huge profit by selling it someplace else. The rare commodities only come in very small quantities (1-20) so you do not need a huge transporter to make money - a Cobra or Asp will do fine.
After buying the rare commodity you need to fly far, far away to increase your profit. You get a better selling price if you travel far away from the station where you bought a rare commodity.
Hint: Buying and selling rare commodities require a great deal of traveling - if you have an Advanced Discovery Scanner make sure to scan each system you visit to maximize your profit!
You can use a tool such as http://eliteraretrader.co.uk/ to plan a route where you buy and sell different kinds of rare commodities for max profit. Feel free to copy my rare trading route if you do not want to plan your own.
When buying a new ship it will come equipped with some minimum weapons, shields, jump drive etc. If you want to upgrade to best possible equipment for your ship you should expect the total cost will be more than twice the cost of the basic ship! So don't rush it if you can barely afford a new ship. It is such a shame to buy that nice new Anaconda just to see it explode a few minutes later and no credits left to pay the bill...
For information on discounts and ship reviews visit this page.
Hint: Remember to save some money in order to be able to rebuy your ship in case it is destroyed so don't use every single
On this page you can compare prices and stats for all ships: https://roguey.co.uk/elite-dangerous/ships/
Allround / Exploration Ships
In E:D there are so much you can do but not every ship is able to do everything. Some ships are very good at combat but nearly useless for exploration or trading. Other ships are great for mining or trading but very weak for combat. If you do not have the credits to buy all the ships you want you probably should settle for a good all-round ship.
The Cobra Mk.III is a nice versatile ship. It is not a great fighter nor is it great for exploration or cargo/passenger transportation, but it can be used for almost every role and it is pretty cheap.
The Asp Explorer is perhaps the best all-round ship available - it has decent weapons, shields and cargo space and the best jump range of all currently available ships. The Asp is great for exploration but also very useful as a mining ship, trading in rare commodities or any non-combat missions.
The Diamondback Explorer is much cheaper than the Asp Explorer but has almost the same jump range so you may consider this for a cheap exploration ship - it has less cargo space and less weapon and internal compartments though.
If you are all about combat the Eagle Mk II is a very cheap fighter. It is a great upgrade to your starter ship. It It is fast and agile (actually the most agile of all ships) and with enough firepower to take out even much larger/more expensive ships. The shielding is bad so you should avoid being hit too much. The Imperial Eagle is faster but less agile - it is also more expensive than the Eagle Mk II.
The Viper is a very good and affordable fighter. It is the fastest ship so it is great for intercepting pirates (you will see a lot of local police using Vipers).
The Vulture is a larger and more expensive fighter - it is not as agile as the Eagle but its weapons are much more powerful and its shields can take a serious beating.
The Federal Assault Ship and Imperial Clipper both have powerful weapons and strong shields. The Clipper is faster, more agiile and has better jump range and can carry 200% more cargo and cost only a little more than the FAS. The FAS has better weapons placement. The Clipper is a large ship and can not land at most outposts - the FAS is a medium size ship and can land everywhere.
The Fer de Lance is a very powerful combat ship - it has strong weapons and shields but is also very fast and has a decent maneuverability for its size. Its weakness is limited jump range, small fuel tanks and very limited internal compartments. It is a medium size ship and can land at outposts.
In the beginning you will mostly engage in fights with small fighters that are fast and agile. Don't waste your money on big guns - they are too slow to hit small agile fighters.
I recommend using a Laser to take out the shield and then switch to Multi-Cannons to make the kill. Multi-Cannons require very little energy and has plenty of ammunition so you don't need to worry about maintaining enough energy for your weapons but can charge your shields instead.
Hint: When you are fighting a big ship with strong shields you can target the powerplant - you don't need to take down the shield first, if you can take the powerplant down to 0% the ship will explode.
Hint: Notice that many enemies will shoot missiles at you so consider equipping your ship with a chaff launcher.
Some ship upgrades can not be bought at the space stations but require that you first unlock access to specific engineers.
I recommend you unlock Felicity Farseer as soon as possible as she is easy to unlock and give access to jump range upgrades.
Each engineer has his or her own requirements to unlock. To build the actual ship upgrade you will need a certain number of specific materials so unlocking all engineers require a lot of flying around doing mining, picking up stuff on planets with your rover etc. The stats of your upgrades are random so it may take a number of trials before you get a satisfactory upgrade so bring plenty of material!
Hint: There is a good chance that some of the rare materials needed by the engineer can be collected in the system where the engineer is located. Use your scanners to check for planets where you can get the materials either by mining an asteroid field or using your rover to collect materials on the planet.
For more information about Engineers, see this page.
An easy way to grind Federal rank - and make some credits at the same time - is to fly to Ceos or Sothis. These two systems have a lot of "Boom Data Delivery" and "Strategic Data Transfer" missions that can easily be done even in a Sidewinder, and all missions go to either Ceos or Sothis as there are no other systems with stations closeby. Stack as many missions as possible (you can log out and toggle Solo/Open/Private Group to refresh mission board). Each trip take 5-10 minutes at most and often there is a time bonus so you will make several millions of credits for each round trip.