- For an overview of non-playable starships within Star Trek Online, see the Non-playable starship article
Playable Starships in Star Trek Online are as much a part of your avatar as your Captain. They are highly customizable, both cosmetically and functionally. Visiting shipyards will allow players to change all aspects of their ships. Each ship tier includes multiple classes of ships. Players can choose different parts (saucer, hull, nacelles etc.) of each class making a custom model, or stick with a set design. Along with the model the player can also adjust the color, windows, decals, registry number and prefix, this gives the player a custom feel to his/her ship.
Players are awarded ships by Starfleet, the Klingon Defense Force or the Romulan Republic as they progress in rank. They can use skill points to boost the effectiveness of these ships. At each new rank above Lieutenant, players are given one free starship per rank ending at Rear Admiral, Lower Half (Tier 4). Any other ships (e.g., Tier 5) at that rank must be purchased using Dilithium or Zen.
Standard ships (Tiers 1 to 5) are mostly available at shipyards where they can be purchased for Dilithium or at no cost with a Rank-Up Ship Token (only up to Tier 5 Rear Admiral). Rank-Up Tokens are given at levels 10, 20, 30 and 40. Some unique (and thus not "refit") tier 1 to 4 ships, e.g., the Oberth Class Light Science Vessel or the NX Class Light Escort, may also be purchased at the C-Store for Zen . One unique exception is the Blockade Runner Escort (Steamrunner Class), which cannot be purchased in-game or at the C-Store but only via buying the Steam Starter Pack.
Refit ships (Tiers 1 to 4) are available at shipyards or directly at the C-Store (button below the overview map) where they can be purchased for Zen . These ships have superior stats to their standard variants, and typically unlock a special costume option and a special universal console or weapon. They are the same tier as their standard variant.
Retrofit ships (Tier 5) are high-end vessels, some of which have to be purchased at the C-Store for up to 2,500 Zen and others at a shipyard for 200,000 fleet credits . The ships available at the C-Store do also come with a special universal console.
 Mirror version
Of some ships, a slightly different tier 5 version of the Mirror Universe can be obtained with a chance of ~2% from Lockboxes (or the Exchange as they are tradeable). These ships offer the same basic values (hull, turn rate, etc.) as their counteparts from the Prime Universe but have different Bridge Officer and console setups and always come with a Mirror Universe-skin costume option.
 Fleet ship
Fleet ships (Tier 5) are purchased at a shipyard for 20,000 fleet credits and 4 fleet ship modules . In contrast to Retrofits, fleet ships do not come with a special console but typically have +10% Hull HP, +10% Shields and a 10th console slot. If a player has already unlocked the C-Store Retrofit version of a ship, then the associated fleet ship version will only cost 20,000 and 1 (one) .
Each faction has unique types of ship that favor different styles of gameplay. Generally, there is one type of ship for each type of career, but a player character can captain any type of vessel, regardless of their career choice.
In nearly all MMO games, players are generally seperated into broad categories depending on their type of character or class. These are primarily the tank, healer and damage dealer, and help define the equipment, statistics, and tactics that a player should use. These roles are described below in more detail.
A tank is a player that is set up to be able to take heavy or sustained damage from an enemy. In Star Trek Online, starships that fall into tanking categories would be Cruisers and Carriers due to their increased hull size,overall power, and bias toward engineering capability.
A healer is a player that is capable of repairing damage done to other players. In the game there are no specific healing ships as each player can repair their own hull and shields through numerous abilties. Each ship is also capable of repairing another players shields through abilities such as Transfer Shield Strength or Extend Shields. Due to their relative strengths, Science Vessels are more suited to shield healing and Cruisers to hull healing.
 Damage dealer
The damage dealer is a player who is focused on maximizing damage per second, or DPS. The starships best suited to this role are those that are maneuverable and able to equip Dual Cannons, such as Escorts, Birds-of-Prey, and Raptors. Other vessels like Science Vessels and Cruisers however can still be very formidable opponents in the right hands and their damage dealing capabilities require less adaptation to acquire, however if correctly used science and cruiser ships do not lag far behind in this area.
 Other roles
The Science Captain, teamed with a Science Vessel and possessing a correct build, can be set up for exotic attacks, involving shutting down enemy ship systems, disabling or holding enemy ships, and dealing damage through a different means than the Damage Dealer.
Similar to Bridge Officer stations, different ships have varying room for special modifications that can be added to the ship to increase its effectiveness. Similar to slotted gems in other games, mods provide small passive bonuses that affect game play and can be interchanged at will.
The differentiation isn't just between the Escort/Cruiser/Science categories; each individual configuration offers disparate settings for players to choose between.
- Fore Weapons - These weapons fire from the front, usually within a certain arc width. For example, 45°-arc fore weapons fire in a 45-degree cone area in front of your ship. All Ship Weapons other than mines can be placed here. Turrets were originally excluded, but are now allowed to be placed in the fore weapons slots.
- Hangar Bay - Carrier Pets go here.
- Deflector - Ship Deflector Dishes can be inserted here.
- Shields - Ship Shields go here.
- Warp Core - a Warp Core (on Federation or Klingon Ships) or Singularity Core (on Warbirds) goes here.
- Impulse - Any one of a number of Impulse Engines can go here.
- Aft Weapons - These weapons fire from the aft, or rear, of your starship. Any weapon other than cannons and dual beam banks can be placed here.
- Devices - Any Ship Devices can be inserted here. To use them, drag them to your shortcut bar while in space.
- Engineering Consoles - Engineering Consoles go here.
- Science Consoles - Science Consoles go here.
- Tactical Consoles - Tactical Consoles go here.
 Power and subsystems
- Hull: This is the overall health of your starship, and refers to the actual body of the ship itself. Once the shields have been drained from a certain area, any damage to that area results in damage to the hull. Most shields have a "Bleedthrough" percentage, which is the amount of damage from any enemy's weapons that cause damage to the hull instead of the shields.
- Fore/Rear/Right/Left Shields: These are the first line of defense for your starship. Shields are energy barriers placed around your ship to repel enemy fire and take the brunt of the damage initially. Once your shields are down around a certain area, any damage there will directly affect the Hull. Shields also have a "Bleedthrough" rating; if the Bleedthrough rate is 10%, then 100 Phaser Damage to your shields will result in 10 Phaser Damage directly to your Hull.
- Crit Chance: This is the chance that each shot you take has of critically damaging the target. The modifier for Crit Chance is [CrtH].
- Crit Severity: This is the amount of damage that a Crit shot does. If the Crit Chance is 5% and Crit Severity is 75%, then you have a 5% chance, with each shot, of doing 175% total damage to the enemy vessel. The modifier for Crit Severity is [CrtD].
- Crew Complement: This is the maximum number of crewmembers (non-Bridge Officers) that can serve aboard your vessel. Your Crew count affects hull and subsystem repair rate, as well as the effectiveness of boarding parties, the engineering team and crew-based skills your captain may have. Certain types of damage will temporarily injure Crew. Your current Crew count is indicated by a row of white figures below your Shields/Hull UI (injured crew are yellow-orange, disabled crew are grey).
- Crew Recovery Rate: This is the number of Crew that will recover per second.
- Alive Crew: This is the number of Crew members that are currently alive.
- Inertia: This is a number that determines how sluggish your ship is to respond, for example, while turning. The lower your Inertia rating, the slower your ship is while turning. Cruisers, for example, have low Inertia ratings, which make for low turn rates, and low maneuverability. Escorts on the other hand, have high Inertia ratings, making for high turn rates and maneuverability. Science Vessels typically fall somewhere in the middle.
- Resist: Your starship has a number of resistance types, which indicates how resistant it is to certain types of damage (e.g. Physical, Kinetic, Phaser, Tetryon).
Players are able to heavily edit their ships in all areas. Each time a player acquires a new ship they are allowed to edit aspects of the ship once for free. Each subsequent change will cost Energy Credits, depending on the change made.
To make changes to their ship, players must visit a shipyard. There are multiple shipyards in-game and they are found at all the major hubs such as Qo'noS for the Klingon Empire and the Earth Spacedock for the Federation. The items that can be edited on a ship are:
- Secondary Array (Science Tier 5 only)
- Mission Pod (Science Tier 5 only)
- Decal color
- Plating color
- Ship name
- Registry number
- Registry prefix
- Registry suffix
- Bridge design and layout
 Purchasing Starships
Characters are assigned a tier 1 ship to command shortly after completing the tutorial mission. At each promotion they receive one free ship up to the rank of Rear Admiral. A player can also use Dilithium to purchase additional ships beyond the first free one or Zen to purchase ships with special consoles from the C-Store.
At levels 20,30 and 40 players receive a token for a free ship of that tier that would normally cost dilithium.
At level 50, Vice Admiral/Lieutenant General, players can purchase a special tier 5 ship or a fleet ship (effectively tiers 6 & 7) ship with either Zen or Fleet Credits. Active subscribers who have received the 600 day Veteran Reward, including all lifetime subscribers, receive a 'VA Token' that allows them to purchase a single RA/BG or VA/LG ship for free.
Federation starships purchasable with the VA Token
- Rear Admiral ships
- Advanced Escort
- Assault Cruiser
- Deep Space Science Vessel
- Patrol Escort
- Reconnaissance Science Vessel
- Star Cruiser
- Vice Admiral ships
- Exploration Cruiser Retrofit
- Long Range Science Vessel Retrofit
- Tactical Escort Retrofit
Klingon Empire starships purchasable with the VA Token
- Brigadier ships
- Marauder Flight-Deck Cruiser
- Varanus Support Vessel
- Lieutenant General ships
- B'rel Bird-of-Prey Retrofit
- Kar'fi Battle Carrier
A single character can have a maximum of 50 ships. Purchasing more requires dismissing a ship to free up a ship slot.