Can Selling Scrap Metal Supplement Your Income?

Can Selling Scrap Metal Supplement Your Income?

My husband and I both come from rural backgrounds and generations of “collectors.” Now that they are gone, we have inherited all their treasures and abandoned projects. While dad kept parts for vehicles, project bikes, and lawn care equipment, my husband has nearly four generations of leftover farm equipment that needs to be hauled away. After seeing how much other people make from selling scrap metal, we are hoping our heaping pile of junk can supplement our income this year.

What Do You Need to Know When Selling Scrap Metal?

The first thing any scrapper needs to do is familiarize themselves with the materials they are selling. Different materials sell for different prices, and sorting them down can earn you a ton of extra cash.

Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

Separating your ferrous and non-ferrous metals can ensure that you get the best value when you’re selling scrap metal. You are more likely to encounter ferrous (magnetic) materials. However, they are less valuable since they are commonly used in furniture, appliances, vehicles, tires, packaging, and construction materials. Ferrous materials are easily identifiable with a magnet.

Non-ferrous materials have a higher value. Recycling these metals doesn’t change their chemical composition, and allows them to be reused again and again.  The most valuable non-ferrous metals include precious metals, alloys, copper, aluminum, zinc, tin, and lead. Although these metals only comprise about 10% of all scrap metal, they account for more than 50% of all industry revenue.

The Value of Scrap Metal

Precious Metals

When it comes to scrap, precious metals will fetch the highest prices. As of today, gold is selling for $1,812.00 an ounce, platinum is at $1,032.00/oz, and silver is going for $19.35/oz. However, these metals are hard to come by, as their name suggests. You will typically encounter precious metals in jewelry, antiques, silverware, medals, vases, and outdated electronics. While some local dealers and jewelers may buy these items from you, the scrap yard typically offers a better rate when selling scrap metal.


Copper is the most valuable among the more common metals. It can bring you anywhere from $3-$4 a pound, depending on what it is. Scrappers will usually come across copper wiring and tubing in electrical and plumbing components. But, it is also used for computers, electronics, and other household appliances. You may even run into pieces of flashing that have been used as roofing accents. No matter where you find it, you’ll want to make sure you separate it to get the most from your haul.


While brass is a copper alloy, it sells for less per pound. On average, brass sells for around $1.80 a pound. When looking for brass, check HVAC units, furniture, doorknobs, light fixtures, and other household items. You can also find it in jewelry, instruments, and shell casings.


At some point in your elementary school experience, you probably collected cans or pop tabs to earn cash. So, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that aluminum is valuable. Depending on the source, it sells from $0.15 – $0.55 a pound. While can won’t earn you much cash, aluminum engine parts, appliances, cookware, windows, fences, and railings will.


We rely on steel for large-scale construction, but it isn’t worth as much as other metals at the scrap yard. Since it is used in everything from beams and pipes to cars and computers, it isn’t a rare find. However, you can still get a good price from a large load of steel. Depending on the quality, you can get up to $0.50 a pound. But, make sure you use a magnet to separate it from your other metals. Otherwise, they will get lumped together and sold with your steel.

Who Buys Scrap Metal?

Scrap Yards

Your best bet when selling scrap metal is the local salvage yard. They usually offer the best rates and buy scrap metal in bulk. For those who live near large cities where there are several scrap yards, it’s a good idea to check current prices before you go. That way, you can compare prices and ensure you get the best rate for your haul.

Local Scrappers

Another option is to post your scrap online to sell to fellow scrappers. Not only does this save you the time and the trouble of moving it yourself, but you may still be able to get some money for it. You can try posting it online on sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace where other people look for cheap sources of metal. Although you won’t get the full value, you may still get a decent return without the hassle.

5 Tips for First-Time Scrappers

While I know many people who have made extra income selling scrap, it’s tough to turn it into a full-time job. However, there are a few things every first-time scrapper should know before you start.

  • Watch scrap prices. Timing is a factor since market prices fluctuate daily. Tracking current scrap metal prices can also ensure you optimize your profits if you sell on a day when the numbers are up.
  • Find a free or cheap source. Finding free sources of materials increases your profit margin. Look online or ask around to see if anyone you know needs scrap metal hauled away. Paying for scrap can increase your tonnage, but it will also eat away at your profits.
  • Know the local laws. Make sure you know the local laws so you keep yourself out of trouble. Many scrap yards require ID and some require fingerprints as well. However, some cities and states also require a business license if you plan to sell scrap.
  • Be resourceful. If you want to be successful, you’ll have to think outside the box. Post your services online, put up advertisements around the neighborhood, and spread the word to family and friends to bring in more business.
  • Stay safe. Working with scrap metal can be dangerous. So, be sure to way proper eyewear, gloves, and safety gear to prevent serious injuries.

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