Old appliances, decorations, gutters, roofing, and anything else made of metal can be taken to a junkyard, broken down, and turned in for money. Even small metal scraps are worth something — the price of scrap metal recycling may surprise you. This article will cover everything you need to know about turning almost any kind of scrap metal into money.

In This Article

What Is Scrap Metal?

Scrap metal is any recyclable material leftover from product manufacturing and consumption. Scrap metal can come from sources such as vehicles, building supplies, construction projects, and consumer purchases. The great thing about scrap metal is that, unlike other types of waste, it has monetary value. Typically, scrap metal is sold to a scrapyard (also known as a junkyard, wrecking yard, or breaker’s yard), where it is then processed and melted down.

There are three main categories of scrap metal:

  • Ferrous metals (also known as scrap iron) — Contain iron, magnetic, and prone to corrosion.
    •  Any type of scrap iron needs to be free of glass, plastic, debris, and contamination in order to be sold as scrap. Scrap iron can come from household appliances, scrap leftovers from new productions, or pieces from a construction site or demolition project.
  • Non-ferrous metals — Don’t contain iron, aren’t magnetic, and more resistant to corrosion than ferrous metals.
    • Common non-ferrous scrap metals include copper, brass, aluminum, bronze, stainless steel, and carbide.
  • E-scrap — Scrap metal from electronics; contains various metals, often including precious metals like gold

When sorting through scrap metal, be sure to make note of the exact type of metal that you have. If you’re unsure, just use a magnet to determine whether the metal you have is ferrous or non-ferrous.

Scrap Metal Prices: An Overview

Different metals will have different prices attached to them. The grade of the metal, the quality, the size, and the cleanliness of the scrap can all influence how much it’s worth. In addition, prices will vary by scrap yards. Higher grade, larger, cleaner pieces of scrap will all obtain higher prices.

To help you get a feel for what kinds of prices to expect when selling your scrap, we’ve consulted three websites — InvestmentMine, Scrap Monster, and Investing.com to compile the most current (with availability ranging from December 2016 – October 2017) and historical price per pound for the most common types of scrap metal. A scrap yard won’t pay full price for a metal — expect to receive 30 – 50% of the market rate. It’s important to note that scrap metal prices fluctuate often, and the current spot price may differ from what we’ve listed here.

If you want to look up prices in more detail, Scrap Register, Metalprices, and Scrap Index provide detailed price data — but also require a paid subscription.

Ferrous Scrap Metal Prices

1. #1 Heavy Melting Steel (HMS) / #1 Prepared Steel

  • Description: #1 HMS is prepared pieces of steel smaller than 60″x24″ and over 1/4″ thick in size. To be considered #1, the HMS must not contain any galvanized or blackened steel.
  • Comes from: Construction work sites.
  • Price: Public information on HMS is somewhat limited.
    • Current (from December 2016):
      • Average: $0.11

2. #2 Heavy Melting Steel (HMS)

  • Description: #2 HMS is heavy melting steel that is larger than 60″x24″ and over 1/4″ thick in size. The larger size of #2 HMS makes it unprepared steel. #2 HMS can include blackened steel, but cannot include light iron or sheet metal.
  • Comes from: Construction sites after a demolition.
  • Price: Since #2 HMS is larger (and therefore not ready for use) and includes blackened steel, it will be valued less than #1 HMS. Public information on #2 HMS is very limited, but expect prices to be slightly lower than prices for #1 HMS.

3. Busheling (Includes Machine Shop Turnings, Steel Shavings, and Iron Borings)

  • Description: Busheling is typically new production scrap smaller than 12”. It must be bright and shiny without any coatings or rust.
  • Comes from: Scraps of steel cut sheets in machine shops and factories.
  • Price:

    • Current (from January 2017 – October 2017):
      • High: $0.19
      • Low: $0.16
      • Average: $0.17

4. Cast Iron

  • Description: Cast iron is the name given to the group of iron-carbon alloys with a carbon content greater than 2%. Cast iron is often used to form pipes, machinery, and automotive parts.
  • Comes from: Demolition sites and construction sites. Grates, sewer plates, pipes, radiators, bathtubs, and old stoves may also contain cast iron.
  • Price: :
    • Current (from January 2016 – December 2016):
      • Average: $0.09

5. Plate and Structural Steel

  • Identifying Markers:  The material should be clean, dry plate that is not over 24” wide and 36” – 60” in length (depending on the requirements of the scrap yard). Plate and structural steel that is longer than 36” – 60” will be labeled as unprepared P&S.
  • Comes from: Prepared I-Beams, channels, angles and/or plates, steel girders, and structural steel from demolition scrap.
  • Price:
    • Current (from July 2017):
      • Average: $0.13

6. Tin (also known as Light Iron)

  • Identifying Markers: Light iron is very thin gauged steel that is often used to build household appliances. Since tin is so light and priced at a per ton basis, it’s a good idea to collect a large pile before taking it to a scrap yard. Sometimes a scrap yard will give you a higher price on tin if you bring in a large quantity.
  • Comes from: Household appliances like refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, dryers, and air conditioners.
  • Price:
    • Current (from January 2016 – December 2016):
      • High: $9.95
      • Low: $6.00
      • Average: $7.67
    • Historical (from 2012 – 2016):
      • High: $11.70
      • Low: $5.84
      • Average: $8.97

Non-Ferrous Scrap Metal Prices

 The following section will provide details about the most common types of non-ferrous metals you will come across while scrapping.

1. Aluminum

  • Identifying Markers: In general, aluminum scrap should be non-magnetic, lightweight, and a light silver color. Aluminum will never be rusty, but it will tarnish with age.
  • Comes from: Machine equipment, engines, kitchenware, construction, house siding and frames, and more.
  • Price:
    • Current (from July 2017):
      • Average: $0.63
    • Historical (from 2012 – 2016):
      • High: $1.05
      • Low: $0.68
      • Average: $0.82
  • Learn more in our article: Aluminum Recycling Prices: Aluminum Scrap Price per Pound + More

2. Brass

  • Identifying Markers: The color of brass can range from red to yellow depending on the amount of zinc. It will not be as red-orange as unalloyed copper is.
  • Comes from: Plumbing fixtures, decorations, tools, and automotive parts.
  • Price: Different types of brass will fetch different prices.
    • Current (from July 2017):
      • 70/30 Brass Scrap Average: $1.35
      • 80/20 Brass Scrap Average: $1.56
      • 85/15 Brass Scrap Average: $1.73

3. Bronze

  • Identifying Markers: The color of bronze is a dull gold color. You can tell the difference between bronze and brass by the faint rings visible on the surface of bronze. There are different types of bronze, but all bronze scrap should be free of high lead contamination or steel.
  • Comes from: Sculptures, plumbing fixtures, instruments, medals, and nautical applications.
  • Price:  As a general rule, the more copper a bronze piece has, the more valuable it will be.
    • Current (from July 2017):
      • Red Brass Scrap Average: $1.49
  • Learn more in our article: Price of Bronze per Pound/Ounce + Where to Sell

4. Carbide

  • Identifying Markers: Carbide scrap is not a very common material found while scrapping. It is made from tungsten and is a very hard, dense material with a grayish color.
  • Comes from: Used in machine shops and sometimes to make tools such as drill bits.
  • Price: The price of carbide scrap fluctuates often and depends on the price of tungsten, which is a rare metal.
    • Current (From January 2016 – December 2016):
      • High: $59.24
      • Low: $47.86
      • Average: $53.47
    • Historical (From 2012 – 2016):
      • High: $121.25
      • Low: $47.86
      • Average: $83.89

5. Copper

Scrap copper will come in several different grades and forms. No matter the form, copper prices can fluctuate from day to day.

1. #1 Bare Bright Copper

  • Identifying Markers: #1 bare bright copper wire is bare, uncoated, unalloyed copper wire that is free of attachments. Additionally, all insulation should be removed from the wire. Bare bright should also be free of solder and paint. The color of bare bright copper wire should be an orange-reddish shade all the way through.
  • Comes from: THHN wire (also known as 10 – 14 gauge wire, or spaghetti wire) and insulated wire, such as in the brands Romex, firewire, and Cat 5/6. Some places to look for copper wire are on appliances, at construction sites, and in internet and computer cords.
  • Price:
    • Current (from July 2017)
      • Average: $2.52
    • Historical (From 2012 – 2016):
      • High: $3.90
      • Low: $1.96
      • Average:$2.93
  • How To Maximize Profit: Any type of insulated scrap wires should be stripped to determine what kind of metal lies inside. You want to be sure that your bare bright copper wire is not tin coated (it will have a silver color on the outside if it is). To get the highest price on bare bright, you want to be sure that the wire is as clean as it can be. Bare bright should never be burned, should not be mixed with other copper, cannot be green or heavy with corrosion, and cannot be held together by heavy tape or shrink wrap.
  • Learn more in our article: Scrap Copper Prices per Pound/Ton/Ounce/Gram (Scrap, Wire, Pipe)

2. #1 Copper Tubing

  • Identifying Markers: #1 copper tubing is bare, unalloyed, uncoated bus bar/pipe free of attachments. To be considered #1, the copper tubing must be free of corrosion, solder, paint, or brass fittings.
  • Comes from: #1 Hair Wire, which is copper wire that is too thin to be considered bare bright, will fall under #1 copper tubing. Clean bus bar, which comes from electrical systems, that has no coating or tin plating will also fall under #1 tubing.
  • Price:
    • Current (from July 2017):
      • Average: $2.42
    • Historical (From 2012 – 2016):
      • High: $3.90
      • Low: $1.96
      • Average:$2.93

3. #2 Copper Tubing

  • Identifying Markers: Burnt copper, or copper with light tin coating, solder, or brass fittings still attached, is considered #2 copper tubing.
  • Comes from: #2 copper tubing comes from the same places as #1 tubing — usually plumbing. The only difference is that #2 copper tubing is usually damaged in some way and has brass fittings.
  • Price:
    • Current (from July 2017):
      • Average: $2.32
    • Historical (From 2012 – 2016):
      • High: $3.90
      • Low: $1.96
      • Average:$2.93

4. #1 Flashing Copper

  • Identifying Markers: #1 flashing copper is bare, unalloyed, uncoated copper that is free of tar, corrosion, and paint. Flashing copper is typically used for house decor and roofing.
  • Comes from: Roofs, gutters, solar panels, and outdoor trimmings. Contractors will often have scraps of flashing copper from previous jobs.
  • Price:
    • Current (From January 2016 – December 2016):
      • High: $2.69
      • Low:$1.96
      • Average: $2.10
    • Historical (From 2012 – 2016):
      • High: $3.90
      • Low: $1.96
      • Average:$2.93

5. #2/3 Mix Copper

  • Identifying Markers: When copper tubing and copper roofing are mixed together instead of separated, a scrap yard may mark it as #2/3 mix copper. Usually, solder and paint are present on the pieces of #2/3 mix.
  • Comes from: Construction or electrical jobs — occurs when a plumber, electrician, contractor, or construction worker does not have the time to properly separate out the copper scrap.
  • Price:
    • Current (From January 2016 – December 2016):
      • High: $2.69
      • Low:$1.96
      • Average: $2.10
    • Historical (From 2012 – 2016):
      • High: $3.90
      • Low: $1.96
      • Average:$2.93

6. #3 Roofing Copper

  • Identifying Markers: #3 roofing copper is roofing, gutter, or flashing copper that has little tar and small attachments like nails or wood. If the roofing copper has heavy tar, wood, or other attachments, it will be marked as dirty and priced much lower than clean #3 roofing copper. Be sure to separate the dirtier roofing copper from the cleaner pieces as the prices will be different.
  • Comes from: Roofs, gutters, flashing, and other outside areas of a home.
  • Price:
    • Current (From January 2016 – December 2016):
      • High: $2.69
      • Low:$1.96
      • Average: ~$2.10
    • Historical (From 2012 – 2016):
      • High: $3.90
      • Low: $1.96
      • Average:$2.93

7. 300-Series Stainless Steel (304, 310, 316, and 321)

  • Identifying Markers: All stainless steel from the 300 series should not be magnetic. Due to its shiny silver appearance, it may be mistaken for clean cast aluminum. However, stainless steel will be stronger and shinier than aluminum. 300-series stainless steel can be further sorted into the following categories and will need to be analyzed at the scrapyard:
    • 304: One of the most common forms of stainless steel scrap. To be marked as 304 stainless steel, the pieces should contain the following percentages of metals:
      • 8% – 10.5% Nickel (Ni)
      • 18% – 20% Chromium (Cr)
      • 0% – 2% of each: Cabon (C), Sulfur (S), Phosphorus (P), Manganese (Mn), Silicon (Si)
    • 310: This type of stainless steel will be heavier than 304. To be marked as 310 stainless steel, the pieces should contain the following percentages of metals:
      • 19% – 22% Nickel (Ni)
      • 24% – 26% Chromium (Cr)
      • Under 3% each: small traces of Manganese (Mn), Tin (Sn), Phosphorus (P), Carbon (C)
    • 316: To be marked as 316 stainless steel, the pieces should contain the following percentages of metals:
      • 10% – 14% Nickel (Ni)
      • 16% – 18% Chromium (Cr)
      • 2% – 3% Molybdenum (Mo)
      • 0% – 1% of each: Carbon (C), Manganese (Mn), Phosphorus (P), Sulfur (S), Silicon (Si)
    • 321: This is a heavy grade of stainless steel that contains titanium to tie up the carbon and avoid chromium carbide precipitation in welding.
  • Comes from: Appliances, kitchenware, automotive parts, and aerospace technology.
    • 304: This type is commonly found in machine shops, kitchenware, and exhaust systems. 304 is also commonly used in the dairy, citrus, and fruit juice industries.
    • 310: This type is often used for furnace parts, oil burner parts, and welding filler wire.
    • 316: This type is typically used in food preparation equipment, boat fittings, water filtration screens, and springs.
    • 321: This type is often used for aircraft exhaust manifolds, furnace parts, spiral welded tubes for burner pipes, and flues.
  • Price:
    • Current (from July 2016):
      • 304: $0.28 – $0.47
      • 310: $.87
      • 316: $.67
      • 321: not listed
  • Learn more in our article: Stainless Steel Scrap Price per Pound, Ton (Value of 304, 316, 430)

8. 400-Series Stainless Steel

  • Identifying Markers: Unlike other types of stainless steel, 400-series stainless steel contains no nickel and is magnetic because of the carbon content. Due to these properties, it will need to be analyzed at a scrapyard.
  • Comes from: Exhaust systems and grills.
  • Price:
    • Current (from September 2016):
      • Average: $0.75 for cold rolled coil (430)
  • Learn more in our article: Stainless Steel Scrap Price per Pound, Ton (Value of 304, 316, 430)

6. Lead

  • Identifying Markers: Lead scrap is a soft metal that should have no steel, brass, foil, or paper attached to it. There are different types of lead scrap, including:
  • Comes from: Old lead pipes, construction sites, and household items such as batteries.
  • Price:
    • Current (from July 2017):
      • Average: $0.65
    • Historical (from 2012 – 2016):
      • High: $1.16
      • Low: $0.70
      • Average: $0.91
  • Learn more in our article: Scrap Lead Prices per Pound, Ounce, Ton + Where to Sell Lead

Where to Sell Scrap Metal

The best place to sell your scrap metal is at a local scrap yard or junkyard. Most areas have several scrap yards, which means that with a little time and patience, you can call around to get the best price for your scrap. The following websites are directories of scrap yards across the U.S.:

In Summary

Whether you’re a professional scrapper or a homeowner working on a remodel, chances are your old metal junk is actually worth something. Remember that sorting and cleaning your scrap metal will help you fetch the highest price. Be sure to keep a few magnets on hand to help with sorting. When you’re ready to sell your scrap, shop around and don’t be afraid to ask your scrap yard to analyze your pieces to make sure you’re getting the best pricing.