How To Make Money Selling Scrap Metal

October 24, 2013

General, How-to

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I used to be fascinated by the scrap metal trucks driving around town and often wondered how the world of scrap metal worked. How much money are they making each day? How much is the metal actually worth? What do they do with it? Then one day a few years ago I decided to find out for myself.

(If you are serious about wanting to make money with scrap metal, check out ScrapMetalSchool.com where you will learn everything you need to know about turning metal into money. We’ve gotten so much interest in the Scrap metal business that we put together and entire course on how to make a lot of money simply selling scrap metal. )

scrapcourseScrap metal yards purchase metal based on weight. You drive into the scrap yard and stop your vehicle (and trailer sometimes) on a large scale where they record your weight. You then drive over to the discharge pile and either unload your metal by hand, or a giant excavator with a powered magnate can pick it up for you. I often will just unload it by hand as one slight error by the excavator operator can severely damage your truck or trailer.

After unloading the metal, you drive back out to another scale where you are weighed again, and either are cut a check or given a little atm card that’s redeemable for cash at the scrap yard atm. Depending on the time and day of the week, it can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes to get in and out of the scrap yard.

What kind of metals are there?

Ferrous and non-ferrous.

Ferrous metals simply contain iron, or alloys of iron such as stainless steel. This makes up the majority of scrap metal that is turned in.

The primary non-ferrous metals include aluminium, copper, lead, nickel, tin, titanium and zinc, and alloys such as brass. non-ferrous metals are worth a lot more per pound than ferrous metals, and are often worth separating.

How much is scrap metal actually worth?

Currently the closest scrap yard to me pays $195 per ton, or per 2,000 pounds for ferrous metals. This breaks down to approximately $10 per 100 pounds of metal. The price that scrap yards pay fluctuates with worldwide supply and demand and can change daily.

- Ferrous metal (most common)- $195/ton or approximate 10 cents per pound or $10 per 100 pounds

- #1 Bare Copper – $2.85/lb
For copper with the shield still on (like a power cord) they will pay you a % of the $2.85/pound, or approximately 60% of the weight. Most power cords have bare copper inside, as well as copper pipes that are used in plumbing.

- Aluminum – .50 cents/lb

You will often find aluminum in old windows and patio furniture. You have to break out the glass before you can turn in the aluminum.

How much are your appliances and other metal items actually worth?

Washing machine $18-$22 average weight 200 lbs.

Dryer $8-$10 average weight 100 lbs.

Refrigerator with top freezer $16-18 average weight with the compressor taken out 175 lbs.

Side by side refrigerator $24-$28 average weight with the compressor removed 250 lbs.

Ovens and ranges $11-$18 average weight 125 lbs.

Full size Gas BBQ $16-20 average weight 180 lbs.

Cast iron bathtub $30-$40 average weight over 300 lbs.

All of these examples are for newer appliances. Many older appliances were made with thicker gauge steel and can weigh significantly more. For refrigerators and freezers, the compressor and freon must be removed by a licensed professional before they can be scrapped. It is much simpler, and often more profitable to look up your local utility company and ask them if they have an old refrigerator/freezer purchasing program. Many states have programs that pay as much as $40-$50 for them and they will pick the refrigerator or freezer up from your home.

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Can you make a living collecting scrap metal?

Yes. It’s not uncommon for scrap collector to make $100-$200 cash per day. If you can get 1,000 lbs of metal in a day you’ve made $100 cash. It can be hard work, but it can also be very rewarding. A few years ago I picked up two die cast molds from a company that just wanted to get rid of them. They were extraordinarily, heavy, weighing almost 1,500 lbs between the two of them. I walked away from the scrap yard with a check for $179.80 for those two cubes. Forty five minutes earlier I was being smirked at by the guys who were giving me the metal, as if I was a little crazy for taking such useless items off their hands.

What are the best methods for making a living collecting scrap metal?

1. Use a utility trailer with a ramp. Scrap metal can be messy and will rough up the back of a truck pretty quickly. Plus, it can be pretty difficult loading really heavy items into a truck.

2. Get metal from the craigslist free section. There is a lot of scrap metal given away on the free section every day. You must be quick to respond though.

3. Establish a recurring network of metal sources. Go to one apartment complex each day and meet the maintenance person. Give them a business card and tell them to call or email you whenever they have metal to get rid of. Be polite and show up looking professional. Shave. If you are pleasant to deal with and show up on time you can establish a lot of sources for scrap metal.

4. Don’t scrap everything. I got into buying and selling appliances because I realized some appliances aren’t worth scrapping. Some washers and dryers can be worth 10 times more if you spend a few dollars and repair them, and a little bit of time cleaning them up. At least set them aside and sell them to someone that repairs appliances. Metal shelves are often worth reselling, as well as lawnmowers and other power equipment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get paid for the metal?

The scrap yard will issue you a check or an atm card to get cash immediately for all your ferrous metals. For all non-ferrous metals, I believe most states issue you a check after two business days. This came about as an attempt to curb widespread theft of expensive metals across the country.

Do I need to take the plastic or rubber pieces off my appliances before I scrap them?

No. Scrap yards set their prices knowing that a certain percentage of what is brought in will be other materials. However, large pieces of wood, concrete or other heavy non metallic materials will not be accepted.

Is there a minimum or maximum amount of metal I can bring it?

No, the scrap yards will buy any amount.

What about lawnmowers and other equipment with gas tanks?

They have to have the gas emptied out. Oil tanks need to be cleaned prior to scrapping often times need to have holes drilled in them.

Though we don’t collect scrap metal for a living, we do go to the scrap yard with a large load of old appliances a few times per week. The money we make from the metal pretty much pays for all our gas that we use. Let me know if you have any questions or there are any points or tips that I’ve left out. Hope you all are doing well and have a good weekend!

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24 Responses to “How To Make Money Selling Scrap Metal”

  1. Scott Coombe Says:

    I think everyone needs to know this information. Thanks for posting Ryan.

    Reply

  2. curtis Says:

    Yes the info on scrapin is real i have been a scrpper for 20 years i will never work for somebody else. Scrapi.n also allows you to be your own boss work when you want. The money is great ask ask one mans junk is another man paycheck.$$$$$$$$ get cho scrap on
    .

    Reply

  3. Danyel Says:

    Hi Ryan! Not sure if you remember me but you coached me last year. Anyway, since we were still renting, we actually decided to get more into the scrapping business first. In the spring and summer last year, we put up a website and a page on Facebook and were making on average about $500 a week. One manager of a golf course even called us to pick up aluminum cans he had….about $200 dollars worth! So it can be very lucrative if you know what you’re doing. Now that we own our own house out in the country, we would like to start with appliances. Business on the scrapping side is starting to get busy again so I
    m sure we’ll be getting some free appliances thrown our way!

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I totally remember you, that’s awesome! Well done. Repairing appliances you get when doing scrap metal is a very wise decision, as it will greatly increase your profits. Keep me posted on your you guys are doing!

      -Ryan

      Reply

  4. MIchelle Says:

    Ryan,

    Do you have to break the steel apart from the wire from the aluminum, etc.? Or can you just take it into the scrap yard and they do all that? It sounds from your article like you just go in, weigh, unload and then weigh again. Do you have to separate anything?

    Thanks, Michelle

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      You have to separate what you want to get paid more for, like aluminum, copper etc. If you don’t separate anything they will just pay you tin price. They also have different areas within the scrap yard to unload and weigh the different types of metal.

      Reply

  5. Mark Says:

    I have 4 huge old boilers in one of my building( the ones from 1920′s used to shovel coal in), plus the piping and many old motors. It will take alot of labor do you think it’s worth it. I think the boilers are cast iron

    Reply

  6. Mike Says:

    Thanks, Ryan this is very useful information. I am going to try to get it to work for me.

    Reply

  7. JM Says:

    Hi Ryan, I’m trying to scrap metal and aluminum as part time, and I was able to get metal hangers from a hospital to recycle them at the scrap yard, I get at least 200 hangers a week if not more, but the guy at the scrap yard said that I needed to have at least 50 boxes or 100 pounds of hangers, and they must be cut in sticks and put in the boxes, not just give them as hangers in order for him to consider them. Do you think that would be a good deal for me to get into? It looks time consuming to cut them down and save up the amount he said. Thanks.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      That’s weird that they would want you to cut them up like that. If you have to cut them all up, I wouldn’t do it. That’s a lot of time and effort for not very much weight/$.

      Reply

  8. JM Says:

    Yea I thought the same thing, its was weird but this was information that someone else gave me, I have not gone myself to this scrap yard yet, but if I let them know that I have over a hundred pounds of the metal, do you think they would consider it as is? I have them in bags right now. I also was wondering if the machines they use can handle it, I heard that because of the way hangers are shaped it get tangled in the machines, but that’s just hear say lol. Thanks for your advice, I might try going to another scrap yard and see what they say.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Our scrap yard here takes all metal. I would call yourself and see what they say. It will probably be fine.

      Reply

  9. Brad Says:

    Hey I’ve been reading a lot of your stuff ur very knowledgable about this I have a lawn mower old TVs and a dryer I just want to know how much u think I’ll get for it bc I just got a new v8 truck nd I wanna know if it’s even worth driving to a scrap yard

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Most places won’t take Tv’s. The mower would be better off either being fixed, or parted out by someone that fixes them then scrapped. The dryer is worth about $10, depending on metal prices in your city. It might not be worth it on that small of a load.

      Reply

  10. Kale Says:

    Hey Ryan,

    I noticed something wierd the last time I was at the scrap metal yard. A truck from a local appliance shop dumped a bunch of older washer and dryers. This shop only sells new appliances, So I imagine they dumped the older ones that they hauled away from their customers.

    Do you think it would be worth offering to buy their old washers and dryers for slightly more than scrap prices? Is this something you have ever tried yourself?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Great question. Places like that usually sell the more desired used appliances that they haul away to other used appliance shops. The ones that no one wants, or that aren’t worth fixing are the ones that often end up at the scrap yard. I take a load a week myself, and you could be watching me dump 6-8 appliances at a time. Not every appliance is worth fixing. That being said, it still could be worth at least asking them what they do with them, and if they sell them, ask them for how much. The trick is being very picky about which make/models you want and that are worth repairing. I go over that in detail in the ApplianceSchool

      We have bought from places like this before, but the machines were often picked through so we stopped. But every city is different.

      Reply

  11. Dan Says:

    Hey Ryan,

    Great info! I am a property manager for an apartment community and want to start scrapping part time. The problem is that I don’t have a pick up or trailer. I have a VW jetta(leased) with a OK size trunk, but I’m not sure if it’s worth it for me to start this way. If yes, how do I prevent damage to my car? Will a trunk be a large enough space to get started? Any suggestions would be appreciated?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I wouldn’t use a nice car like that unless you are just taking in high value copper wire and other more expensive metals, and even then you don’t want to scratch up your car. I would save up a decent sized load and then borrow a friends truck, or…get a small tow hitch and smaller trailer to pull behind your car to take the metal in. But that’s just a temporary solution. Long run you want to get a little pickup truck to do the hauling. Start selling appliances as well and you won’t have any problem paying for that truck!

      Reply

  12. Jim Says:

    I have an old free-weight set. 300 lbs. of weights, plus bar (all in good shape) and the bench and other attachments. Just wondering if I could get any cash for it?

    Reply

    • Ryan Finlay Says:

      In Portland where we live you could get $25-$30 for it. Just depends on the size of city you live in, and how far the metal needs to be transferred to it’s next location.

      Reply

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