What is the Price of Scrap Metal?

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The price of scrap metal trades just like a stock market does in the United States. This means the spot price that you might receive for your scrap metals today could be very different tomorrow. American scrap metal prices are also governed by regional and local demand, so the prices in New York can be very different than the prices in California. Yet all locations have one thing in common: you can sell scrap metal to make money.

The process of selling scrap metal is pretty simple.

  1. Locate your scrap metal dealer. Some dealers are required by local laws to only deal in scrap metals. Others are complete recycling centers. You will find publicly and privately owned scrap yards depending on your region. Most US laws will require you to local your local scrap dealer and do business with them.
  2. Bring the scrap metal to your dealer. If you’re looking to scrap your car, then you might want to have the scrap metal dealer transport your vehicle from your property. Otherwise you’ll want to take the scrap to your dealer because you’ll make more money that way.
  3. Make sure the scrap metal is clean. From sand in aluminum cans to fused metals or alloys, many states in the US regulate the quality of scrap metal that can be delivered to a dealer. Based on this quality, you’ll be able to know what scrap prices are available to you.

When asking about metal recycling prices, there are generally two types that are discussed: ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Each metal is then assigned a grade based on the condition of the scrap presented. At that point, the scrap metal will be weighed and you’ll be offered a rate that is based on the spot price of the day with a dealer premium included – they’ve got to make money too. 

What Is the Difference Between Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Scrap?

This is the question that almost every scrap dealer in the United States answers at least once per day. In reality the difference between ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metals is pretty simple. Ferrous metals contain iron and non-ferrous metals do not. When looking at your average piece of scrap metal, however, it can be difficult to tell if there is any iron contained within it.

Ferrous metals are used because of their tensile strength. They tend to be more durable than other metals, making them useful for building bridges, skyscrapers, and residential housing. Roadways, railways, and even the knives in your kitchen are all typically made with ferrous metals. Cast iron, wrought iron, mild steel, and carbon steel are just a few examples of the ferrous metals you’ll find.

Because the carbon within the metal allows for oxidization (the technical term for rust), it can be easy to tell many ferrous metals. Most ferrous metals also tend to be magnetic. This is the most common scrap in the world, with more than 1 billion tons of steel being produced every year and 500 million tons of it coming from recycled materials.

Non-ferrous metals resist corrosion better, but they also tend to be more malleable than ferrous metals. This allows them to be crafted into a shape that is strong and usable. They’re also not magnetic, which makes them useful to be used around electricity and computer components. The most common non-ferrous metal that is recycled is aluminum.

There’s Also a Third Scrap Metal Category to Consider

Sometimes segregating the scrap metal from a large item is difficult for the owner of the scrap to do. Can you imagine trying to scrap your own car into its base metal components to then deliver it to a dealer? Or trying to take apart a washing machine so you can scrap the metal components inside? For this reason, you’ll find that many scrap dealers will offer a third pricing category based on the appliance or vehicle being scrapped.

Some dealers may offer a flat rate for all bulk scrap metal that is offered in this form. Others may break it down by appliance or vehicle. For example: one dealer may offer one rate for all household appliances that are being scrapped while another offers a specific rate for dryers, another rate for refrigerators, and a third rate for washing machines.

You will not receive the going rate for scrap metal when you sell a car or appliance as scrap. This is because the dealer has to take apart the vehicle or appliance to access the useable metals. You’ll likely be offered a discounted rate based on the weight of the vehicle or appliance. Although the prices are lower, the benefit is clear – you no longer have the scrap metal taking up space on your property and there’s even cash in your wallet or purse.

What Is the Pricing Difference Between the Two Metals?

Because non-ferrous scrap metal is harder to come by than ferrous metals, the prices per pound are better for them. Within each core metal group are sub-categories based on what the actual scrap metal happens to be. Here are some examples of scrap metal grading so you know what to expect if you’re taking items to be recycled to your local dealer.

  • CopperThis metal is separated into roofing, tubing, and wire categories. Each is graded with a #1, #2, or #3 rating. Bare bright copper wire #1 tends to bring in the best prices at $2.20 per pound on average, while roofing copper #3 brings in about $1.50 per pound on average. Copper with tar may also be taken by some local dealers.
  • Stainless Steel. The numbers assigned to stainless steel are a reflection of the actual alloy and quality of materials that was used to create it. The series range from 100-600 with specific numbers assigned to the metal. Most dealers will offer a per pound rate for 300 series stainless steel.
  • AluminumThis scrap metal is unique because it comes in several different forms. Basic aluminum cans are recycled with a per pound rate in states where there is no container deposit legislation. Some aluminum is mixed with copper and this is sold at a different rate, like with a radiator. Different aluminum alloys, such as #6061 or #6063, have volatile spot prices that change frequently throughout the day. It can be found in siding, turnings, in wire, or be offered in a heap of general aluminum scrap.

As you can see, if you want to know what prices you’re going to be receiving for your scrap metal, you’ll need to know what kind of metal you’re selling and what grade it will be assigned. Bright metals that are clean and easy to recycle will always command the best prices, especially when looking at the scrap metal rates for non-ferrous metals.

What Is the Price of Scrap Metal Per Pound?

As a disclaimer, the prices of scrap metals in the United States can change on a daily basis. The prices offered below should be used as a guide to get an idea of what may be possible to receive at your local dealer. Local and regional influences in your state or territory can make spot prices higher or lower. Dealers may be required to charge a different premium percentage above spot price or add specific taxes that take away from your personal profit.

Be prepared to show identification that includes your current address. Because of scrap metal theft, dealers in almost all 50 states are required to keep a log of when customers come to sell scrap metal.

Here are the average prices that are typically available for ferrous metals.

  • Melting steel: $145 per ton
  • Scrap iron: $135 per ton
  • Sheet iron: $135 per ton
  • Cast iron: $110 per ton
  • Appliances: $0.07 per pound

Note that there aren’t any quality ratings listed for these ferrous metals. As long as the metal can be identified as fitting within one of these categories, then this is the average rate that will be offered by an American scrap dealer. One ton equals 2,000 pounds.

Here are the average prices that are typically available for non-ferrous metals.

  • Bare bright copper (including wire): $2.20 per pound
  • Copper #1-#3: $1.50-$2.10 per pound
  • Brass: $1.15-$3.00 [or more if clean] per pound
  • Bronze: $1.35 per pound
  • 300 Series Stainless Steel: $0.35-$0.55 per pound
  • Aluminum Cans: $0.36 per pound.
  • Aluminum/Copper: $0.95 per pound
  • Aluminum: $0.30-$0.40 per pound

Depending on your local dealer’s licensing and state laws, you may also be able to recycle scrap lead components. Specific laws typically govern the handling and transport of scrap lead, so you may be required to have the dealer remove this scrap metal from your property. The average price of this scrap in the US is $0.45 per pound.

There are also numerous scrap metals not listed here that are accepted by a majority of dealers in the United States, but the trading price is highly volatile. This includes several types of brass, catalytic converters, certain grades of copper, aluminum alloys with ferrous materials, and 100-200+400-600 Series stainless steel.

Should I Scrap Silver or Gold?

The process for scrapping precious metals is a little different than scrapping general metals like iron, steel, or aluminum. Silver trades on the commodities exchange and must meet purity standards in order for it to be traded, as does gold. If you think you might have found silver scrap, it is important to have the metal tested before attempting to sell it. Just because something looks silver and it is stamped saying that it is doesn’t guarantee it.

Stainless steel and silver often look very much alike.

In order to receive a price for your silver, gold, or other precious metals that you’re trying to scrap, you’ll need to know the quality of the metal. Sterling silver jewelry, for example, is 92.5% silver. Gold jewelry is broken down into karats, starting generally at 10K and going up to pure gold at 24K.

To sell the scrap, the precious metals have to be separated from the other components. This is usually done be a specialized company that can separate the metals, so you’ll turn in the scrap precious metals to a dealer, who will then quote you a discounted rate based on the spot price of the commodity. Expect to receive anywhere between 40-80% of the spot price depending on the quality of the metal and the premium charged by the dealer.

The weight of silver and gold scrap is also different. In the US, the weight is measured in troy ounces, which means it weighs about 10% more than a standard ounce. If you’re being give a price per pound for your scrap silver or gold, then make sure it is based on troy ounces so you receive an accurate price.

Are You Ready To Sell Scrap Metal?

The price of scrap metal per pound in the United States is at one of its highest levels of trading in history right now. If you’re trying to find local metal recycling prices, be sure to contact your dealer and use this guide as a benchmark to know what prices you should be quoted. There may be specific procedures you may need to follow in order to turn in your scrap, so check on your local laws to determine what you can or cannot do. 

If you think you have one grade of scrap metal and believe your local dealer is trying to classify it as a different grade to pay you less, then get a second opinion on the price of scrap metal from another dealer outside of your area. You may not be able to sell the scrap to them, but you’ll at least know if you’re receiving a fair price on your scrap. 

Then your job is simple: find scrap metal, take it to get recycled, and then enjoy a nice payday for getting rid of something that has been just lying around.

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