How You Can Get the Best Scrap Copper Prices Right Now

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Scrap copper is everywhere right now. It is one of the most prized metals to be scrapped because there is such a need to produce items that are made from copper. Selling scrap copper for a good price can be a complicated process because of grading, quality, and type, so you’ll need to know ahead of time what kind of copper you have and how much it is worth. That’s where this guide for getting the best scrap copper prices can really help you out.

Unlike other scrap metals, every scrap yard in the USA is interested in purchasing any scrap copper you might have right now. You’ll need to find the yard that will give you the best price without making you drive hundreds of miles to get it. The first step to getting the best price is to know what the current spot market price happens to be. Then you’ll know if your local price is fair or not.

What Are Scrap Copper Prices in the USA?

The prices for copper scrap are highly variable. Because there are so many different types and grades of copper that can be scrapped, you will need to be able to identify what type of copper you actually have in your possession. If you don’t know this basic information about the metal, a scrap yard could pay you a lower rate and you’d never even realize that you could have many a better per pound rate.

Here are the various pricing levels that are generally available in the United States right now. Local and regional influences can affect the supply and demand of this metal, so treat these pricing examples as a ballpark figure to get an idea of what value you might have right now with your scrap copper. Each price is per pound of copper.

  • Copper Wire: #1 = $1.98; #2 = $1.20; Enameled $1.92
  • Radiator Ends: $0.80
  • Alternators: $0.40
  • Bare Bright Copper: $2.40
  • Transformers: $0.43 – $0.54
  • Transformer Winding Only: $1.91
  • Electric Motors: $0.25
  • Bulk Copper Scrap: #1 = $2.33; #2 = $2.18; #3 = $2.08

There may also be other classifications offered at some scrap yards in the USA. This includes light copper scrap, copper alloys, oxidized copper, and multiple alloys that contain at least 30% copper. There may also be up to 5 different grades of copper recognized, ranging from 10% wire to 85% wire. Most yards will only separate high grade wire from low grade wire, but some can be quite specific and you’ll need to ask in advance so you can separate your wires appropriately.

Note: You can turn in copper wire that has not been stripped and still receive a per pound recycling rate. There will be a higher premium given on the spot price of the copper, however, because the wiring will need to go through a stripping machine before it can actually be recycled. 

How To Get the Best Copper Scrap Prices

If you’re turning in your copper scrap, then you’ll need to sort out your different types of copper so they are all can be weighed at their appropriate grade. In order to do that, you’ll need to recognize the three standard grades of copper that are generally recognized throughout the United States. Here are the telltale signs that will let you know what grade of copper your scrap happens to be.

  • #1 Copper. This is copper that is at least 99% pure. It must have a thickness of 1/16 of an inch or more. It must be uncoated and clean of all oxidation.
  • #2 Copper. If the copper doesn’t meet the cleanliness requirements, then it falls into this category. This grade can have some light coating or oxidation on it, but there should be minimal solder.
  • #3. Copper. This category generally represents any copper that is less than 94% clean. It cannot have any other metals alloyed with it in order for it to qualify as this grade of copper. Any copper that is also less than 1/16 of an inch also qualified as this grade of copper, even if it is 100% clean and free of defect. This scrap might also be referred to as “light copper” by your local scrap yard. 

If you have the ability to strip your copper wire before turning it in, you’ll also receive a better overall per pound price. Wire strippers that are hand-operated can work well for thin gauge wire. Heavier gauge copper wire is worth more, but also generally requires a stripping machine to access the wire that is being scrapped. 

Where To Find Copper For Scrapping 

If you have extra cables and wires stuffed into a drawer, then you have money that is waiting to be collected. Almost all cables that are used for electronic equipment in the USA has a foundation of copper wire to it. If you can strip the cables or open them up enough to prove to a scrap yard that they are copper, then you could have some money in the bank.

The most common advice offered to those looking for copper scrap is to look for plumbing pipes, joints, and fixtures. Although extra components of a home or business plumbing system may be copper, it will almost never be #1 copper. Most copper plumbing qualifies at #3 copper at best because of the amount of soldering that is required to construct the system. Many plumbing systems are made from an alloy of beryllium and copper, which doesn’t even qualify as grade #3.

Look instead for used appliances that are just rotting away somewhere in your community. If there are transformers or electrical motors still attached to them, then you could have a fortune in scrap. Transformers in appliances have the copper exposed already. Just cut it and unwind it to get a rate that is equal to #1 copper wire. Electric motors may need to be opened to access the copper wire, but any heavy enough motor at current prices could bring in a nice chunk of cash as well.

You can also find copper scrap in televisions, monitors, and other electronics. As an extra bonus, the copper wires in electronics typically have brass ends or plugs to them, which you can also scrap for some cash.

What Are the Traps To Avoid For Copper Recycling Prices?

When you deliver your copper to a scrap yard, they are going to identify the grade of metal that you have. They’re also going to weigh the entire amount that has been identified at a specific grade. The lowest grade metal in the batch will make the entire amount of copper scrap being weighed the same grade. If you have 1 piece of #3 copper in a 100 pound pile of #1 copper, what you have in the eyes of a scrap yard is an entire pile of #3 copper. Always sort your copper and check it at least twice.

Note: If you have multiple grades of copper within the same pile and it is not sorted, you will receive the lowest possible price for your scrap metal.

Some scrap yards may also try to persuade you that your copper doesn’t meet a specific grade. This is why knowing the complete grading system is so important. If you can prove your copper is 99% or better clean, it still qualifies as #1 copper and you deserve those rates.

There’s also the premium on the spot price of copper that must be considered. Because copper is such a highly sought after metal, it is incredibly easy to find buyers for the scrap. This means the premium should be in the 10% range at most from the current spot price for the metal. If the spot price for scrap is $2.40 per pound, then with the scrap yard premium included, you should be paid at $2.16 per pound.

In some communities, 15-20% on the spot price may be considered acceptable because of local conditions. Anything above this may not get you the best possible price.

You’ll also want to avoid scrap yards that encourage you to melt US pennies that are dated before 1982. Although they have a good copper value, it is illegal to melt any US currency. According to the laws of the United States, it is legal to melt foreign currency to get copper. Canadian pennies that are dated before 1997, for example, are 98% copper. Melting them and turning them into a scrap yard would be illegal in Canada, but not illegal in the US.

Copper prices per pound are stable because this scrap metal is in high demand. Use this guide to know where to find scrap copper, contact your local scrap yard to verify local scrap copper prices, and then separate your metals by grade. By taking these steps, you can make sure you’re always getting paid what you deserve to receive for your scrap metals.

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