What You Need To Know About Scrap Steel Prices in the USA

Run a Scrap Yard? Advertise Here!

Contact Us for Details

Scrap steel prices almost always fall into a generalized ferrous metals category. Although there are certain steel items that do have their own prices at the national level, you’ll almost never see those prices at the local level. Most scrap yards in the United States are either going to offer you a flat per pound rate or per ton rate for your scrap steel. There will also usually be requirements that you’ll need to meet in order to make a delivery.

This guide will let you know what prices you should expect, what you’ll need to do with your scrap metal, and what traps you will want to avoid. The goal is simple: to make sure you get the best scrap steel prices that are available in your area.

What Are Scrap Steel Prices in the USA?

There are three ways that scrap steel could be weighed at your local scrap yard: per pound, per ton, or per metric ton (MT). The metric ton is also sometimes is referred to as the long ton. There is actually a difference, however, between the metric ton and the long ton as an official measurement. The MT is 2204.6 pounds, while the long ton is 2240 pounds. You’ll need to know what weight measurement is being used because this directly affects the scrap steel prices.

On the national level, scrap steel trades in metric tons. It is broken down into three general categories that are used to create value.

  • Heavy Melting Steel (HMS): $251 per MT
  • 80/20 HMS 1 / HMS 2 Steel: $241 per MT
  • Steel Castings: $408 per MT

This is why it is so important to know what weight your scrap yard is using for their scrap steel prices that they’re going to pay you. At the average rates listed above for the US market, HMS steel that is scrapped is worth $0.11 per pound. If you’re being offered a per pound rate and you know that you have this steel scrap, then subtract 20% for the scrapper premium and you’ll know what your payment rate should be: $0.09 per pound. 

The only problem is that the average local scrap yard is going to take more than 20%. You’ll find that many yards, in fact, are only going to pay you about $0.02 per pound. You might even be offered a per ton rate that is in the $100-$125 range. This seems like a pretty good rate until you see what the average trading prices for scrap steel happen to be. 

Note: Look for bonuses that may be subsidized by your local government. Many communities have recycling program benefits that can boost the price that is offered for your scrap steel. In Washington State, there are coupons available that increase the payout by $0.03 per pound. 

Don’t just accept the published rates as the only payment that is available. You can negotiate your payment rate when you know what the actual price of steel happens to be. This is the first step you’ll take in making sure you receive the best possible prices for scrap steel.

How To Identify Scrap Steel

Most scrap steel comes in HMS 1 and HMS 2 form. You can tell if you have HMS 2 if the steel is over 0.25 inches thick and larger than 60×24 inches in length and width respectively. The steel is generally a dark color, usually black, and is must be galvanized. It has a minimum thickness of 1/8 of an inch. HMS 2 steel must also be free from sheet iron or other thin-gauged metals.

If it doesn’t meet these qualifications, then it will generally be classified as HMS 1 steel instead.

If HMS codes are not used by the scrap yard, then ISRI codes will typically be used instead. HMS 1 steel is governed under ISRI codes 200-202. HMS 2 steel is governed under ISRI codes 203-206.

How To Get the Best Price For Scrap Steel

Sorting out your scrap steel is the best action you can take. Not every scrap yard offers different rates for the HMS variations that are available, but some will even if it’s not advertised if you take the time to sort. Although the difference is just $10-$15 per ton in most instances, a few minutes of effort will help you to maximize your prices.

Delivering in quantity will also help you to get a better overall scrap price. If you’re trying to negotiate a better price, having a larger quantity of material will make the scrap yard more receptive to a higher price being paid out.

Just remember that where you live may have specific ordinances involving the collection of scrap materials on your property. If you also have a large pile of scrap steel that is easily accessible, it can become a target for thieves. You may find it is better to get a lower price for your scrap than to risk the fines of a city ordinance violation or deal with the costs of theft.

In the USA, scrap steel prices also tend to rise some in the winter, but lower some in the summer. If you don’t have any volatility in your market, then you can also get competitive bids from multiple scrap yards in your area to potentially build up to a better price. Although every business wants to keep pricing competitive, there’s also the need to expand a customer base and a better price for your scrap could help turn you into a regular customer.

Local state laws may also govern what the scrap steel prices happen to be. There may be certain alloy components in your steel that may or may not be recognized. Certain types of steel may be priced in the non-ferrous category because it contains a small alloy percentage. Other states ignore the alloy percentage altogether and treat any scrap that isn’t 100% steel as a mixed metal.

If you can’t get anyone to purchase your scrap steel, you also have the option of selling it directly yourself. You can sell scrap steel as an individual without a business license in most states (Washington and Alaska are definite exceptions to this) as long as it is not continuously happening and profits above $600 are reported on your yearly taxes.

Where To Find Scrap Steel

Scrap steel can be found in a wide variety of environments in the United States. Household forms of steel scrap include appliances, casings, frames, and various parts. Bars, plates, pipes, and rods that are used in the construction of a home or building may also be made from steel.

It can also be found in marinas and other naval applications in the US. Ship scrap can include hull pieces, plates, and fittings.

Automobiles have less steel in them today than they did when they were first made, but US cars still have a good bit of steel scrap too them if the car is a junker. Instead of selling the title outright to a scrapper, you might consider pulling off the wheels, axles, and body components that are ferrous in nature. Trains also have these same parts and the rails they operate on are also typically made from steel.

Industrial steel scrap may also be available in some communities. This includes bolts, buts, cuttings, and turnings.

How To Avoid Traps When Selling Scrap Steel

You’ll need to look at the disclaimers that are offered by scrap yards in the United States today to make sure you’re getting the best steel prices. For example: a scrap yard may refuse to take delivery of any steel items that are long, heavy, or bulky in some way. Notice that this also eliminates the higher rates for HMS steel that a scrap yard may want to pay.

You will also want to look for weight restrictions on your delivery. It is not uncommon for scrap yards to not pay for any loads that are under 500 pounds. If there are components from certain household appliances, such as refrigerators, microwaves, or freezers, they may also not be accepted.

It is common for a scrap yard to offer a flat rate for scrap steel that is $0.02-$0.05. That means 1 ton of steel could bring in just $40. If the scrap yard refuses to negotiate this price with you, then consider calling someone else to receive a second opinion. Arm yourself with this guide to help boost your price and look for recycling subsidies that may be available in your community that may go unadvertised.

Getting the best scrap steel prices in the US often means be open, honest, and having an understanding of what the current market price happens to be. If you’re just looking to deliver one load and be done with it, then you may be forced to settle for whatever prices your local scrap yard has to offer. If you plan on having continuous deliveries, however, then building a relationship with the ownership of your local scrap yard can help you to secure the best possible price for your metal.

Run a Scrap Yard? Advertise Here!

Contact Us for Details