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How to Get the Most Money out of Your Scrap Metal

scrap metal

In the United States today, the average person can earn around $200 extra per month by selling scrap metal.

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While it may not seem that lucrative, it's a great way to get paid to help keep recyclable materials out of landfills. Besides that, there are some ways you can maximize your profits when it comes to collecting scrap metal.

Keep reading to learn a few ways you can earn more money while scrapping cars, wiring, and anything else that has metal in it.

scrap metal

Separate Scrap Metal by Type

As you collect scrap metal, you'll want to keep it separated by type. If you bring a truckload of mixed metals to the scrap yard, they're going to give you a price per pound for the least valuable metal in the haul.

There are two categories of metal: ferrous and non-ferrous. Ferrous metals are ones that contain iron and include steel and a number of other alloys.

Non-ferrous metals are pure and include:

  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Copper
  • Aluminum
  • Brass

It's most important to separate your ferrous metals from your non-ferrous ones. Ferrous metals are far less valuable. However, because they can be found in larger quantities, they're worth saving when you find them.

The easiest way to determine if a metal is ferrous or not is to use a magnet. Ferrous metals are magnetic whereas non-ferrous ones are not. So, if the magnet sticks, it's got iron in it.

Once you have the two categories separated, you'll want to take the time to separate your non-ferrous metals by type. If you have enough copper and copper wires, you may even want to further divide this based on the quality.

Other items scrap yards will take which may not fall into one of these categories include:

  • Electronics
  • Appliances
  • Small engines
  • Cars
  • Electric wiring

sell a car for scrap

Depending on the item, you may want to save up quite a few before taking them in so it's worth the trip. Smaller electronics, for example, won't sell for much individually, but if you have a whole box, it's going to be worth it.

Take Things Apart

Unless the item in question is completely made of one type of metal, you're going to get more money from it if you take it apart first. Let's take a closer look at three of the things you can take apart to increase your scrap earnings.

Electric Wiring

In recent years, the price of scrap copper has remained consistently high compared to other metals. Much of the copper that is scrapped can be found in electric wiring.

Scrap yards will give you a different price for pure copper compared to copper wiring because of the added weight of the insulation which is worthless.

If you want to make the most of the electric wiring you found, strip it first. Although something as thin as Christmas lights may not be worth the effort, industrial wiring certainly will be.

Speaking of Christmas lights, if you're willing to take the time to remove the bulbs, it will increase the value of them.

scrap metal


Any appliance that's made with a large amount of plastic is not going to be worth as much if you bring it in as-is. Instead, you'll want to pull it apart and remove the motor which is where the majority of the metal is contained.

Depending on the appliance, your skills, and what tools you have available to you, this can be a fairly quick and easy way to increase the value of the scrap you're bringing to the yard.

Larger appliances that are primarily made of metal like washing machines may not be worth the time to take apart, especially since you can scrap the entire machine as ferrous metal.


As you know, cars contain a number of parts which aren't metal, particularly in the interior. Depending on the condition of the car and the reason you're scrapping it, it may also still have a number of parts still in good working order.

To get the most out of your car, you'll want to “part it out.” This involves taking it apart as much as possible to sell the individual pieces rather than the car as a whole.

Since you're saving the scrapyard on their labor costs, they'll pay you more for your car in pieces.

However, if you don't have the right tools, this can be an extremely difficult and potentially dangerous task. You'll also need some knowledge as to how cars work to avoid damaging anything valuable.

And, no matter what your skill level is, parting out a car is a time-consuming project. Many people don't find it worth their time to do this, which is why they often sell it whole or just remove the most valuable parts.

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Bring in a Big Pile

This was already mentioned but bears repeating. If you want to get the most money for your scrap, you'll want to bring in a huge pile every time you visit the scrapyard.

When you have more scrap, it makes the trip worth it. After all, you're going to use about the same amount of gas whether you have 10 pounds of scrap metal or 1,000 pounds.

If you have enough scrap saved up to have to make multiple trips, try to bring all of your ferrous metals in one haul and then all of your non-ferrous metals in another haul.

Go Where You Get the Best Price

You may have to try several yards in your area before you find the one that works best for you. Go primarily by price, but also consider how far you have to drive to get there.

For example, if you're only getting a few more cents per pound for aluminum, it's probably not worth the extra gas to drive an hour from your home if the closest yard is only 15 minutes from you.

By taking some time to check reviews online, too, you can usually get a good idea of which is the best local yard to take your scrap metal to.

Ready to Earn Fast Cash for a Scrap Car?

Now you have four ways you can earn the most money by selling scrap metal. As you can see, some are more worth your time than others.

If you're not interested in investing the time it takes to part out a car piece by piece, check out our guide on how to get rid of junk cars. It's fast, easy, and getting an estimate is totally free.

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