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How to Sell Scrap Metal

Selling scrap metal can actually be a lucrative business, if planned out and run meticulously. Here are some tips to help you while selling metal.
Omkar Phatak

From Scraps to Riches

More than 400 million metric tons of metals are recycled in a single year, making it a billion dollar business with a large global turnover.
Waste and especially scrap metal, abounds everywhere today. If you think about it, nothing ever goes waste. Everything can be made useful in some way, through recycling. Scrap metal can bring in money, if you know where and how to sell it. 
Not only is it a lucrative business idea, but it is also something which can help save our environment. Selling it can bring you some marginal but fast cash, if you have the patience to collect and sell it at the right places. It can be turned into a consistent revenue-generating business, with proper planning, setup, and resources. 
Metals and all other minerals are in limited supply. A day will come, when all the metals that can be mined, have been mined and recycling will be the only option left. Though that stage has not been reached yet, metal scarcity is already a phenomenon. Recycling discarded metal parts, is the only way out. 

How to Go About Selling Metal Scrap

There are many factors to be taken into consideration while selling this type of scrap. Here's a step-by-step guide. 

Know Which Metals Fetch Value

Not all metals fetch great value. The price depends on the rarity and demand. Steel being the most commonly available alloy, it has the lowest value. Brass having high industrial value, it can fetch up to USD 1 or USD 2 per pound sold. 
However, the metal that can fetch you a higher price is copper, with prices ranging from USD 2 to USD 4 or more. The reason for the higher price is the low amount of processing it needs during recycling. 
Also, more the effort required to extract metal from the junk, lower is the price it fetches. Electronic appliances have varying amount of metals like copper, zinc, steel, lead, and brass. Prying out the metal from the machine and accumulating a large volume is the best way of getting a high price. 
Study the metal content particulars of the most frequently discarded objects. That way, you know what to look for, when you come across piles of junk, and choose only the most profitable scrap. Remember that non-ferrous materials (metals and alloys without iron content) are going to fetch you higher prices, compared to others. 

Know the Latest Metal Scrap Prices

Before selling, know the current spot metal prices. Sites like Kitcometals can be referred to, for the latest values. Make sure that you get a price for your haul, which matches the spot prices. 

Know the Laws

Some metals like copper have a high theft rate and therefore, there may be strict laws regarding their sale, in some US states. In some places, it is necessary that a photograph of the scrap, along with the ID of the seller be provided. Considering this, be careful when dealing with copper, as you are legally responsible for the material that's sold. 
Most importantly, make sure that the stuff you are buying, is not stolen material. Many states require you to be 16 years or older, to be able to sell scrap. So make sure that you have the requisite ID, as age proof, when you make the sale at any scrap yard.

Collect the Scrap

To sell scrap metal and profit from it, one needs to know how and where to collect it, as the profit margin lies in volume. It can be found abandoned everywhere and you can have it all, provided you know where to look for it. 
The places to look are public roads and highways, where you can find scrap metal in the form of pipes, car parts, cans, and other types of junk. Find out neighborhoods where bulk metal trash is disposed regularly and make it a point to be there and collect it on days of bulk disposal. 
Look for old car parts like catalytic converters, engines, copper wires. Electronic equipment, including computer hardware also has a large metal content, that you may look for.
Thrown away appliances like air conditioners and other such stuff can bring you a lot of profit after selling. Keep tools in handy, as you may need them to pry out the actual metal content. 
You could even officially advertise your scrap metal pickup service. This can bring you customers, who need to dispose it in bulk. Basements and garages all over the country are flooded with metal junk, that is waiting for collection.


It will be better if you classify the scrap metal that you collect, according to type. That way, you can sell it at recycling centers, that are looking to buy specific types. Not all junk needs to be sold; some appliances that are in good condition, can be sold to people who can repair and reuse them. Understand the salvage value of every object you find. 

Get Hold of a Vehicle

What you will need is a truck with large storage space to store the scrap, which you can drive around town, to scavenge for metal. Pickups make for the best transport vehicles as they provide you with open and wide storage space. 

Find Scrap Yards to Sell Your Accumulated Haul

The first thing to do after you have accumulated scrap metal is to find places to sell it. To achieve maximum profit, you need to check out the places where it is being bought at highest prices. You can search online for recycling centers that offer a good price for bulk collections. 
Check out the Energy Star websites maintained by the US government, for leads regarding recycling centers that cater to specific types of scrap. Look for nearby yards, as the cost of transporting is going to eat into your profits. Load your truck with the scrap and drive to the yard.
At the yard, your truck might be weighed on the inbound and outbound scale for measurement of the scrap sold, with the entire junk hauled up, using magnetic cranes (for ferrous materials) and forklifts (for non-ferrous materials). 

Negotiate the Price and Collect Your Cash

Be willing to negotiate the price, if the buyer is deviating from the current spot prices. Buyers like high volume sales and regular customers.
Timing your sale during periods like winter or at the peak of a metal price rise will obviously raise the amount of money you get. Studying market price trends and focusing on collecting high volumes of rarer, in-demand metals will go a long way in turning your venture into a profitable business.
Profit is directly proportional to the weight of scrap metal that you collect. Rarer the value of the metal and the total volume, higher will be the price fetched. Some scrap yards will pay you with slips that can be encashed at ATMs, as some states don't allow them to carry out cash transactions. 
There is a lot of money to be made in waste management and recycling tasks like these. Many people have built large businesses around this singular activity. The world needs recyclers, who can clean up the world and profit on the way.