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Getting the Best Price for Scrap Copper, Aluminum, and Brass

Jason has experience scrapping metal for money and shares advice on how to do it.

Learn how to make money by recycling scrap metal.

Learn how to make money by recycling scrap metal.

Make Money by Recycling: Metal Scrapping in a Tight Economy

Let me start by saying it's great to have a real job, and I'm very thankful for that every day, but if it wasn't for metal and scrapyards, I might not have cash to spend on my family sometimes. Scrapping metal for money has helped my family out on one or more occasions. The money you will make scrapping is tax-free, and you will get a fair price. You will meet some nice people along the way. Most times, scrap metal is easy to find.

What Is Scrap Metal?

Scrap metal is discarded metal suitable for reprocessing. Basically, it is items composed of metal that people don't want anymore—items that are thrown away or out of service. Here are some examples: soda cans, broken appliances, broken gold and silver jewelry, copper wire, batteries, and the list goes on and on. Remember that almost everything has some sort of metal in it, and this makes it suitable for scrapping.

Supplies for Scrapping

When you start scrapping for money, you will need some tools to make the job easier. Here is a basic list of what you will need:

  • hammer
  • screwdrivers (common and Phillips head)
  • wire cutters
  • razor knife
  • You will need a trailer or truck to haul the material to the scrap yard. A car will work, too, but in order to make more money, you need a bigger vehicle.
  • A computer is helpful, but not necessary.
  • A good attitude and a willingness to work for your money are most important.

Now that I have given you a brief description of what scrapping is, I hope you are ready to get started by reading below. I will give you techniques on how to get the job done quicker and how to maximize your profits. Scrapping is a good hobby: It earns you extra dough, keeps you occupied, and is good for our environment.

Ways to Promote Your Scrap Metal Business

1. Business cards are a great way to get scrap metal. Just pass them out where ever you go. Put your name, address, and phone number on the business card. Also put a brief description of what it is you do: "You call, we haul" or "Appliance haul away."

2. Fliers are a great way to promote your scrap metal business. Pass them out on street corners, put them on cars at the grocery store, or get them put in the local paper.

3. Put an ad on Craigslist. Say in the ad you will haul away scrap metal for free. People will call you and give you the address. Also look in the free section for metal items people are wanting hauled off.

Approximate Value of Scrap Metal

Prices change constantly. Check the price daily so you can negotiate a good deal with the scrap yard.

MetalPrice (cents per pound)



Stainless Steel









Current Scrap Metal Prices

Where to Find Scrap Metal

I guess you're thinking to yourself by now, this might not be half bad of an idea. You can make extra money and help the environment out along the way.

Once you decided this is something you want to do, you need to know where to find it. Below is a list of places you can find scrap metal.

  1. Dumpsters - Dumpsters are a great place to find scrap metal. People throw away televisions, stereos, car parts, batteries, almost anything you can imagine in dumpsters. Take a look inside one and see what you might find.
  2. Car Washes - People are always off-loading junk metal at the car wash. People get rid of, tire rims, wheelbarrows, aluminum cans, and household metal items there.
  3. Craigslist - You can place ads on Craigslist letting people know you will haul away there scrap metal. Haul away their old appliances, junk barbecue pits, car batteries, window air conditioners, just let them know in the add you do not charge a fee, and only want to pick up there metal items. Place your ad in the services section of Craigslist.
  4. Your Home - You will be amazed at how much metal scrap you can get rid of from your own home.
  5. Apartment Buildings- People are always moving in and out of apartment buildings. They usually will discard metal items at or near the buildings dumpster. So drive by and keep you eyes peeled.
  6. Garbage Day - Know when trash day is in various neighborhoods around where you live. Hit these areas early before the other guy does.
  7. Auto Repair Shops- Just ask them if they would like you to haul off their old car parts and metal items. Sometimes you can even charge them a fee for doing them this service.
  8. Your Job - Depending on your occupation, you may be able to obtain scrap from there. HVAC, plumbing, mechanic, and many other jobs provide a good source of scrap.
  9. Hit Them Up After the Yard Sale - Most people after having a yard sale just want the stuff hauled away. Contact them after the sale and strike a deal. It doesn't hurt to ask.
  10. Under Bridges - Just take a look under bridges, people discard large metal items like appliances there.
  11. Bulk Pick Up Day - Most communities have a bulk pick up day. This is where the city picks up large items like appliances, furniture, and bbq pits.
  12. Plumbers- Plumbers have a lot of leftover and used brass fittings they just want hauled away. Call them or meet in person to see if something can be worked out where you pick up the scrap once a week. Sometime you can even get paid to pick it up, and then also make money from selling it to the scrap yard.
  13. Go Door to Door- It can't hurt to pick a neighborhood and knock on the home owners door. Ask them for their unwanted scrap metal items. Most people will have something of value they need removed from their home. Old appliances, barbecue pits, car parts, etc.. are available. Always have business cards to hand them, so they can contact you in the future if they need something removed.
  14. Steel and Machine Shops- This is a great place to get lots of scrap metal, and you must be very professional in your approach. If done properly this could land you a residual income.
  16. Construction Sites-These are a great score for scrap metal, just contact the head foreman and explain what it is you do, and more than likely you will have scrap running out of your ears.
  17. Shooting Ranges- Great for finding brass and aluminum cans.

How to Identify Scrap Metals

MetalWill it draw a magnet?Other Characteristics

Iron or steel


Heavy, will rust, abundant, strong



Very light, will not rust



tarnishes easily: brown or red, beautiful pink when fresh, tarnishes intense green



Very heavy, malleable and soft (can be scratched with a fingernail)



Yellow in color. Worth half as much as copper

Stainless Steel


Light silver color, does not rust

Save Aluminum Cans

Saving and recycling aluminum cans not only earns you money but also helps our world and the environment. According to Clear Stream Recycling, one aluminum can recycled saves enough energy to produce 1/2 gallon of gas. Additionally, aluminum cans can be recycled repeatedly, whereas a can in a landfill takes 500 years to disintegrate. Recycling cans is not likely to produce substantial income, but it can add up for small expenses.

Metal Recycling Facts

  1. Recycling one soda can saves enough energy to light a light bulb for 20 hours, run a television for two hours, or a personal computer for over two hours.
  2. The steel industry saves enough energy every year to power over 18 million homes for one year.
  3. It takes one tree to make one electric pole, while a recycled car can produce more than four power poles.
  4. An average American family throws away over 600 pounds of tin, and aluminum cans away each month.
  5. Americans throw away enough aluminum every month to rebuild the entire American air fleet.
  6. The 36 billion aluminum cans that were thrown away last year have a scrap value of over 600 million dollars.

List of Everyday Items You Can Scrap

  1. computer monitors
  2. television sets
  3. washers and dryers
  4. microwaves
  5. vacuum cleaners
  6. window air conditioning units
  7. lawnmowers and weed eaters
  8. computer towers
  9. fencing
  10. meter loops
  11. bbq pits
  12. hot water heaters
  13. automobiles
  14. food and beverage cans
  15. coaxial cable/DSL cable

This just goes to show that almost anything can be sold for cash at the scrap yard.


Now That You Have Scrap, What to Do With It?

Now that you have your scrap metal, we need to tear it down and process it for the valuable metal inside. Appliances are full of copper wire, motors, stainless steel, and aluminum. Tear the appliance down with your tools and remove these items. Computer monitors and televisions are full of copper and aluminum. Window air conditioners are full of copper tubing, motors, and condenser coils. You will get a much higher price if you tear down the units and collect the precious metals inside.

Now, if it is getting the copper out of an electric motor, this is hardly worth your time and effort because this is a difficult task. Use your best judgment. After you have collected all of the copper, aluminum, brass, and any other valuable metal from the units, separate it all and sell the rest as shred (scrap).

How to Prepare Your Scrap Metal for Maximum Sale


When taking your scrap aluminum collection to the scrap yard, make sure it only contains aluminum. If your aluminum is mixed in with other types of metals, most scrap yards will deduct a certain percentage from the price. It is also very important to keep your scrap Aluminum clean and rust and garbage free. You will yield a higher price if you follow these steps. Also, make sure there is no other attached metal to your scrap Aluminum. Screws, nails, and other attached parts will reduce the amount you get.


Copper wire is worth quite a bit at the scrap yard and should be prepared, so we get the highest price possible. First of all, we must make sure it is clean. That means if there is any casing on the wire, we remove it. This will let you acquire the highest price possible. Also, separate it into grades. There are many grades of copper, and they should be separated correctly.


Getting the highest price for your brass is the same as above. Keep everything very organized and clean.

  • The Differences in Scrap Copper Grades |
    The Differences in Scrap Copper Grades. Knowing how to classify scrap copper could mean the difference between netting a nice price from a recycling facility and unknowingly throwing away potentially valuable pieces of copper.

How to Scrap a Window Air Conditioner

Start off by taking apart the outside of the AC unit to get to the insides. Take the outside shell of the air conditioner unit off by finding whatever type of screwdriver or socket is necessary to remove its fasteners. Once you have the unit separated as much as possible, you can next cut the copper lines out. This is usually done easily with a large pair of wire cutters or a hacksaw. Avoid leaving any small pieces of copper by cutting close to connections but not close enough to leave steel contamination. Cut out soldered joints in the lines as they are worth the Copper #2 price; If what is left is not painted, then it is Copper #1.

Using wire cutters, isolate any other copper-rich components like insulated wire or fan motors. The fan motors in large scrap air conditioning units are generally very good motors for tearing apart.

Save all of the leftover steel. It adds up much quicker than thought. I know it sounds crazy to most of us reading this, but there are still many people who will just throw out the steel because they don’t think it’s worth saving.

How to Scrap a CRT Computer Monitor

Believe it or not, these things have a bunch of copper in them. Start by removing the screws off of the back cover. Inside the unit, you will see the tube, a circuit board, and then the yoke. The yoke is full of copper. Take a hammer and break the yoke off; be sure to wear goggles so as not to put an eye out. Some gas will escape, but nothing to worry about.

Next, take the hammer and smash the magnet which houses the copper, remove the copper from the yoke, and you're done. There are also a lot of aluminum parts on the circuit board, don't forget to remove these and set them aside. The rest is shred, but you will have to find someplace to dispose of the tube. Not a big deal; put it in your household trash or find a dumpster somewhere.

Easy Way to Strip Wire and Get the Copper Out

A little trick I have learned to strip wire and get the precious copper out of it is to heat up the insulation first. You can either do this by putting the wire in the hot sun for a bit, or what I like to do is cut the wire into manageable pieces, put the pieces in a large pot of boiling water, and let everything heat up for a bit. Turn the boiling water off and let the wire cool for just a few minutes. Then take a razor knife and cut some of the wire insulation off. Once you have it started, just pull the rest of the insulation off of the copper. The heat makes stripping the wire so much easier. I think this little shortcut I have learned will make everyone's life a little bit easier.

Now It's Time to Take a Trip to the Scrap Yard

Now that everything is separated and loaded let's take a trip to the scrap yard and make some cash. Always go to the closest scrap yard, so you burn less fuel and make more profit. Always be professional and courteous to the staff, and just have a good time. Thanks for reading my article, and I hope you will enjoy scrapping as I do. Good luck.

Read More on This Subject

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Camel neck on October 14, 2019:

I make about $200.00 a day scrapping..I collect it all from Dusty to Dawn. iIt's really that easly.

Samuel on August 10, 2018:

I work in scrap

Anand Metals USA from Chattanooga on December 21, 2014:

Anand Metals USA

0176-2503849 , 1-423-421-1738

We connect the global trade of scrap and recycled non-ferrous metals to where industry needs it most. To ensure continuity of supply over time, Anand Global takes a long-term and responsible approach to its business. This means concentrating on adding value to both our customers and suppliers, and running efficient operations capable of delivering the best product quality, the best service, and the best value in everything we do.

Jamesm1968 from UK on August 13, 2014:

It is certainly worth collecting scrap.

One thing I have discovered is that (here in the UK at least) electric motors fetch more when cashed-in as a separate item.

David Hamilton from Lexington, KY on June 20, 2014:

Very well done! Keep up the good work.

Tom on April 04, 2013:

Great article. Do you have an outlet for plastics? Or, is it just crush and throw out with trash? Thanks a bunch! I have been thinking about collecting junk bikes and tearing them down, cutting the tubing to little sections and filling up 55 gallon buckets with the little pieces of tubing, either steel or aluminum, and harvesting as much else as I can off the bikes..... Appliances were in my mind as well. Thanks a bunch!

gorilla24 on April 03, 2013:

Awesome hub bro keep it up! on February 06, 2013:

The article says something along the lines of aluminum being attracted to magnets. Obviously, this isn't the case.

However, in the European Union, aluminum cans are composed of an aluminum/steel mixture.

God bless.

paulie on June 12, 2012:

I save the copper, stainless, aluminium, brass, for a price spike, and unload the steel-tin-iron. Watch your driving, the true cost of operating a full size truck is $1/mile. People put out tin cans, cleaned and ready to go in their recycling bins, I collect those on foot. A handcart can help a lot. Watch out for nails at the scrap yard, I walk the driving path first to look for sharp metal and prevent flat tires. The best thing about scraping is you are your own boss and you can do whatever part of scraping you want( accumulation, cleaning, disassembly, sorting, going to the scrap yard) any time you want, and it is legal to sell your own property so if you make a hundred $ you are really making about $ 140 as five government agencies take from a paycheck. By selling the ferrous and keeping the rest you can accumulate, with less space, something better than fed notes for an emergency.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on April 20, 2012:

When we bought a new refrigerator recently, I was pleased to find an individual who was making a living recycling the old ones along with other scrap metal. He had put up signs at the local grocery store and when he arrived he had the paperwork printed out for me to also get a refund from the energy star program. $75, not bad!