How to Find, Sort and Sell Scrap Metal for Cash

Recycling scrap metal is a great way to make some extra money. Contractors across the country use scrap yards to sell the materials from demolitions that they cannot reuse. This helps them pad their bottom line. Scrap yards help you get rid of items that are too bulky to store, but that might otherwise sit in a landfill. The great news is that you don’t have to be a contractor to make money! Sort and sell the scrap metal you find around your home to get cash in-hand. Even if you don’t know how to tell a ferrous from a non-ferrous metal, don’t worry. We’ll teach you how to tell copper from red brass or rusty rebar and give you all the tips you need to find, sort and sell scrap metal for cash.


If you’re not sure how to sort your metals, start with ferrous and non-ferrous metals. We will define them in more detail below but know that the biggest difference is whether the metal contains iron. If you aren’t sure what is a ferrous metal and what isn’t, then invest in a high-powered scrap magnet. Don’t try to go cheap with a refrigerator magnet. It’s just not powerful enough, and keychain scrap magnets can be found in most hardware stores and online. All staff at any scrap yard should be equipped with keychain magnets. Your non-ferrous scrap metal will be sorted, weighed and tested when you bring them to the yard to sell.

How to Sort and Sell Scrap Metal

Sorting and selling the valuable scrap metal from your home and business is a great way to get rid of unused appliances or old cars, and the most valuable metals can come from unexpected places. Now, first things first: it’s best to set out a sorting method before you start. Cardboard boxes are effective and cheap, but if you use plastic tubs, you’ll easily be able to transport them to the scrap yard.

Make sure to label them clearly by metal type. If you are gathering scrap metal from home, and not a demolition site, it might take a while to gather a large amount of scrap metal. Be patient. Once you to gather enough metal to make a profitable trip to the yard, the return will be worth the time spent storing the scrap metal.

Types of Metal – Ferrous vs Non-Ferrous Metals

Non-ferrous metals are metals with no iron in them. These tend to fetch the highest prices at the scrap yard. These metals include aluminum, lead, tin, zinc and nickel. Since non-ferrous metals do not contain iron, you can test them by using a magnet. If it does not stick to the metal, you have a non-ferrous metal. Separate these from your ferrous metals. It is also helpful to separate your non-ferrous metals by metal type, because they all fetch different prices when you sell scrap metal.

The two most common non-ferrous metals are copper and brass. Copper fetches some of the higher prices at the yard, so look out for wiring in stereos, old dryers or other large electric appliances. Strip your wires first to get the highest price. Some yards will tell you that you do not have to strip your wiring, but you will often be paid a lower price if you don’t.

Brass is another highly valuable metal, and it’s found most often in pipe fittings and high-quality plumbing fixtures. However, watch out for red brass. Even though it contains a small amount of copper alloy, it’s still processed as brass. You might also be surprised to learn that old car radiators were made of brass. You can scrap bullet casings and any other brass fixtures you find, including brass interior décor.

Ferrous metals can be found in just about anything that is made of metal, making them the most common, and least valuable, scrap metal, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth the effort. Metal is heavy, and it adds up quickly. Find steel in metal appliances including washers & dryers, as well as many old nuts, bolts, washers and more. Just use your magnet to test them. If you have a large appliance, bicycles (unless it has an aluminum frame) or an old car, you can scrap these as ferrous metals. Metal prices are paid out by the pound. When you have all the scrap you can store, take it all down to your local scrap yard! Use your large pick-up truck or enlist the help of a strong friend who might also help you unload your metals at the yard.

2 thoughts on “How to Find, Sort and Sell Scrap Metal for Cash

  1. That’s good to know that metals with no iron in them tend to have a higher price than those with iron. My husband has an old car that no longer works that he wants to sell some of the scrap metal for extra cash. We’ll have to check if it has iron in it or not and then find a metal yard we can sell it to that’ll give us a good price.

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