If you’re looking to get the best scrap metal prices, there is a lot of reading you can do on this site; Besides reading this page, I suggest you browse through our publicly available Scrap Metal Guide to learn just how much value you have thrown away for all these years. If you have any questions or comments, add them to the comments section.
The world of scrap metal recycling has changed a lot in the past decade or so, if only for one small thing… Prices.
What Determines Scrap Metal Prices?
Scrap Metal Prices are a function of metal type, location, quantity of scrap metal, and current market value for your materials. In other words, the price you get paid by a scrap yard will depend on what you are selling (copper, brass, aluminum, steel, etc), where you are selling (what side of town, which side of the world, etc), how much scrap metal you are selling (pounds vs tons), and how much the material is worth once refined (“spot price”).
- Scrap Metal Type:
Scrap metal is broken down into many different types of categories. For example, Copper, Lead, and Stainless Steel are all types of scrap metals that can be sold at a scrap yard, and each of these metals can get further subcategorized into copper wire, lead wheel weighs, or 18-10 grade stainless steel, for example.Now, this is obvious to anybody who has sold metal before…But, what isn’t so obvious is the way your metal gets categorized! The category of your metal depends on the scrap yard you are at!!! For example, what one scrap yard considers bare bright scrap copper, another scrap yard will consider copper #1.Keep this in mind when shopping around for better prices, because the last thing we want is a quote for cast aluminum, only to find out the scrap yard considers your material to be pot metal. (~40% reduction in price!)
- Geographical location:
Without making too many generalizations, we can assume that scrap metal prices will always be highest in areas where there is the most competition. This means rural areas, areas far away from refineries, areas too far inland, etc will rarely have better pricing then those places where scrap yards can both fight for customers and haggle with refineries.Keep this in mind when searching for the best scrap yard. Spending 1 more hour round trip and an extra $15 in gas to get to a further scrap yard may make you an additional 15% at the pay out window!In a similar vein, you can always consider selling your scrap metal on eBay, which allows for tremendous competition, but which takes fees and costs you for time, shipping, and handling.(more on Selling Scrap Metal On eBay )
- Quantity of Scrap Metal: On the surface, it is a simple concept; the more metal you have, the more it is worth. But further exploration shows that it really is a tool which can be used to your advantage! (Read more below)
- Current Spot Metal Prices: These would be the prices that newly refined ore and scrap is being sold for. In general, the more money a refinery can the refined metal for, the more money you can sell your scrap metal for. (But, keep in mind, this isn’t alwaysthe case) The best way to keep up with metal spot prices is to check out Kitco spot price feeds.
How To Negotiate The Best Scrap Metal Prices
The easiest way to change the salvage value of your scrap metal will be to somehow manipulate any of the 4 different parameters that scrap metal prices depend on to your advantage. For example, selling to a different scrap yard can increase how much you make! Here are three simple techniques to getting better pricing, ordered from easiest to hardest; You will need to use all three to get the absolute best pricing!
- Play the quantity:
Every scrapper has encountered this scenario: You call up the scrap yard to check on the price of a certain type of metal; their first and only question “How much do you have?” When you buy/sell in bulk, you get better pricing, and the scrap yard is no exception.Try this on for size: instead of selling brass by the bucketful, try the barrel-full! Save up a 55 gallon barrel of brass (it doesn’t need to be full). A semi-full barrel of brass should weigh 1/4 ton – 3/4 ton depending on what type of brass components are in it.When you call up the scrap yard to ask what they pay for brass, they will be much more receptive to your price requests if they know you will be bringing in a 1/2 ton of brass, and hopefully will be happy to offer you 10% more than what they normally would.This mentality can be applied to all metals; Save up your shred metal and sell it by the trailer-full, or even dumpster-full.
This type of price advantage is easiest to work out if you have a secure area to store your scrap metal. Be wary of thieves and city ordinances.
- Play the market:
All things being equal, scrap metal prices will drop slightly in the summer and increase slightly in the winter. This is especially true in areas that have very cold winters that impede recyclers and scrappers from collecting and salvaging. Use this to your advantage. If you can hold onto your metal for a few months before selling, you will most likely see a rise in prices in the winter. WARNING: this only works in scrap markets where there is not much volatility, meaning the price is not constantly jumping and falling without reason.
- Play the scrap yards:
Every scrap yard is willing to compete for your business, especially if your business is consistent! (Especially if you are scrapping full time!) If you are business or just a guy with a hobby, you can squeeze your scrap yards for better prices. It all dependents on how much material you are bringing in, and how consistently you are bringing it in.Start off by becoming a steady customer at a scrap yard that has proven itself to be of a high-caliber. This is the key! The better the scrap yard, the better they treat their customers. Be sure to introduce yourself to the owner, and always save your scrap yard price tickets! ALL OF THEM! Total up how much metal you bring in per week, per month, per year, etc, and how much material that is for them.Once you have developed a consistent and steady relationship with the scrap yard, and their workers, sit down with the owner (or acting manager) and have a frank and polite conversation with him or her. If they are not at all receptive of your request to have higher prices, that is not the end of the world! You can bring the same tickets to another scrap yard and show them how much material you are willing to bring them if they can give you better (“special”) pricing.The idea is not to be aggressive, but to be frank and open: They need to understand that you will bring your business to the scrap yard that can give you the best prices.The worst case scenario is that you end up still getting the same prices you were getting before. The best case is that you make more money per load just for asking!
If you have any questions about getting better scrap metal prices, or if your scrap metal prices are “fair,” please leave comments.