How to Check Scrap Metal Prices

by Tom Streissguth; Updated September 26, 2017
Pile of Aluminium scrap

When metal prices rise, it leads to a busy market in scrap and recyclable metal. Steel, aluminum, copper, brass and iron all have value, even in the form of discarded items such as car parts, engine parts and appliances. Scrap processing centers will accept a wide range of material from individuals as well as businesses, and are happy to share the prices they will pay for scrap metal. If you're looking to deal in a little scrap, some research into the market prices is a smart way to prepare.

Go to the Site

Check the websites of local scrap processing centers. Many will post current offered prices on the range of products they're currently buying. This might include the price per ton for whole vehicles, for example, or price per pound of certain miscellaneous items such as power tools, electric engines, alternators, catalytic converters and starters. Metal items are typically grouped under their base material such as ferrous (iron), brass, stainless, aluminum or copper. Follow up with a phone call to get the latest quote because many websites are not regularly updated.

The Big Boards

In addition to checking local scrap prices, you also can move your inquiry out to a national or international register or exchange such as MetalPrices.com. These sites give quotes on hundreds of varieties of scrap metal as well as detail on regional and international prices. Scrap Register, for example, gives prices on the basic scrap types as well as gold, nickel, zinc, lead, and electronic scrap, and breaks down the U.S. prices for four different regions: the West, Midwest, East and South. As of publication, the site also ranges overseas for quotes from China, Japan and India. Note that many of these websites will offer aged quotes free of charge, but ask for a subscription for up-to-date prices.

Hit the Road

Visit a local recycling or scrap processing center. Many are open for business from individual sellers, and will be happy to give you a quote for whatever scrap you have available. The price will vary according to the condition and the loss ratio of recovering the material. Copper, for example, is valuable as scrap because 100 percent of the material is recoverable from pipes, wiring and fixtures. Check ahead to make sure the yard will take your scrap, as many scrap processors specialize in certain types.

Other Venues

Check Craigslist, eBay or other online selling platforms for current offers from scrap sellers. Individuals and companies looking to make a decent living from scrap metal will post offers to buy or sell bulk scrap. Scrap buyers such as junk haulers and recycling centers might have continuous ads in the local print classifieds or online. The general rule with any marketplace is that bids to buy will be lower than offers to sell. Then again, you might not have to pay a dime. Stay on the lookout for businesses or homeowners that offer free scrap for those willing to haul it away.

About the Author

Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.

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