You've probably seen them… trucks pulling trailers with a bunch of random junk metal in the back. You might have wondered what they were doing with such a random assortment of metal… but truth be told, they probably planned to scrap it to make some extra cash. Can you really make money picking up scrap metal?
You can, actually. And in this post, you're going to learn how to do it.
How To Make Money Picking Up Scrap Metal
If you want to make money picking up scrap metal, then you are going to need a few different things. You are also going to need to know the ins and outs of making this side-hustle work if you aren't already familiar with how scrappers make their cash.
Scrapping can be a pretty lucrative side-hustle. In fact, some people earn a full-time living doing it.
But how do you get started? What do you need? And perhaps more importantly… how much money can you make?
Let's talk about it.
What Will You Need To Get Started Scrapping?
Here is a list of what you will need to get started in this side-hustle the right way.
- A magnet
- A pair of tin snips
- A pair of wire cutters
- A pair of grips… or groove-lock pliers
- A multi-head screwdriver… or, preferably as an upgrade, a screw gun with multiple heads
- A pair of safety gloves
- A vehicle and/or a trailer capable of hauling the scrap metal you pick up
Let's take a moment and talk about why these tools, in particular, are the best tools to have with you.
A magnet helps you to identify metals that have iron in them. Iron is, by far, the most common type of metal you will find to scrap… and it is also quite valuable. It can also be used to help identify which metals are not iron, which is also valuable.
Tin snips and/or wire cutters will help you to separate trash, cut wires that are holding things together, and ‘clean things up' so that you can fit it all into your trailer more neatly and nicely.
A pair of grips will help you to unscrew things, grab things, move things around, etc.
A screw gun will help you to unscrew screws that are holding things together. This is helpful for when you want to separate things that have been attached with screws.
The gloves, vehicle, and trailer are pretty self-explanatory. You need gloves to keep your hands safe, and you need a vehicle/trailer to haul your loads.
(Looking for more ways to earn money with a pickup truck? Check out this article!)
How Much Money Can You Make Picking Up Scrap Metal?
You can easily earn $40-$100 a load for a trailer of scrap metal if it contains a decent amount of iron or other valuable metals.
And of course, you can usually do this more than once per day if you move fast and work hard.
What Types Of Things Should You Pick Up To Scrap?
Some of the best types of things to pick up include washers, dryers, stoves, microwaves, old computers, heavy bars, pieces of metal, bedframes, break drums, break rotors, old iron claw-foot bathtubs, etc.
These are awesome because you can just throw them into the shredder, and earn cash for them. It literally doesn't matter if they still have labels on them, or if there is a bit of extra trash thrown in… it's the same money, and it works pretty well.
In some cases, you may want to remove the more precious metals from appliances… such as the copper in a microwave, the stainless steel drum in a washer, etc.
But whether or not you remove these things and sell them separately is up to you, and will mostly depend on if the extra time is worth the extra cash to you.
You can, of course, also pick up stuff that a magnet won't stick to. This includes metals like aluminum, and materials like wire.
Insulated Copper Wire
Copper wire that still has insulation on it is called insulated copper wire. Scrap yards rate copper wire differently, and not all scrap yards will accept copper wire that is smaller than a certain diameter… because it won't be worth the time with how much weight in copper they will get out of it.
So if you know what scrap yard you are going to be using, you may want to ask them for an example of the smallest diameter of copper wire that they will accept.
If you don't have a trailer, and don't have as much room, more precious metals like copper and aluminum can actually fetch a lot more cash for the weight and time.
A lot of scrap yards will want you to clean off the extras on some copper wire. That means cutting off plugs, connectors, etc.
Oh… and don't mix coaxial cable into your other copper wiring!
Nobody wants this type of cable. It's basically the type of cable used to hook TVs to VCRs, that some old video game systems use… stuff that connects via a coaxial cable to the back of a TV.
A lot of people think that these cables are copper… but they are actually steel with copper coloring, and they are completely worthless.
Ethernet Cable can sometimes yield an even higher payout if you keep it sorted separately. Generally, you will need to cut the ends off with wire-cutters.
But… it can be worth it, because some scrap yards will pay more for it.
Another type of wire that you can make more money for is called BX Cable. This is actually copper cable inside an aluminum shield material that is bendable… and it is actually quite valuable!
Aluminum Or Steel Wire With Copper Coating Generally Isn't Worth Anything Unless You Grab It In Huge Piles
For the most part, you will just want to leave this kind of wire where you find it… unless you find a big pile, or you want to work over time to build up a larger pile of it.
You can also throw it into the shred pile if you have stuff that's just going to get thrown into the shredder.
Aluminum is extremely light, extremely flexible, and almost silver/whitish in color.
You will tend to find aluminum in siding materials, in pots and pans, in those disposable baking sheets/pans you can buy around the holidays, etc.
This stuff doesn't weigh much, so it can take a while to build up a large enough pile to make it worth it.
You can also find larger, more dense pieces of aluminum… such as those used for fence posts, wheel rims, waffle-iron grates, radiators from cars, etc.
But, a bin of it can yield about $20, which isn't bad!
Another thing to keep in mind about aluminum scrap is that it tends to be worth about 3x as much if you clean all of the non-aluminum parts off of it.
This means removing screws, taking off wires, removing plastic shield material, etc.
Aside from wires, you can also find other things made of copper.
Copper pipes, copper fittings, bare copper wires, etc.
Copper is extremely valuable, so you want to make sure to grab it if you can.
One thing to note about copper, though, is that there are different ratings based what kind of shape it is in.
Copper with contaminants on it, like solder, is usually worth less than pure copper.
Brass is another very valuable metal to sell for scrap. You can tend to find it in similar places as copper, where copper was just too soft.
Fittings, some pipe, threaded parts, door handles, and sometimes faucets themselves can be made of brass.
In fact, faucets that look steel are usually chromed brass. You can tell for sure by filing off a little bit of the chrome plating to see if it is yellowish/goldish in color underneath.
Brass is another metal that is really important to clean. This means that you want to remove anything on it that isn't brass before you take it to the scrap yard to sell it.
You can also sell ‘junk brass' at many scrap yards. This is brass that is too difficult to clean to make it worthwhile. This could include plugs for appliances, pieces of household hardware, etc.
And last but not least, lead can also be very profitable to scrap.
You will tend to find this in lead-acid batteries, lead wheel weights, etc. Almost anything that is heavy, that also needs to carry power (has a battery), will usually be made of lead.
There are also other sources of lead. It is pretty easy to identify because it will be really heavy, but also really soft.
There are also some other metals that you will want to look out for, such as gold, stainless steel, platinum, carbide, etc.
Our Final Opinion Of Picking Up Metal For Scrap
Can you really make money picking up scrap metal and selling it?
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