You may have heard or read about people who make money by selling scrap metal. Is this a legit side hustle? And if so, how can you get in on the cash?
The truth is that there are a few different ways to make money from scrap metal. However, you have to know what types of metal you’re looking for and how to sell it.
In this article we’ll cover various ways you can make money from scrap metal and how to make the most of your time when doing so. We’ll also talk about the types of metal you can sell.
There are all kinds of legitimate side hustles these days. Read on to see if this is another option for you to try.
Different types of scrap metal bring different means of profit. There are two basic types of scrap metal: ferrous and non-ferrous.
Ferrous metals consist of iron, iron alloys, stainless steel or similar metals. Most scrap metal belongs in this category.
Appliances and similar items make up most of the ferrous metals you can sell. Ovens and ranges, refrigerators, washing machines and dryers, etc. fall into this category.
Automobiles, tractors and other similar items also fall into the ferrous scrap metal category.
Non-ferrous metals consist of copper, aluminum, nickel, tin, titanium and other similar metals.
You can sell bare copper wire for cash and get good money for it. However, copper wire can be tough to find.
Aluminum cans are another type of non-ferrous recyclable scrap, but most recyclers don’t pay much for aluminum cans. However, aluminum cans are also much easier to come by than other types of metals.
This leads to our next question: What’s the best type of metal to sell?
So, what types of scrap metal should you sell? The answer to that depends on the resources you have available.
For instance, if you work in the construction field you might have access to more non-ferrous metals such as copper. Some construction companies throw away large amounts of copper wire because they just don’t want to deal with recycling it.
You’ll get more money if you strip the plastic coating off the copper wire before recycling it, and companies don’t have time for that. So they simply throw the copper wire away.
Also, you may work in an industry where you have access to large numbers of aluminum beverage cans. If your employer gives you permission, you can take the cans and recycle them.
However, if you don’t have insider access to these types of metals, you’ll probably make the most money by recycling large appliances and other unwanted metal items.
In fact, many people who get scrap metal as a legit side hustle do recycle appliances and similar items.
Some examples of these items include:
- Washing machines and dryers
- Water softeners and water heaters
- Other older metal appliances
So, what are some of the ways you can get money from scrap metal? Here are some ideas.
Depending on the types of scrap metal you want to collect, there are different ways to get money from scrap metal. Here are some ideas.
1. Get Money by Collecting Aluminum Cans
Some people get money from scrap metal by collecting aluminum cans. You can start by collecting cans you use at home, as well as from friends and family members (or co-workers) who drink a lot of canned beverages.
But because aluminum cans fetch so little money at recycling centers, you’ll need to have a lot of cans to make your work and trip to the recycling center worth your time.
You can get more cans if you can collect them from your workplace or other sources. More on that below.
2. Get Money by Recycling Other Non-Ferrous Metals
Some people get money from scrap metal by recycling other non-ferrous metals such as copper. This is probably only an option if you have legal access to unwanted copper tubing, wiring or other non-ferrous metals.
3. Get Money by Recycling Various Ferrous Metals
Some people get money from scrap metal by recycling various ferrous metals. They might collect items such as old BBQ grills or large metal parts from manufacturing companies.
Or they might recycle old lawn mowers or other various metal items. If you choose this option, it’s important to make sure that the time you put into collecting these things is worth the money you get at recycling centers.
Note that if you choose this route, you’ll need to ensure your recyclable items are emptied of all gasoline and other fluids.
4. Get Money by Recycling Old Appliances
Another way people get money from scrap metal is by recycling old appliances. They find free appliances curbside and bring them to recycling centers.
However, you will need a way to haul the appliances if you choose this option. More on that later.
5. Get Money by Repairing Old Appliances
One of the most popular ways people get money from scrap metal is by repairing old appliances. To do this, you’ll usually need to find free appliances people are giving away.
If they’re repairable, you’ll need to repair them and resell them for a profit. To do this side hustle, you’ll have to know — or learn — a bit about appliance repair.
Some appliance repairs are fast, cheap and simple. Others are not. By questioning the appliance’s owner about the problem, you can determine what may be involved in fixing it.
That will better help you determine if the appliance is one you can make a profit from. Depending on the type of work needed, repairing appliances could be a way to make money.
Note: Cleaning and doing some touch-up paint may be good for your repair business, too. Keep this in mind as you search for appliances to repair and resell. The nicer the appliance looks, the more attractive it will be to potential buyers.
Many scrap metal side hustlers make money via one of the five ways listed above. But where to find items for scrap metal recycling?
There is a variety of ways you can find scrap metal to sell. Here are some ideas.
Check on Craigslist
Craigslist typically has many listings for people who want someone to come and pick up old appliances. These people can’t or don’t want to repair them.
They don’t want to deal with hauling the appliances to a recycling center. What’s worse is that if they bring them to a junkyard, they’ll get charged for dropping them off.
People know there are scrap metal side hustlers and will advertise free scrap metal for you to pick up and haul away.
In addition, manufacturing companies will occasionally advertise for scrap metal pieces someone can pick up and haul away for free.
Look for these types of listings in the “free” section on Craigslist.
Check with Local Manufacturing Companies
Sometimes, local manufacturing companies will have scrap metal or metal parts to sell. You can call or stop in to local manufacturing companies near you to ask. See if they’ll let you haul away their scrap metal for free.
Note that this tactic works best with smaller companies. Larger companies typically have a plan in place for removing scrap metal. But you can always call and ask.
Check with Your Employer
As I mentioned earlier, you might work in a field where scrap metal is more readily available. If you work in the construction field, you can check with management to see if you can take scrap metal off their hands.
If you work in a company where there are soda machines or a large amount of people who drink sodas, check to see if you can put a recycling container in the cafeteria or snack area.
Collect the cans regularly and bring them to your local recycling center.
Ask Family Members, Friends and Neighbors
Another way to get money from scrap metal is to ask family, friends and neighbors. Ask if they have aluminum cans they’d be willing to save for you. Agree to pick them up on a weekly basis.
Or, ask if they’ve got old appliances or autos they want taken off their hands. Agree to pick them up and haul them away. You’d be helping them and making money at the same time.
Check Your Garage, House or Storage Unit
You might have scrap metal lying around right on your own property. Check your house, garage and storage unit for items such as old appliances and old metal shelving.
These items can often be turned in to scrap metal recyclers for cash. But how much money do recycling centers pay for scrap metal?
Scrap metal buying prices vary based on the area where you live and the type of metal you’re selling to recyclers. When I checked on scrap metal selling prices in my area, here is what I found.
Ferrous Metal Pricing
The websites I checked in my area all said that scrap metal pricing for ferrous metals such as appliances and autos vary. You’d have to bring the metal in or call for more information.
I did find some online prices at $75 per ton to $115 per ton for auto metals, and one price at $120 per ton for farm equipment metal.
Appliance recycling in my area went for between 10 cents and 15 cents per pound.
Non-Ferrous Metal Pricing
Here are some of the average prices for non-ferrous metals in my area. Note that recycling prices in your area may differ.
- Aluminum cans: 60 cents per pound on average
- Copper: $3.28 per pound on average
- Brass: $1.79 per pound on average
As you can see, the non-ferrous metals bring more money per pound at the recycling plants. However, it’s tough to get the number of pounds in non-ferrous metals that you’d get in ferrous metals such as appliances and autos.
The prices for these metals means you’ve got to collect a lot of metal to make any kind of income. There may be easier ways to make money fast. But if you happen to have easy access to a lot of scrap metal, recycling scrap metal could make you a nice little side gig.
Most people who use scrap metal as a side hustle job sell to local recycling plants. I recommend doing an internet search for “scrap metal recyclers near me” to find recyclers in your area.
It’s also important to call each recycler in your area and see what they’re paying per pound. Payouts for scrap metal can vary widely for each recycler.
If you are selling scrap metal in the form of reconditioned appliances, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are likely your best bets for advertising.
Now that you’ve decided to give scrap metal recycling a try, you’ll need certain tools.
The tools you’ll need depend on on the types of items you plan to recycle.
Recycling Large Appliances and Autos
Do you plan on recycling ferrous metals such as large appliances, autos, machinery parts, etc? If so, you may want to own a pickup truck. Having a trailer you can haul behind your car is another good option.
You’ll need something big enough to transport large appliances to the scrap metal center. You’ll also need a vehicle that can handle the weight of the appliance or weight of the trailer and the appliance.
In addition, you’ll need certain tools to recycle ferrous metals such as large appliances. Some scrap metal recyclers recommend carrying a small magnet with you to check metals you’re uncertain about.
Ferrous metals will attract the magnet, non-ferrous metals will not. In addition, tools such as a wrench and a screwdriver will help. These may be needed to remove non-metal parts from an appliance.
If you decide you want to repair appliances, you may need additional tools. You might need training resources as well. YouTube is a great resource for learning to repair appliances.
What if you’ve decided to recycle non-ferrous metals such as aluminum beverage cans? All you’ll really need is a big trunk or hatchback space in your vehicle to carry the cans to the recycling center.
If you happen to have a pickup and/or trailer, you may be able to recycle both types of metals. In addition, there are other things you’ll need to know about recycling scrap metal before you start.
How Will I Get Paid?
How you get paid for the scrap metal you find depends on what you do with it. If you bring it to a recycling center, you’ll get paid according to the recycling center’s rules.
Some recycling centers pay on the spot. Others make you wait a day or two before they pay you. Check with recycling centers near you for more information.
If you choose to repair and resell appliances, you’ll get paid from your buyers. As mentioned earlier, advertise your reconditioned items on Craigslist or Facebook. Consider throwing in delivery for an additional fee as well.
Collecting scrap metal can be a worthy side hustle option if you do it in a way that is easiest for you. That might mean collecting aluminum cans.
Or, it might mean collecting and repairing old appliances. When done in the ways mentioned above, you can make money from scrap metal.