The Recycler’s Guide to Scrap Metal Pricing

We’ve all seen the ads that tell us how valuable our old electronics are. The value comes mainly from the metals, wires and other materials these electronics contain. Assuming you have a stack of old electronics—which, you probably do—you might be wondering how much you can really make from selling, say, that old cell phone? Are the wires and metals in your old beat up printer, keyboard or UPS backup battery really worth something?

And if your old electronics really are worth something, does the value fluctuate depending on what part of the country you’re in? Is that dilapidated Apple II that’s been sitting in your basement since 1985 worth more in Vermont than it is in Kansas? Are the cost differences for scrap metal pricing across the U.S. large enough to incentivize traveling to sell your scrap metal?

In short, how does the price of scrap metal change?

Well, it all depends. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.  

How the Price of Scrap Metal Is Determined

Overall, the prices for metal scrap materials do fluctuate according to market value. Denver-based All Recycling, Inc—one of the largest scrap metal recycling processors in the Rocky Mountain Region—states clearly on their website, “Prices are adjusted daily according to the various metals markets. We adjust our prices daily to ensure our customers receive a fair price.”

So, how are these scrap metal prices determined? There are a number of factors, just a few of which are listed below:  

The Supply and Demand of Scrap Metal

As with any industry, when metal scrap supply is low and demand is high, prices soar. When metal scrap supply is high and demand is low, prices are reduced.

Scrap Metal’s Life Cycle

While the price of copper, for example, might be $4.00 a pound, an individual should not expect to sell their copper for that price at a scrap yard, as their copper is most likely toward the end of its life cycle.

The Scrap Metal’s Quantity

You may be able to negotiate a better deal if you have a large quantity of scrap metal materials to sell.  

The Scrap Metal’s Location

The more competitive the scrap yard, the more competitive the prices. While you may live very close to a scrap yard, you may find it’s worth the extra time spent driving to a location that offers a better price.

Scrap Metal Prices Across the U.S.

Aluminum scrap prices vary only slightly from the West to the Midwest to the East Coast.

  • For instance, painted siding is tagged with an average $0.58 per pound on both coasts compared to one penny less, $0.57, in the country’s midsection.
  • Copper totes a similar cost difference from region to region. On the coasts, heater cores are $1.17 per pound and $1.15 in the Midwest, on average.
  • The trend is much the same for brass and bronze. Per pound, red brass is $1.66, $1.62 and $1.65 moving from west to east.

Of course, the greater the quantity of scrap metal that you have, the more of an impact the difference of a few pennies per pound could make. Let’s say you have 200 pounds of the aforementioned red brass: The end-all pay-out per pound of brass would differ just a bit across the U.S. regions: $332, $324 and $330, respectively. Bump that quantity of brass up to 2,000 pounds and the reimbursements become $3,320, $3,240 and $3,300.

It’s fairly apparent that traveling across the country from the West to the East Coast wouldn’t make sense for a $20 difference. Though, if you’re located in the Midwest and near an East Coast scrap metal location, it may be worthwhile to travel for that extra $60. And if you’re based in the westernmost edge of the Midwest, spending $80 selling 2,000 pounds of red brass scrap in a more-West state could be a big bonus—depending on travel and fuel variables.

DIY Scrap Metal Research

The best way to accurately crunch the numbers is to determine what is important to you. Are you interested in the biggest bang for your buck? Are you interested in doing business with recyclers that are environmentally conscious?  Keeping these factors in mind, research the scrap metal recyclers in your area and get in touch with them for a quote. Getting the best deal means you’ll need to do your research, call around to different recycling stations, and compare.

There are also several online resources available to help you compare scrap metal  pricing. is a nationwide scrap yard directory that allows you to research locations and scrap metal pricing in your area. Scrap Monster is a resource that not only lists out the most recent scrap metal pricing, it also provides the latest in scrap metal news, careers, events, and even allows user communication through the use of online forums and discussion boards. 

For more information on the importance of recycling scrap metal and to learn about recycling systems and equipment, contact General Kinematics today.

*All scrap metal pricing is based off of the Oct 2015 U.S. averages, as listed by Scrap Monster.

6 Responses to “The Recycler’s Guide to Scrap Metal Pricing”

  1. Camille Devaux

    I have a friend that is thinking about getting rid of scrap metal. She is thinking about finding a service that would be able to do this for her. It might be wise for her to know that you can check trends to find out how much you will be able sell it for.

  2. Kate Hansen

    It was helpful when you said that the price can determine on the amount of metal that you have. My husband has a lot of scrap metal left over from a project. Thank you for the information about recycling scrap metal!

  3. Faylinn

    Wow, I had no idea that an individual should not expect to sell copper at the price where it is listed, and that you should consider its life cycle of the metal. I have been thinking about trying to sell some of the copper that I have in my backyard because my husband recently lost his job and we need to start selling all of our things if we plan to get by until he finds a new job. Hopefully, we will be able to find a professional that will buy our metal for the right amount of money according to its place in the cycle that you mentioned.

  4. Eli Richardson

    I found it interesting when you explained how companies set scrap metal’s price. Recently, my dad mentioned he wants to get rid of some junk he has in his garage. I want to help him get some money out of it, so I’ll be sure to read your piece carefully before visiting a scrap metal facility. Thanks for the tips on scrap metal and how to get the most out of it.

  5. Chance Cook

    I had no idea that prices soar when supply is low but demand is high. I need to get some metal from a supplier. So I’ll try to find out when they get new shipments so it won’t cost too much.

  6. Mia Evans

    Thanks for pointing out that the prices would be adjusted daily according to the various metal markets. I guess I will be asking the company that I will find to know my options. It’s because I plan to take the scrap metal that my dad hoarded in his warehouse to get them recycled since he is not using them anymore.

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