Selling to a Scrapyard: How I Made $25 Cleaning Up My Own Back Yard

Do you have a bunch of broken items you need to get rid of? Things that realistically you can’t sell, donate, or give away? Consider selling them to a scrapyard instead of throwing them away.

That’s what I did to turn the chore of cleaning up my backyard into a little pocket money instead of a trip to the landfill.

People hang on to broken items for all kinds of reasons. If you have a frugal DIY mindset like I do, there’s a tendency to look for value in everything, whether it works or not. I’d kept broken items for parts, as projects, or just because I thought they might come in useful one day.

You can end up with excess junk to dispose of for all kinds of reasons other than being a DIY guy/gal. In our case, our home’s previous owner had left rusty old bikes in the barn, former tenants in our rentals had left a few things behind, and we’d received some items from downsizing relatives and a late relative’s estate.

Plus, larger items can be difficult to get rid of. Our local recycling center has a “nothing bigger than a breadbox” philosophy. That’s fine for most things, but what do you do with an irreparably broken lawn mower?

You can get rid of your excess junk and make a little money at the same time if you can knowledgeably sell to a scrapyard. 

I Face a Mess

Earlier this summer, I glanced around our backyard and realized we had crossed over into scrapyard territory. I’d let our yard get a little overrun with my treasure trove of old metal, which included

  • a dead mini fridge
  • 2 busted oscillating fans
  • a stainless steel sink
  • 3 old lawnmowers
  • water pumps
  • assorted car and other machine parts
  • and a partridge in a pear tree

We’d gotten to the point that I was afraid someone might show up…like a delegation from our neighbors. Even though we’re tucked back in from the street, it had gotten messy enough that someone might notice. Next thing we knew, the camera crew from Hoarders and the county inspector would be ringing our doorbell. Yikes!

Sure, I could use any of that stuff for the right project. We’d reached and passed our limit though.  I had to consider what I would likely use rather than what I could possibly use.

I needed to clean up the backyard. Now how could I get paid for it?

A Truckload of Metal

I took a bunch of the items cluttering up our yard and piled carefully strapped them down in the bed of our pickup truck. I then drove the truck to the local scrapyard. They paid a little over $25 dollars for almost 500 pounds of scrap metal.

I googled the averages on common metal prices you can get from selling to a scrapyard.

  •  Brass faucets and clean copper are all worth $2.50 a pound.
  • You can get about 45 cents a pound for aluminum cans. One of our local scrapyards has a special on Wednesdays when they pay an extra 5 cents a pound.
  • Clean stainless steel is worth 31 cents a pound.
  • Electric motors are worth 16 cents a pound.
  • The average scrap value for cars is $110 a ton. That means the average car is worth $200-$250 as scrap metal, and an old Suburban is worth over $300.
  • Steel averages $5 per 100 pounds.
  • Old car batteries are worth about $12 or more.

Right. Selling to a scrapyard probably will not make you rich. However, $25 beats the nothing I would have gotten if I’d taken it to the local landfill if I could have taken it at all. Plus, scrapping the metal this way means most of what can be used by someone will be used.

However, this was only my first trip. I learned a few things that I can use next time I need to get rid of some salvageable materials.


Selling to a Scrapyard: How I Made $25 Cleaning Up My Own Back Yard

Tips for Maximizing Your Return from a Salvage Operation

Most scrapyards have minimums that they’ll let you bring in for any given category. You may need to save up to be able to take things in that you’d like to take.

The pros going to the scrap yard put all of their steel on trailers. They put all of their valuable non-ferrous metals (aluminum, copper, stainless steel, brass) in containers in the back of their pickups. This is because the non-ferrous materials are more expensive, but also because many salvage operations use an electromagnetic crane to get the steel out of pickup trucks and trailers. You don’t want them mixed up and trap the more valuable materials in with the steel.

Clean scrap is worth more than mixed scrap. This means that if you have a brass faucet on a stainless steel sink, separate them and take any plastic washers or parts off. If you have electric motors, you’ll get more by taking off any plastic housings or plastic parts attached.

Cut the cords and wires off of any electrical device you scrap. When you have a pound or whatever the minimum is, turn in the cords and wires. The wire will be worth more.

If you have printed circuit boards out of electronics, go ahead and remove them and put them together for your best return.

Safety Tips for Scrapping

Always secure your load with tarps and a cover. Some areas have ordinances where you have to cover any load you are transporting. I don’t want to discover the fine for an uncovered load by getting pulled over, nor do I want to deal with accident liability if something bounces out to the truck.

I use small ratcheting straps, a tarp, and an elastic cargo net for small trucks to secure loads in the back of our Ford Ranger.

It’s a good idea to unstrap and uncover your load right before entering the scrapyard. You don’t want to be unstrapping while all the equipment whizzes by, plus that holds up production.

Remember that a scrapyard is a busy place with cranes, forklifts, trucks, and tractor-trailers moving around. You want to be seen. Next time I go, I’m wearing bright colors, like fluorescent orange. And while I’ve involved my daughter in helping me amass my bags of aluminum by picking up cans whenever she sees one in a parking lot, I leave her at home for any trips to the scrapyard. It’s not a good place for an active, curious seven-year-old.

If you drive a 30 year old truck like I do, you might not want to leave it unattended in the scrapyard. It might not be there when you get back!

Selling to a Scrapyard

While selling to a scrapyard may not be practical for trying to get rid of every broken metal items, it’s a great resource when you have big items or a large amount of metal you need to dispose of.

Scrap metal prices are going up. It may not be too long before aluminum cans are worth 2 cents a piece instead of the 1.7 cents they currently are worth. I have about 100 pounds of cans and 3 old car batteries saved up for the next visit.

Remember, there’s value in all of that junk!

Have you sold stuff to a scrapyard? Any other tips or tricks?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich.*

22 Responses to “Selling to a Scrapyard: How I Made $25 Cleaning Up My Own Back Yard”
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