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If you’ve got some scrap metal lying around that is doing nothing but taking up space, you might be able to make some money from it by selling it to a local scrap yard. If you do your homework before collecting your scrap metal and making a trip to sell it, however, you might be able to earn more for your efforts.
First, what kinds of metal do scrap yards typically buy?
Not all scrap yards will buy exactly the same thing, but for the most part, they tend to buy scrap copper, aluminum, zinc, nickel, lead, iron, steel, stainless steel, and brass. Basically, they tend to buy the metals that are commonly used in industry.
Many scrap yards also buy other things, too, like appliances, electronics, old cars and trucks, motorcycles, boats, airplanes, and other odds and ends. Larger appliances are usually taken apart, and the useful parts and metals are sold to brokers. Parts from scrap vehicles may be sold either to brokers or to mechanics or others in the community who need spare parts.
The scrap industry is bigger than many realize, and it can be very lucrative for those who deal in these things. That’s why scrap yards pay you money for the items you bring them.
Here are several ways you may be able to get more money from your scrap metal when you take it to a junkyard dealer to sell it:
Table of Contents
1. Know What Your Stuff Is Worth
One of the most important things you can do before you try to sell your scrap metal or other items is to find out what it’s worth. Now, in some cases it may not be possible to get an exact dollar amount, but even if you can get a ballpark figure, you’ll be armed with enough knowledge to know if you are getting a good offer for your stuff (or if you are getting scammed).
The best way to get a general idea of what your scrap is worth is to search for it on the internet. For example, if you have an old washing machine you want to sell, you can simply search for “scrap washing machine value,” or something similar to see several results.
Be sure to look through at least the first 10 search results to make sure the information is consistent. Knowledge is power, and by being prepared, you’ll have a general idea of what the item you are selling is worth when you go to sell it.
2. More Scrap Equals More Negotiating Power
When you are taking your scrap metal to a scrap yard, it’s best to take all that you have in one trip (if possible). Scrap yards usually don’t have any limit on how much you can bring in at a time, so the more the merrier.
If you bring in a lot of scrap metal at one time, you may be able to negotiate a better price. Also, if you think you might be able to bring in another load at another time, definitely let the scrap dealer know about it. It could help you get even more money.
Scrap dealers prefer to deal in volume when buying metal because it means more money for them when they resell it. The more you can bring in, the more negotiating power you will have.
3. Separate Your Metals
If you have a variety of different metals that you are going to take to a scrap yard, it’s important to separate them first. If a scrap dealer has to take extra time to separate metals himself, he may use that as an excuse to give you less money.
Also, if you have some metal with any type of casing on it (like copper power line), it’s best to go ahead and remove the casing before trying to sell it. As a general rule of thumb, the more work the scrap dealer has to do, the less money you will be offered for your metal.
4. Call Around to Check Prices
You may live in an area where there are several scrap dealers within a reasonable driving distance. If so, you don’t want to take your metal to a dealer without taking the time to call around to check prices first. If you don’t know where dealers are located in your area, just do an internet search for “metal scrap yard near me” to find out what your options are.
A scrap dealer probably won’t be able to give you an exact quote over the phone, but you may still be able to get a ballpark figure on what that dealer pays per pound for a particular metal. Different scrap yards will have different prices, and by doing your homework, you can know which one is most likely to give you the best offer.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the size of the scrap yard doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Bigger isn’t always better. Sometimes a smaller scrap yard may give you more money than a larger one.
5. Rent a Truck (If You Don’t Have One)
If you have a lot of scrap metal or other items to take to the scrap yard but you don’t have a truck, all is not lost. You have options.
First, check around to see if any of your friends or relatives have a truck they may be willing to loan you for a day. If they do have one, you might be able to negotiate borrowing it by offering to wash it or clean the interior. Also, be sure to replace any fuel you use.
Another option is to rent a truck. Many companies that rent moving trucks also rent regular trucks. Rental prices are often as low as $20 a day for in-town use.
Lastly, don’t forget to negotiate when you are selling your scrap. Instead of accepting whatever price the scrap dealer offers, don’t be afraid to ask if he can offer a little more. This is especially true if you have a lot of metal to sell.
There’s no guarantee you will be offered a better price, of course, but it never hurts to ask. You never know unless you try.
Watch Out for Scammers
I wish I could tell you that every single scrap yard dealer you do business with is going to be completely honest and trustworthy. But you probably already know that’s not true at all. In the world we live in, you have to watch out for people who want to rip you off.
There are many honest scrap yard businesses. But there are some things you do need to watch out for if you are trying to sell an old car or metal. If you encounter any of the following, it’s possible you might be dealing with someone who is dishonest.
1. Operating Without a License
The laws for operating a scrap yard are different in each state. At the very least, however, a scrap yard should have a business license. This is the same license needed by all other businesses, and there is nothing special about it. A fee is typically paid to obtain a business license and register with the state.
It’s also possible (depending on where you live) that a special scrap metal license may be needed to operate. Sometimes special licenses are issued for some types of businesses (like a special license to sell and distribute alcohol).
If you are unsure whether a special license is needed for scrap metal dealers where you live, check with your state to find out.
2. The Use of Misdirection
Another strategy dishonest scrap yard dealers may try to use is to intentionally confuse you. The reason they may try to do this is to pay you as little as possible for the metal or car you are selling. If you are unclear on something, you may not understand that you are getting ripped off.
Another way a dishonest scrap dealer may try to scam you is to rush through the deal. That person may brush off any questions you may have and say something like “this is the best we can do” without explaining why.
An honest dealer will give you clear answers to any questions you may have. That person will not try to hurry through the deal and will take all of the time you need to understand why he is paying a certain amount.
3. Unscrupulous Tow Truck Operators
There are some scrap yards that have their own tow trucks that they use to pick up vehicles. But not all scrap yards have their own trucks. Some partner with independent tow truck operators and pay them a fee for each vehicle they pick up.
A potential scam you may encounter is when a scrap yard agrees to pay you a certain amount in cash over the phone, but when the tow truck operator shows up to pick up your vehicle, he then tells you it is worth less than what you were quoted. The tow truck operator may be trying to pocket the difference in what you were supposed to be paid.
Another potential scam an unscrupulous tow truck operator may try to pull is when one demands that you pay to have the vehicle towed (even though the scrap yard agreed to cover the charge). If this happens, the tow truck operator may be trying to double-dip and earn two fees for one trip.
If you encounter any problems or suspicious activity with any tow truck operator who shows up to pick up a car you are selling for scrap, call the scrap yard right away and tell them what’s going on.
4. Not Including the Towing Cost in Quotes
Another potential problem you may encounter is when you are given a quote for a vehicle you are trying to sell to a scrap dealer but you later find out that the quote does not include the fee to have the vehicle towed. If you are given a quote for a vehicle, be sure that there will be no extra charges to have it towed. Be sure to ask specifically that the quote you are given includes the towing fee.
It’s always a good idea to get multiple quotes before deciding on a scrap yard to deal with. Honest dealers should be up-front about whether the quote they offer includes the towing cost. If you do an internet search for “scrap yard near me,” you may find several local dealers to call for prices.
5. No Title Transfer
Whenever you sell a vehicle to a scrap dealer, you still need to transfer the title over to the dealer (even if the vehicle can no longer be driven). You also need to contact your local department of motor vehicles (DMV) and cancel the registration. If the proper documentation is not done on the sale of the vehicle, you could still be liable for it.
Before you load your vehicle up on the flatbed tow truck that shows up to pick it up, you definitely want to make sure you remove all of your personal effects from the vehicle, including the registration and tags.
You also want to be wary of any scrap dealer who says he will take care of all of the paperwork for you. This could be a setup for a scam where they take your car and then later bill you for storing the vehicle on their lot. And if you refuse to pay? They send it to a collections agency which damages your credit score.
It isn’t worth taking any risks. Make sure the transaction you are making is done 100% correctly so you don’t end up with any surprises later on.
6. Being Told Your Car Is Worthless
Yet another potential scam you may encounter is when a scrap dealer tries to tell you that your car isn’t worth anything. This could also apply to other items, like appliances. The dealer then tells you he’ll take it off your hands for you – as though he’s doing you a favor.
Getting rid of something for free you believe to be junk may sound like a good deal, but it’s really not. Most junk cars are still worth something. If you give a vehicle to a dealer, he’s probably going to make money off it by selling it for parts.
You might be surprised by how much the individual parts on your car can be sold for. Just a few things a scrap dealer may sell include the engine (if it still runs), the transmission, and the wheels. Even if the engine isn’t running, it can still be sold for its individual parts.
The scrap dealer may even sell some things you may not have even considered like interior liners, seats, door handles, and windshield wiper motors. Basically, if it’s attached to the car and someone wants to buy it, the scrap dealer will sell it for a profit.
If a scrap dealer ever tells you something doesn’t have any value, tell him you’re going to check with some other dealers to see what they will give you. Once the dealer finds out you’re going to get some quotes, don’t be surprised if he suddenly offers you some money for your vehicle. Be sure to get the quotes anyway.
7. Paying You Less than the Agreed Price
Sometimes scrap dealers will offer you a price for your vehicle and then attempt to pay you less when they have the vehicle in their possession. They may claim that after checking the car out in-person that it’s not worth what they originally quoted. By then, it may be too late to do anything about it, especially after you’ve had the car towed to the lot.
You can prevent something like this from happening by doing two things. First, you always want to disclose everything about the vehicle up front. Take pictures. Be completely honest about everything – even if it hasn’t been in running condition for 10 years and it’s infested with some kind of vermin. Full disclosure is in your best interest.
The second thing you can do to prevent this from happening is to be sure you receive the cash or check for your vehicle before you sign over the title. If possible, be sure to get the money up front before you even have the vehicle towed.
Once you’ve gone through the trouble of having the vehicle towed to the scrap dealer, they know they’ve got you. Most people don’t want to be troubled with having to have the vehicle hauled back home.
You also don’t want to agree to turn your vehicle over to a dealer with the promise of payment at a later date. Sometimes those delayed promises never materialize. It would be very easy for a scrap dealer to say he paid you in cash and that you are trying to get more money out of him. If it comes down to a situation where it’s your word against his, there’s not much that can be done about it.
Your Trash May Be Worth Something
Each year, countless people discard things that can be sold to scrap yards for money. If you are unsure of whether the old appliance you are thinking about discarding in a landfill is worth something, just call around to various scrap dealers to see what they say. You never know unless you ask.
Your scrap metal may be worth something, and it may be worth your time to see if you can get some money out of it. You might just be surprised to find out that your “junk” is actually worth a few bucks.