How to Start Scrapping Metal
Scrapping metal is one of the simplest side hustles that I have found. You literally make money from other people's garbage. Most people don't have the knowledge or the ability to take their metal to the scrap yard, and so they throw it away, leaving it for you to capitalize on.
You do not have to worry about the internet or PayPal. You get cash immediately upon dropping off the metal. Taxes are already factored into the price, so you don't have to claim them on your return, it's under the table. With a steady stream of metal, it is not unrealistic for a scrapper to make an extra $250+ per month. I have had good years where I made $1200 a month. The best part is, all you do is drive around.
Here is what you need to get started:
A truck or trailer (something to collect your metal in as you're driving)
The name of the game is that you drive around and pick up anything metal from the side of the road. This could be washing machines, refrigerators, dryers, pipes, satellite dishes, air conditioners, etc. If it's metal, you want it. It all sells.
Often times, people throw their scrap metal out by the garbage cans. It's important to learn the garbage days of various locations in your area. For example, garbage night in my town is Tuesday, but the town 5 minutes north is on Monday and 5 minutes west is Wednesday. This way, I can usually get at least 3 truck loads of metal each week.
The other way to get metal is to make relationships with people. For example, a lot of farmers have metal that they don't want to bother taking to the scrap yard, but they also don't want to leave it around their property, so they'll call you and have you come pick it up. This way, everyone is happy; they get rid of their garbage, and you get metal to sell. Some people to talk to would be farmers, mechanics, roofers, construction workers, anyone who deals in metal. Sometimes swimming pool companies will want people to come pick up their scrap metal from when they do swimming pool installations. While you're driving around looking for scrap metal, also make a note of potential businesses that might have scrap metal. All it takes is a phone call and you could potentially work your way into a profitable metal deal.
Once you have your metal collected, you aren't quite done. Sure, you could take it to the scrap yard as is, but you would only make scrap metal prices. These prices usually range between 3-10 cents per pound. Granted, it adds up fast, but we still want to make better money.
We need to prepare the truckload. We need to separate the scrap steel from the "bonus" metals.
That's where your tools come in, especially the magnet.
See, not all metals are created equal. There are "ferrous" and "non-ferrous" metals.
"Ferrous" metals contain iron, and are magnetic. This is scrap steel, and will be the majority of what you will find. If a magnet sticks to it, it will fetch the 3-10 cents per pound, as mentioned before.
However, non-ferrous metals do not contain iron, and are not magnetic. These metals are aluminum, copper, brass, gold, silver, etc. These go for much more than scrap steel. If your magnet does not stick to it, then you'll want to save it so that you get more money.
Aluminum, copper, and brass are the most common "bonus" metals that you'll find. Once you've scrapped for a little while, you'll be able to tell the difference. When you are getting your truckload prepared to take to the yard, I recommend putting the different metals into their own separate buckets in order to make your job easier, and ensure that the scrap yard gives you the right price for what you have.
Aluminum is generally found in cans, some pipes, gutters and downspouts, and some siding. At the time of writing this article, aluminum is going for 25 cents per pound, but I've known it to be up to 40 cents.
Copper is usually pipes and wires, but can also be found in some very old gutters. Copper is going for 80 cents per pound.
Brass is almost always faucets as they are the most common, but if you stumble upon instruments, like trumpets, that is brass as well. I'm not as familiar with the price of brass, but 90 cents per pound sounds about right.
The other thing that you need to keep separate are what I call "pieces". These are items that are not a specific metal, but that still bring in more money than regular scrap steel. These pieces are things like electric motors, radiators, and insulated wires.
I cut the cords off of everything. if it plugs into an outlet, then you can get higher prices for that cord. I especially like cutting the long cord off of vacuum cleaners.
Radiators are found at mechanics stores, and also in air conditioners. When working with air conditioners, you have to get the freon removed, so it might not be worth it, but they have a lot of copper and two radiators inside. Radiators are a little tough though, because they usually have steel ends on them that need to be removed. I use a saw to cut them off.
Some motors have copper wire inside. If you have time, you can remove this wire and get copper prices. However, some have aluminum wire, and it isn't as worth it to take them apart, because you get more weight to just turn in the motor, so you get the same money without the time investment. If you want to tell the difference, take the cover off the motor and use a file to scrape off some of the wire. If you see silver, it's aluminum wire, and if you see copper color, it's copper.
However, if you don't have time to take the wires out (it is time consuming, for sure) you can still turn in the motors for double the price of scrap steel.
The other thing to watch for is things that run. If you pick up a lawnmower, it's worth it to put a little bit of gas in it and try to get it going. A push-mower could bring $2-3 at the scrap yard, but if it runs, it will bring $30-40 on Craigslist. Anything that still works is worth putting onto craigslist for at least a couple days to see if it sells.
Once you have all of your metals separated, you need to take it to the scrap yard. Here is a list of scrap yards throughout America. Find one near you and go to it.
When you get there, what you do is you drive up onto the scale. You sit there in your truck and wait for them to write down your weight. Once they do, they will come out and talk to you. They will check out the stuff you have in your truck, making sure you aren't trying to scam them by putting sand in the truck or anything. In Ohio, they take your driver's license that they scan while you are dropping off your metal (I don't know the laws in other states, but in Ohio you aren't allowed to sell scrap if you're a convicted felon. Check your state laws before doing anything).
Once they have your driver's license, they will tell you to go dump your metal in the pile. You drive up and drop off only your scrap steel, NOT your bonus metals. Only the magnetic metals go into the big pile. The bonus metals stay in your truck, because they will be weighed separately.
You then drive back onto the scale. They measure the weight of your metal by subtracting the weight of your empty truck from the weight of your full truck.
After that, if you have any bonus metals or pieces, they generally have a smaller scale off to the side. You park your truck and put your buckets full of bonuses onto a cart, and then push the cart to that other scale. They take your weights and write them down.
Once you have turned all of your metal in, there is a cash register where you take your receipt to. They enter all of your weights into the computer, and pay you the going rate for each metal.
This side hustle is not difficult to understand. It does not require any online skills, and if you can drive a truck you can make some money immediately. You won't get rich doing it, but it will provide you with some side money to spend as you choose.
If you would like to turn your scrapping money into more money, I recommend checking out Joe Hart's Products For Profit flipping community.