Ranking the Best Scrap Motors Based on Copper Recovery

Are you looking to maximize your copper profits by scrapping electric motors with minimal effort? Knowing which motors to dismantle for the best copper return is crucial whether you’re a seasoned scrapper or a newbie. Let’s break down a few commonly sourced scrap motors.

Ranking Motors with Least Copper to Most Copper for Scrap

Motors with A lot of Attachments

These motors often have additional components that make cleaning the motor harder. These attachments usually increase weight but not necessarily the copper yield. Avoid motors with a lot of plastic, rubber, or wood attached.

Common examples:

  • Handheld drills
  • Coffee grinders
  • Other smaller household appliances.

Large Motors – 500+ Pounds

While the larger motors can often yield more copper, they can be difficult to dismantle due to their size and complexity. You would need things like torches, lifts, and big trucks to move and dismantle them, which most common scrappers don’t have.

If you have to cut or unscrew multiple heavier pieces of cast iron or steel, the time and effort needed to get through a few of these can be substantial and eat into the profits you would have made if you stuck to smaller motors.

Common examples include:

Medium Motors

While your scrap yard may not have different grades for varying motor sizes, it doesn’t hurt to inquire. However, sorting out your motors into one of the three sizes discussed here won’t hurt. These motors are easier to handle when dismantling and removing copper.

A medium-sized motor generally weighs around 40-60 lbs, with no attachments. Typically, these motors have between 11% and 13% copper, which can add up if you have a few.

Common examples include:


Starters typically contain 10-15% copper, making them more valuable than your standard motor. While it isn’t generally recommended to pull these apart yourself due to the labor and time needed, they are still a great find.

One of the best things about this and the first-place item is that they are both repairable and recyclable. Sustainability is paramount in the scrap world, and it’s always great when items are given a second life instead of immediately being thrown out.


Alternators top the list due to their high copper content, typically around 14-16%. They are usually not worth the effort to dismantle entirely, but they can be scraped whole for a high return. Part of their ranking also concerns the fact that Alternators are one of the few items on this list that can be refurbished, rebuilt, and sold for use again.

Almost all motors don’t boast this ability. This item’s recyclable nature pushes it to the top of the “scrap pile.”

The Importance of Checking Yard Requirements

Not every scrap yard will separate motors by size or type, which can impact your profit. It’s essential to talk to your local yard beforehand and learn their grading requirements. Some yards may not inform you about specific grading rules, potentially lowering the price they offer.

To avoid this, always ask how they grade material; the best case scenario is your yard sees you take scrapping seriously; worst case, they don’t tell you, and you find a new yard!

Tips for Maximizing Your Copper Yield

  1. Check the Windings: Use a file to check the windings inside the motor. If the wire inside is reddish, it’s copper. If it’s silver, it’s aluminum. Only disassemble motors with copper windings for maximum profit.
  2. Use Proper Tools: Having the right tools, such as screwdrivers, wire cutters, and a hammer, will make the disassembly process more manageable and safer.
  3. Safety First: Always wear protective gear, such as gloves and safety glasses, to avoid injuries from sharp edges and heavy components.
  4. Separate Materials: As you dismantle motors, separate the copper, steel, and aluminum components for recycling. This will maximize your return and help the environment.
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Using the iScrap App to find Electric Motor Prices

The right tools can make maximizing your profits from scrapping electric motors significantly easier. The iScrap App allows you to compare scrap prices from different yards in your area. By checking the app regularly, you can stay informed about price fluctuations and ensure you sell your materials when prices are highest.