Scrapping: The Perfect Side Hustle For Extra Cash

There are full-time scrappers, hard-core scrappers, part-timers, and those who grew up in the business and continued on the legacy. And then you have hobbyist scrappers: those who one day heard about this thing called scrap metal, decided to try their hand at it and got addicted. 

The Perfect Side Hustle For Extra Cash

Maybe you already have a full-time job and just got into scrapping for whatever reason. Whether it was for environmental reasons, being your ‘own boss,’ or setting your hours, one thing is for certain: scrapping is an incredible side hustle. Recycling metal in exchange for money can make you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars extra a month, especially if you know where to look for it. We have heard quite a few times from Facebook group members or people commenting on social media that once you start scrapping, it becomes an addiction that might even convince you to leave a job and pursue scrapping full-time.

Suggested Reading: 12 Household Items You Can Bring To Your Scrap Yard

What You Need To Get Started

Basics for Scrapping Metal

Scrapping is a relatively easy hobby, as you don’t need much money or a lot of tools to start it (as you progress as a scrapper, you WILL need or want to invest in certain tools to make your life easier/make more money). But for now, here are the essentials for getting started:

  • You Need A Magnet—This may be the most critical tool to get started. Identifying materials as non-ferrous or ferrous (the magnet will stick to ferrous material) is the most basic and important first step in scrapping. Knowing what material you have will enable you to sort it correctly and make more money at the scrap yard.
  • You Will Need A Vehicle – Of course, you will need some sort of vehicle to bring your scrap to the yard. A truck or a trailer is preferred, but not required. Just know that scrap can be dirty, so if you are going to put it in your car, lay down a tarp or blanket (not your favorite blanket, of course) to keep your interior clean. 
  • Basic Tools – As previously stated, tools aren’t completely necessary to get started as a scrapper, but highly suggested if you want to make more money. Start with the basic tools like a hammer, a basic screwdriver and socket set, or even a basic wire stripper. Don’t worry about getting expensive tools to start; that will come with time and experience. 

What Are The Most Valuable Scrap Metals?

Know What To Keep A Look Out For

If anyone wants to start scrapping, you have to know the basics. Knowing the difference between ferrous and non-ferrous metals is number one. Simply put, the difference between the two metals is the presence of iron. Ferrous metals contain iron, while non-ferrous do not. Again, a magnet will stick to ferrous metals. Here are the most common metals of each group:



Sort Your Metals for More Money

Scrap Yards Want Materials Separated

Sorting is one of the easiest ways to make more cash with your scrap. Start by sorting the ferrous versus non-ferrous (remember, use that magnet we discussed!). Next is sorting within those two groups into individual metals. We talked about some of the most common metals above, but each metal has several grades of pricing, and it’s important to sort based on that alone. 

Let’s start with copper, for instance. The grades of copper are vast; you have #1 Bare Bright Wire, which is the highest valued grade of copper, and then you have Christmas lights (copper within the wires), the least valued. Learning how to sort your copper scrap is essential for making more money. 

Related Link: iScrap Metal Guide

Dirty vs. Clean

Another easy way to make more cash is sorting your scrap metal into dirty and clean piles. Clean metals are those that do not have any other metals or materials on them. Dirty metals do have metals or other materials on them, like steel, rubber, plastic, and even oils or paint. Dirty and clean metals go for different prices, which is why you should separate them.

Taking Apart Items for More Money

Once you start getting the hang of scrapping, one last way to make more money with your scrap is by cleaning the metals. We discussed dirty vs. clean metals, but you can make dirty metals clean again. Stripping copper wire is the most straightforward example to discuss.

Suggested Reading: Rating Scrap Items To Take Apart

Stripping certain copper wires will leave you with #1 Bare Bright Wire; remember, that is regarded as the most highly valued metal to a scrapper. So you could either get, let’s say $4.00/lb for Bare Bright, or sell your insulated copper wire for $1.20/lb…which option do you think we’re choosing? Of course, stripping copper wire can be tedious and time-consuming, so it all comes down to what YOU believe is worth your time.

In addition to stripping copper wire, breaking down certain items can cost considerably more. These range from copper transformers to washing machines, dishwashers, air conditioners, electric motors, and more. Using basic tools like a hammer, wrench, and crowbar can make dismantling much easier. And always remember to wear protective gear like leather-palmed work gloves and protective eyewear!

Related Link: Beginner’s Guide: Scrapping 101

How To Get Paid For Scrap

Some Scrap Yards Pay Cash, Others By Check

Getting paid at the yard is pretty simple. Bring your scrap to your local yard (use the iScrap App to find yards near you!), and they’ll weigh it for you on either a drive-on scale—this probably won’t be the case for your everyday scrapper—or a normal scale. You will typically be paid either by the pound (usually non-ferrous material) or by the ton (usually ferrous material).

After your material is weighed, you will receive a ticket or receipt with the metals you sold, how much of them, the selling price, and the total amount you made off the transaction. Payouts differ between yards—some offer more than one way to collect your money, like cash from an ATM machine on-site or by check, while others may only offer one way.

Local Scrap Laws – Know How Your State Pays

Scrapping can be a fun and profitable hobby, and we hear frequent stories of people starting as hobbyist scrappers only to make it their full-time job after a few years of experience. If you want more insight, tips, and tricks and to connect with a community of thousands of other scrappers, join our group, Scrap Metal Recycling Talk, on Facebook.