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How Much Money can you get for Scrap Metal?

Over the summer I picked up a 1938 Kenmore sewing machine at an estate sale The machine came built into a cabinet but I only wanted the cabinet. The machine didn’t function properly. This left me with two choices: try to sell it for parts or take it to a scrap metal yard (metal recycling facility).  After doing some on-line research, I learned that working machines were listed on Ebay for $20 – $100 and were receiving zero bids. I’ve restored 2 old sewing machines in the past. Both times it cost about $100. So basically I’d be in the hole with this unless I recycled the metal.

Steel sewing machine ready for the scrap metal recycling facility

Last week I detached the machine from the cabinet (I’ll be upcycling the cabinet!). I collected all the bobbins, attachments and accessories. Then today I journeyed to the scrap metal yard nearest my home.

Here’s the procedure on How Much Money can you get for Scrap Metal

1. My entire car drove onto a scale.
2. The attendant took a look inside my trunk and put a numbered cone on the hood of my car.
3. He pointed in the direction of the sheet iron drop off.

4. I drove back there. There was no sign of life; just piles of metal. Some crushed together and others randomly assembled like the remains of a war zone.

5. I carried the sewing machine over to the edge of the pile and dumped it out. It seemed so lost – like a drop in the bucket. I guess that’s a good thing.

Sewing machine in lower right, dumped amongst other metal to be recycled

6. Next I drove back to the weighing platform. A buzzer went off when the weight difference was calculated.

7. There was a shack next to the platform where I went to turn in my cone and receive my cash.
When I went in to cash out, the woman behind the counter said to me, “You were taking pictures out there?”
I said, “Yeah, for my blog.”
She replies sarcastically, “Your blog…” then lets out a hearty laugh. I found her mocking to be so funny. I’m still laughing about it actually.
The other point I want to make is, when you’re out there in the dump – what feels like Armageddon – sarcastic bitches are watching you.

This brings me to the most curious part: pay out for scrap metal. The sewing machine weighed 40lbs. and therefore earned me $5.55. Hey, for helping the environment, I’ll take it!

I also feel it’s important to mention that I just saw an interesting article in the Buffalo News about people being fined for garbage picking scrap metal. Municipalities make money from the metal they collect. So, you might want to stick to recycling your own stuff.
Eve of Reduction: Free Seasonal E-Newsletter; Extra tips and wit on Facebook; Reduction Beauty on Pinterest ; The debut DIY lifestyle book (includes 10 upcycling tutorials); and the guide to creative streams of income ebook (only $2.99).

I’m Cristin Frank (AKA Eve). I love all things frugal and crafty. My mindset is always on upcycling, repurposing, reducing waste and saving money – and Eve of Reduction is my roadmap. You might also want to check out my book, "Living Simple, Free & Happy."

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11 Responses to How Much Money can you get for Scrap Metal?

  1. Sell Your Junk Car Atlanta October 25, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    I would expect a little bit more then 5 bucks! Yeesh. Some places are REALLY cheap when it comes to scrapping, I had no idea.

    Off topic but, I for some reason find junk and scrap yards to be somewhat beautiful. Its like looking at a ‘man-made’ forest of production. Its both disgusting to see all of the resources we waste, and beautiful to see what man has created and strives for and creating better and better.

    -David Enabulele

  2. Anonymous October 27, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    we don’t have a scrap metal yard but taking things to the dump, I know they watch you to make sure you don’t rescue anything. How absurd since they’re just going to bulldoze it.

  3. Corn in my Coffee-Pot November 16, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    We’ve done this before– turned in scrap metal. We live in a rural area–if you set stuff by the road; it’s apt to sit there from now on. Most of the time our scraps sit behind the barn until we get a pile large enough to haul off!
    But…every little bit helps.
    As to be watched…aren’t we all. People who don’t blog–don’t get those who do. Not surprised about the ordinances and being fined. Forget the fact, that you’re saving them the trouble to pick it up and take it away for them–they the Trash/City folks can just move along to the next curb. While you…may be CREATING THE ‘piece de resitance’ OF. YOUR. LIFE!

    …they just don’t get bloggers or upcyclers.
    I like the article and what you did with that sewing table. Came here via MRL.

    ~Patricia!

  4. Jack @ Enwealthen October 20, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

    I was looking into this recently myself as well. I had an old boxspring to get rid of, and everyone wanted me to pay them to come and take it away. The cheapest was $50!

    I remember seeing an episode of Dirty Jobs where Mike went to a mattress recycling facility where they strip old mattresses and boxsprings down and recycle all the parts. You’d think they’d be eager for material. No. Even if you bring it to them yourself, you still have to pay them to take your mattress. How can you run a business where you rely on people’s old stuff as your raw materials, but you make them pay to give it to you? That’s not right.

    You’re wondering about the scrap metal connection? After calling several places, I finally ended up ripping it apart myself by hand. Non-metal bits were broken up and bagged for the dumpster. All the metal framework and springs I took to the recycler.

    They don’t pay much for scrap steel here either. Aluminum and copper, yes, but steel, not so much.

    But still, better than it going into the landfill!
    Jack @ Enwealthen recently posted…The Minimalist Guide to Cashback Rebates (or Coupons Are For Suckers)My Profile

  5. Jim Sanders March 19, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

    That’s not a bad price! Metal is relatively easy to reuse and we use it in so much these days. Better to make a bit off of what you’d throw out then let it fall apart somewhere it won’t be used.

  6. Zach Thalman May 12, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    I went to a scrap yard not too long ago and they were teaching us about the different metals they recycle. I don’t remember which metals they paid the most for, but I know that copper is very expensive making it the one you want to collect the most of. I want to say aluminum is very cheap and won’t get you very much unless you came in with truckloads of aluminum.

    • Eve May 12, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

      Very true. Thanks for the added info, Zach!

  7. Brian Lee June 24, 2015 at 12:44 am #

    The metal on your car is very high quality and dense, which can get you decent price for it. This is why people throw their cars in the junkyard, instead of going through the troubles of selling an old car. This metal is recycled and used in the production of other products.

  8. bryan flake August 31, 2015 at 7:44 pm #

    I am curious to know if it is worth it to separate my scrap metal types into individual piles? My hope is that I can get the most bang for my buck with this heap of scrap metal I have to donate. If each type has a different worth, it is worth it to separate them and claim the max amount.

  9. etheriv September 13, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

    Just thought I’d point out the idea that I noticed, in the picture taken at the scrap yard of the discarded sewing machine, the power/electrical cord(s) is (are) still attached. Its a worth while and very profitable habit to make sure you take the time to remove any power and/or electrical cords from your items before scrapping them. Hang onto these until they’ve accumulated into a sizeable amount and then bring them in and cash in on the copper rate which is many many times higher than steel, tin, iron, aluminum etc etc’. You’ll gain nothing financially by leaving them attached. And if an item can be taken apart quickly then do so and simply rip out any wires and/or copper you can easily access. More often than not the real profit lay in its copper vs. the item itself. Happy Salvaging!
    etheriv recently posted…Recycling Plastic and Waste Management Trends My Profile

  10. Lilly Sedrick December 18, 2015 at 9:57 am #

    It seems like taking your metal in to be recycled doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult. It is really nice that they make the process to easy for you. I definitely think that it is amazing how much of a difference you can make just by doing this simple thing. I also am amazed by how many different things these companies are able to make with different types of metal.

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