Ferrous vs. Non-Ferrous: What is the difference?

If you are new to the scrap metal industry or just looking to sell some scrap that’s around your house, it won’t take you long before you hear the terms Ferrous and Non-Ferrous scrap metal. When determining scrap metal prices, identifying the type of metal is essential. The most basic and important thing to learn is the difference between ferrous and non-ferrous metals.




If you’re searching around your house or a construction site for metals, you’ll probably come across a lot of ferrous metals. From the forks you use to eat, to the bridge your automobile drives over, right down to the automobile itself, they are all primarily ferrous metal. What do all these items have in common? They are all built using steel and iron.


Here are a few simple rules to determine if a metal is ferrous:


1. Most have magnetic properties. If you have your favorite sports team’s schedule stuck to your refrigerator at home, you owe that to ferrous metal.


2. Most ferrous metals can be exposed to rust. This is because of the carbon used when constructing them. Think: rust = ferrous metal.


3. Ferrous metals are the most recycled metals in the world. Over half of all the steel produced every year comes from recycled steel.




Are you trying to make a lot of money from scrap metals? I thought so. Non-ferrous metals are the most valuable metals including brass, copper, aluminum, lead, zinc, tin and nickel. And if you have any gold or silver lying around those precious metals are also non-ferrous. These metals are:


1. Strong but lighter than ferrous


2. Don’t rust or corrode as much


3. Contain non-magnetic properties.


If you look outside, you’ll find a lot of non-ferrous metals at work, since they are less likely to corrode and rust. Your gutters, stop signs, and roofing are all made of non-ferrous metals. Their strength combined with being lighter than ferrous metals make them excellent metals for construction equipment that needs to be strong but also light, like aircraft equipment. Last but not least, the non-magnetic properties make it perfect for electric wiring and other electronics. Non-Ferrous metals are scarcer than ferrous so they are recycled less often, but non-ferrous metals include aluminum, which is the 3rd most recycled metal in the world.


Hopefully these quick facts and examples of ferrous and non-ferrous metals helped you identify the differences. Now it’s time to go through your metals and see which each metal is.