Ferrous vs. Non-Ferrous Metals

By AWD Digital

Metals are separated into two categories: ferrous and non-ferrous. Did you know that the price of your scrap metal varies depending on the category it falls under? Therefore, when you are looking to sell scrap metal, you should know the differences between the two. Today, we’re running through a few key differences to help you distinguish what kind of metal you might have.

Scrap metal pile

Ferrous metals

Ferrous metals are strong and durable. This makes them ideal for use in construction, piping, automobiles and transportation structures.

Ferrous metals are prone to the risk of rusting because of their high carbon content. The exceptions to this rule are wrought iron and stainless steel. Wrought iron resists corrosion because its levels of carbon are extremely low, meaning that it is almost purely iron. Stainless steel is another ferrous metal that won’t rust. This is because it contains chromium, which protects it from rusting.

Ferrous metals are often magnetic. If you want to test what kind of metal you have, using a magnet is a simple way to do so.


3 ferrous metals and where to find them

Ferrous metals include:

  • Wrought iron. Wrought iron has a very low-level carbon content (around 0.8%), meaning that it is almost purely iron. It is malleable and resistant to corrosion. It isn’t commonly made anymore since there are other metals that are cheaper to work into structures. Many old ornamental fences, chains, nuts, bolts and pipes (to name a few) were made from wrought iron.
  • Stainless steel. Stainless steel is a steel alloy that contains chromium as well. It is commonly used because it is extremely resistant to corrosion as the chromium levels increase. It is used for cooking instruments, cutlery, surgical tools, construction material, storage tanks and food processing.
  • Cast iron. Cast iron is recognised by its carbon content of 2% and over. It also contains silicon. It is typically brittle and resistant to oxidation. It’s often used as an engineering material in pipes, automotive parts and machines.


Non-ferrous metals

Non-ferrous metals are typically less dense than ferrous metals, making them useful for situations where both strength and minimal weight are desired. A prime example of one such situation is the aircraft industry.

Non-ferrous metals are also more malleable than ferrous metals and are non-magnetic. They are perfect for electrical wiring, gutters, water pipes and roofing.


3 non-ferrous metals and where to find them

Non-ferrous metals include:

  • Copper is an easily distinguishable red metal that is soft and malleable. It is a good conductor of heat and electricity, making it ideal for use in motors, sheet roofing, and electrical wires.
  • Aluminium is a soft and ductile metal that has a low density and is resistant to corrosion. The metal and its alloys can be found in abundance because it is actually the second most common element in the world (after silicon). It’s used for aircrafts, automobiles, transportation, building facades and window frames, just to name a few areas.
  • Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. Due to its bright gold appearance, it is commonly used in a decorative way for doorknobs, and for locks and gears. Instruments such as horns and bells are also made from brass. In addition to these items, brass is used for zippers, fittings, and for plumbing and electrical purposes.


The main difference?

The number one difference between the two metals is that ferrous metals and their alloys contain iron, whereas non-ferrous metals do not. This difference is actually a major reason why price can vary when you want to sell scrap metal.

Ferrous metals are generally abundant and easy to come by, thus lowering the amount you’ll be able to sell them for due to high supply. Prices generally remain constant because ferrous metals are so common.

On the other hand, non-ferrous metals are more scarce. They also don’t rust or corrode, which makes them highly sought after. This generally drives up the price you can sell them for.


What kind of metal can I sell?

When you sell scrap metal, you are managing your waste in a way that is environmentally beneficial. Not only that, it’s beneficial for you: you get paid for clearing up the space that’s being taken up by scrap metal that’s no longer useful to you.

You might be wondering whether you can sell either ferrous or non-ferrous metals. Some buyers will only pay for non-ferrous metals. But depending on your scrap metal buyer, you can actually sell both.


Are you looking to sell scrap metal? At Metal Men Recycling, we collect and recycle both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, with pickup available 24 hours a day at your convenience. We offer competitive rates that can be paid via cheque or EFTPOS, depending on what you prefer. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on 03 5941 6677 today.


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