How Much Metal is in a Car?

Knowing how much metal is in your vehicle will come in handy when its time to scrap it. The metal makeup of your car is a determining factor in the amount of money it is worth. The metal makeup of your car also determines things like the safety and weight of your vehicle.

Let’s break down the amounts of metals likely to be found in your car. The most recent statistics from Statista, which are for 2017 models, list the metal content in the average vehicle as follows:

  • Steel: 2090 lbs. (approx. 1 ton)
  • Aluminum: 416 lbs.
  • Iron: 243 lbs.
  • Copper & Brass: 69 lbs.
  • Lead (battery): 37 lbs.

Remember that these numbers apply to an “average” 2017 model vehicle. Smaller, lighter vehicles will have lesser amounts of each metal, while larger, heavier vehicles will have more. Older vehicles will have a higher steel and a lower aluminum content due to the increasing use of aluminum for weight reduction in newer cars.

Certain vehicles, such as the latest Ford F-150 pickup, Tesla Model S sedan, Audi A8 sedan, and Acura NSX sports car, use aluminum for their structures and/or body panels. These cars are worth much more than the average steel vehicle, thanks to their high aluminum content and aluminum’s higher per-pound value.

Steel: What most of your car is made of

Scrap steel dropped from the mid-$200’s in the winter of 2019-2020 to the low $200’s during the spring and summer. Prices recovered in the fall, rising past the $300 mark to hit $330 per ton in December. This is a reflection of the worldwide industrial shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by subsequent recoveries in China and other parts of the world. If this pricing trend continues, it should result in slightly higher prices for the steel found in junk cars.

Chart: Shredded Carbon Steel Scrap Monthly Prices
Data Source: Ycharts.com

Aluminum: Used on various parts throughout your car (engine, doors, hoods, and rims)

Aluminum followed a similar pricing trend to that of steel during 2020. It started at $1773/MT (Metric Ton) in January, dropped to $1460 by April, then steadily recovered to a high of $2015 in December, Staying above the $2000 mark in January of 2021. This bodes well for aluminum pricing going into 2021 and should support a small increase in scrap car prices.

Chart: Aluminum Monthly Prices
Data Source: Ycharts.com

Copper: Found in your scrap car’s wiring, starter, alternator and other components

A similar pattern can be seen in copper prices. Starting at $6031 in January, hitting a low of $5058 in April, and then roaring back to $7972 in January 2021, copper increased by nearly a third since the beginning of last year. Once again, this increases the value of the copper content in your scrap car – if this pricing trend continues to be supported by the metals markets.

Chart: Copper Monthly Prices
Data Source: Ycharts.com

Platinum: Located within your car’s catalytic converter

Once again, the pandemic-related pattern holds for the pricing action of platinum. The precious metal dropped during the first few months of the year, bottoming out in April, then rising to a high in January 2021 that was more than ten percent higher than January of the year before. This could mean a slight uptick in the value of the platinum that can be recovered from the catalytic converter of your scrap car.

 

Chart: Platinum Monthly Prices
Data Source: Ycharts.com

The metal content of a vehicle is used to determine a vehicle's scrap price.