Microwaves are a common household appliance found in most homes. While they serve us well during their lifespan, there comes a time when they stop working and need to be replaced. At this point, many people wonder if their old microwaves have any value as scrap metal.
The answer is yes – there are several valuable metals inside a microwave that can be recycled for cash. This guide will provide tips on how to get the best price for your scrap microwave.
What’s Inside a Microwave?
The most valuable components inside a microwave are:
- Copper – Used in wiring, coils, and transformers. Copper fetches high prices at scrap yards.
- Aluminum – Found in the cavity walls and housing. Recyclers pay well for aluminum.
- Steel – Makes up the exterior frame and internals. Plain steel has moderate scrap value.
Other metals and parts include:
- Magnetron – Contains copper and generates the microwaves.
- Capacitors – Store electricity for high-voltage usage.
- Motors – Spin the turntable and drive internal fans.
- Misc. wiring, clamps, fasteners, springs, etc.
While most of the microwave consists of low-value ferrous metals, the copper, aluminum, and reusable components boost its scrap price significantly.
Scrap Value of a Whole Microwave
If you take an entire microwave to a scrap yard without disassembling it, you can expect to get $3 – $10 for it. Scrap yards pay for metals by weight and default to the lowest priced material when scrapping whole appliances.
So even though there may be 3-5 lbs of copper inside, you won’t get copper rates for it. The scrap yard sees it as just a pile of plain steel, which fetches minimal pricing.
This is why it’s not recommended to scrap a microwave whole unless you absolutely have to. Taking just 10 minutes to remove the better metals will multiply your payout several times over.
Harvesting Valuable Parts from a Microwave
To maximize your scrap revenue, you’ll want to dismantle the microwave and separate out the higher-value components. Here are the steps:
1. Remove the outer housing
This exposes the internal parts for harvesting. The housing itself can be kept intact and sold as a sheet of aluminum later on.
2. Cut and remove all wiring
Copper wiring has excellent scrap value. Clip it close to the components to maximize the length recovered.
3. Extract the power transformer
Usually a large cube mounted on the side or back. It contains copper windings to be removed.
4. Remove control boards and panels
These go in lower-value electronic scrap but still yield better rates than steel.
5. Remove and save the magnetron
Identifiable by its copper/ceramic construction. High value intact or stripped.
6. Extract high-grade capacitors
Can be identified by aluminum casings or markings. Big ones are most valuable.
7. Pull out any reusable components
Motors, switches, and mechanical parts can potentially be sold online rather than scrapped.
8. Separate non-magnetic stainless steel
Use a magnet to detect any stainless parts and keep them with the aluminum fraction.
Once everything of value is removed, the remaining steel hulk can be sold for low-grade scrap pricing. Let’s look at what each fraction is worth:
Scrap Value by Component
|Part||Price per Pound|
|Insulated Copper Wire||$2.50 – $3.50|
|Bare Copper Wire||$2.00 – $2.50|
|Aluminum||$0.50 – $1.00|
|Stainless Steel||$0.25 – $0.45|
|Circuit Boards||$1.00 – $2.00|
|Electric Motors||$0.20 – $0.40|
|Plain Steel||$0.05 – $0.15|
Note: Prices fluctuate based on scrap market rates in your area. Call your local yards to verify current pricing.
To give you a better idea, here’s an estimated breakdown of weights and potential earnings:
- 3 lbs copper wire = $7.50
- 5 lbs aluminum = $5
- 2 lbs circuit boards = $4
- Electric motor = $0.60
- Plain steel remainder = $2
Instead of making $5 scrapping it whole, this microwave yielded over $19 when properly dismantled into commodity fractions. That’s nearly a 4x increase in profit!
Of course, values vary widely depending on the make and model. But in most cases, methodically stripping out the good stuff results in far greater returns than scrapping complete appliances.
Tips for Getting the Best Scrap Price
Here are some insider tips to follow if you want top dollar for your microwave scrap:
- Call around to compare rates. Scrap prices can vary significantly between yards.
- Separate ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Never mix copper or aluminum with steel – you lose the premiums.
- Remove all non-metals. Plastics, glass, and rubber lower the value per pound.
- Research unusual metals. Know how to identify zinc, stainless steel, etc.
- Save motors and other intact parts. Parts sell for more than scrap value on eBay.
- Consider selling transformer/magnetron. These fetch good money from electronics resellers.
- Clean dirty metal. Grease and grime detract from appearance so parts look better.
- Strip insulation from wire. Bare copper brings higher rates than insulated wire.
- Ask about special pricing. Some yards offer bonuses on certain high-demand metals.
The last step is to call up some scrap yards in your area and see what they’re currently paying. With some work dismantling it and separating the metals, you can turn that old microwave from worthless clutter into $20, $30, or even $50 in cash.
Are Microwaves Accepted by Scrap Yards?
Most scrap yards accept microwaves, however there are a few caveats. Some yards don’t take microwaves or other appliances due to concerns over:
- Capacitors – Older models contained PCBs which are now banned. Newer ones don’t have PCBs.
- Mercury switches – Some older units used a mercury tilt switch. These are prohibited.
- Freon – Coolant was used in very early microwave models. Not in modern ones.
So it’s a good idea to call the yard first and ask if they accept microwaves. Tell them the approximate age so they can advise you accordingly.
If you’re unsure how old it is, inspect under the hood for any labels, stamps, or stickers with a manufacture date before heading to the yard.
And as mentioned earlier, you’ll maximize value by dismantling it first regardless. Just let them know you’ll be bringing in stripped metals rather than the whole appliance.
Most scrap facilities gladly accept cleaned up commodity-grade metals from scrapped microwaves. It just needs to be processed properly and safely first.
Is It Worth Scrapping a Microwave Yourself?
Let’s quickly recap the potential scrap value of a microwave:
- Intact appliance: $3 – $10
- Disassembled metals: $20 – $50+
Given the big difference, it makes sense to take a few minutes to take it apart prior to scrapping.
The question is whether you want to tackle this yourself or have a scrap company pick it up and do the work.
If you scrap it yourself:
- You keep 100% of the profits
- Need tools and some technical skill
- Must haul metals to recycling center
Having a company scrap it:
- They’ll pay you upfront for the unit
- Rates lower than full scrap value ($10 – $30 range)
- Convenient pickup and haul away service
So if you have the ability and time, scrapping it yourself will pay 2-3 times more than having it picked up. But for those looking for speed and convenience, a scrap company is a good option too.
Either way, that old broken microwave still has plenty of money-making potential at the scrap yard!
Safety Tips for Scrapping Microwaves
Microwaves contain some hazardous components, so safety should be your top priority:
- Unplug it – Always unplug the microwave before disassembling.
- Discharge the capacitor – Use a grounded rod to discharge stored voltage. This prevents shock risk.
- Cut wires one at a time – When removing wiring, clip them individually to avoid live wires.
- Wear gloves and long sleeves – Protect yourself from sharp edges or insulation.
- Work outside if possible – Allows for good ventilation while cutting and separating.
- Protect eyes – Wear safety glasses in case any shards or debris go airborne.
- Check for gas leaks – Early models had refrigerant lines that could leak gas if opened. Avoid torching or smoke testing those.
- Look for mercury tilt switches – Tilt mechanisms in older units sometimes contained liquid mercury, which is highly toxic.
- Double check for remaining power – Microwave capacitors can retain dangerous voltage long after being unplugged. Verify it’s discharged with a voltmeter.
By following standard safety practices, you can salvage scrap metals from a microwave without risks. Just be diligent and exercise caution when dismantling it.
Instead of tossing that old microwave, consider recycling it for scrap cash instead. While only worth a few dollars intact, methodically dismantling it yields far greater returns from the copper, aluminum and other metals inside. With some simple disassembly, you can get anywhere from $20 to $50 for the separated commodity grade metals.
Be sure to call around for the best rates, thoroughly remove non-metals, and focus on separating ferrous from non-ferrous metals. Additional side money can be made by selling any working components. And always make safety the top priority when scrapping and recycling e-waste.
So don’t throw it out – turn that unwanted microwave into clinking coins at the scrap yard! Just invest a little sweat equity to transform it from obsolete appliance to a cash payout.