If you get a scrappable item that’s in good working order—or close enough to it that you feel you could polish it up—it’s often hard to decide whether you should take it down to your local scrap yard or put a little work in and try to sell it yourself.

A lot of items that are still perfectly usable end up in recycling and trash facilities over time, and we all know that reusing is just as good for the environment as recycling. How to decide whether or not an item is good for resale?

Know Yourself

A lot of whether you should scrap an item or fix it up and resell it as something fully functional comes down to your expertise and interests. If you repair computers professionally or as a hobby, there’s a much better chance you can give that old laptop its shine again than if you don’t. The same holds true for a mechanic with an old, beat-up car.

In addition to your own expertise and interests, though, there are a few general rules to follow when it comes to deciding whether to scrap or sell a given item.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Both Scrapping and Selling

Selling an item for scrap and selling it for use each have their own advantages and disadvantages.

For example, scrapping an item is more consistent. While scrap prices certainly move up and down quite a bit due to market forces like supply and demand, you can at least know what you’ll get for an item on a given day by checking scrap prices. Selling an item as functional can involve a lot more research before posting an ad or an eBay listing, and also some haggling or risk before you actually make your sale.

However, a functional item is often worth quite a bit more than its scrap value.

Of course, the work that goes into scrapping an item stays consistent too. While some items are a lot harder to disassemble or clean than others, the basic task is the same across the board: separate out the different components as well as you can, and get rid of any corrosion or dirt that you can.

Fixing up a damaged or worn out item can involve a lot more work, though—and sometimes it’s hard to know going in how much work you’ll have to do. This is where your expertise comes in. If you’re a professional mechanic, you’ll not only be able to fix the problems with a car or truck faster; you’ll also be able to diagnose them faster and more confidently.

Of course, a lot of the decision rests on the item itself, too. How much is it worth for sale as opposed to how much it’s worth for scrap? Also, how much damage or wear is there to the item? If it just needs a bit of polish, it’s probably worth your effort to sell, but if you need to invest money or large amounts of time into it, you may be better off cutting your losses and selling it for scrap whenever metal prices look good.