Alloy Steel vs. Carbon Steel: Choosing Between Two Great Metals

Alloy Steel vs. Carbon Steel- Choosing Between Two Great Metals

Steel is a renowned material gaining popularity because of its exceptional properties in industries worldwide. It is involved in the manufacturing of unlimited components because of its superb qualities and properties.

It is categorized into various types depending on the variations in its alloying elements. These variations make them suitable for specific types of applications.

In addition, when comparing, differences in composition result in an incredible difference in their properties. This article is about the complete detail of both steels and their significant difference.

1: Alloy and Carbon Steel-An Overview

Alloy and Carbon Steel-An Overview

What is Alloy Steel?

It is the main category of steel containing different alloy compositions, and various alloying elements are combined, resulting in the formation of alloy steel. These alloying elements exhibit specific properties that, as a whole, become the properties of alloy steel. Some of its major alloying elements include the following.

  • Chromium
  • Molybdenum
  • Silicon
  • Manganese
  • Nickel,  etc.

Each alloying element impacts alloy steel differently,  providing it with definite properties. As a result, these properties make it an ideal choice for manufacturing durable and corrosion-resistant components. Thus, you can choose a steel alloy containing a particular alloying element for your specific type of project.

Types of Alloy Steel:

Types of Alloy Steel

1- Low Alloy Steel:

It proves better than carbon steel and has more corrosion resistance. These alloys increase mechanical properties, such as corrosion resistance, etc. You can use this steel alloy in various industrial components, including structural steel, pipelines, construction equipment, pressure vessels, etc.

2- HSLA Steel:

HSLA or micro-alloyed steel comprises alloying elements that provide exceptional physical and mechanical properties, such as titanium, copper, silicon, vanadium, etc. You may need help in forming the HSLA steel. The reason behind this is its greater strength.

But, you can increase its forming ability by adding elements. Thus, adding such elements allows you to form it for your specific project’ completion quickly. You can use this alloy steel type in seat mechanisms, chassis, suspension systems, wheels, etc.

3- High Alloy Steel:

Manufacturing such steel alloys may cost you a lot. In addition, you may also face different challenges while machining it for manufacturing various products.

It provides numerous manufacturing applications due to its high alloy content. You can use this steel alloy for power generator equipment, chemical processing, structural parts, etc.

4- Stainless Steel:

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is high-alloy steel and provides applications in various surgical instruments and pharmaceutical and chemical industries. It has three other types:

  • Martensitic

It is good for cutlery, surgical instrument, and turbines as it has less corrosion resistance and high hardness.

  • Ferritic

It can’t be hardened in heat-treated processes and uses in automotive and industrial industries. It can resist oxidation, cracking, and corrosion.

  • Austenitic

It is used for architectural and mining sectors and has high strength, corrosive liquids, and formability. 

5- Advanced High Strength Steel:

AHSS alloying elements provide it with greater strength. Moreover, you can also quickly form it during manufacturing because of its high formability. It is a perfect choice for automotive manufacturing components.

6- Maraging Steel:

It is a steel alloy having an alloying element with a more significant percentage of nickel. It offers substantial ductility and toughness, making it a good fit for some industries. Its applications in the manufacturing of various weapons in aerospace industries are appreciable.

What is Carbon Steel, and for What Purpose Can We Use it?

What is Carbon Steel, and for What Purpose Can We Use it

It contains carbon, and this element provides superior hardness and strength. The more significant percentage of carbon makes it stiffer compared to the other types of steel, making it perfect for construction on a large scale.

Companies worldwide manufacture massive steel because of its lower manufacturing cost.

It is the ideal steel widely used in manufacturing because of its benefits and properties. It is mainly involved in 90% production of steel.

What are the Different Types of Carbon Steels?

1- Mild Carbon Steels:

They can easily undergo CNC and other machining processes as they offer less strength. These steels are commonly soft and weak.

2- Medium Carbon Steels:

Medium carbon steels are categories with strong steel, but it is difficult to weld and cut these types of carbon steel. Its carbon content ratio is 0.3% to 0.6%, and has good wear resistance.

3- High Carbon Steels:

With more than 0.6% of carbon content, this type of carbon steel shows high wear resistance and hardness qualities. Their percentage of carbon is more significant. The abundant amounts of carbon make it stronger but hard to machine.

4- Ultra High Carbon Steel:

The content quantity is much higher than other elements, making it a more robust material. Being stronger steel, it is challenging to machine.

2: Alloy Steel vs. Carbon Steel: A Detailed Comparison between the Two Popular Metals

Alloy Steel vs. Carbon Steel- A Detailed Comparison between the Two Popular Metals

1- Material Properties: Difference between Alloy Steel and Carbon Steel

Their physical and mechanical properties are the leading cause of choosing the best material.

Element Composition:

The composition of alloy steel has a higher number of alloying elements such as molybdenum, chromium, etc. In carbon steel, the total composition has more carbon as the primary alloying element.

Corrosion Resistance:

Alloy steel corrosion-resistant can be more intensified while adding more percentage of alloying elements. Reasonable wear and tear resistance make it suitable for various functions. Carbon steel corrosion-resistant property enhanced with the increase of carbon contents. It has less wear and tear resistance than steel.


Alloy steel has less durability, so it can not be fit for long-term use. Its low durability is due to the absence of carbon and the presence of other alloying elements. Carbon steel has more durability, which ensures its long-term performance. It has excellent durability due to its carbon content.        


A significant quantity of alloying elements causes the heavier weight of alloy steel.           Carbon steel contains fewer alloying elements making it lightweight.


The machinability rate of alloy steel is much higher than carbon steel. You may not need extra care or handling while machining alloy steel as it is accessible to the machine.

Carbon steel offers less machinability because of being an incredibly tougher material. Machining carbon steel may require proper care and handling to prevent damage due to mishandling.


 Alloy steels offer less weldability than carbon steel. The presence of alloying elements makes it less weldable. In carbon steel, the less number of alloying elements are present. Therefore it’s highly weldable.  

2- What are the Strength Differences between Carbon Steel and Alloy Steel?

What are the Strength Differences between Carbon Steel and Alloy Steel

Tensile strength:

Alloy steel tensile strength is higher. Thus, it can bear more stress without undergoing deformation.

Its tensile strength is up to 960 MPa. Carbon steel’s tensile strength is 450 MPa.

Yield Strength:

The yield strength is its capacity to withstand the maximum force without undergoing deformation. On the other hand, carbon steel’s yield strength is the total force it can tolerate without changing its shape.

By measuring the tensile strength of alloy steel,  you can measure the total amount of energy it can withstand. In contrast, by measuring the tensile strength of carbon steel,  you will learn about the entire force that carbon steel can bear without deforming.

3- Ability to Form:


Alloy steel is considered good material due to its easy-forming abilities. Its outstanding formability is due to its low strength, toughness, and hardness. Carbon steel has low forming ability than alloy steel. It has higher strength, toughness, and hardness, resulting in less formability.

Melting Point:

Alloy steel has a high melting point making it capable of withstanding high heat. Its higher melting points are mainly due to its various additional alloying elements. Carbon steel has fewer melting points than alloy steel.

It has fewer alloying elements than alloy steel.         

4- Appearance and Touch:


The steel is grey and silver, and you can see alloy steel and carbon steel in different colors. The color does not affect the function and properties of steel. So, remember that color can not change the performance or functionality of your components.


The hardness of alloy steel is higher than carbon steel, which can be increased with a heat-treated procedure. It is a soft alloy as the presence of alloying elements other than carbon reduces its hardness.

You can find alloy steel softer, and its softness makes it suitable for al purpose machining processes. Carbon steel is not easy to machine, and you need extra power for machining.

5- Pricing and Option:

Alloy steel is not cheap compared to other alloys, and you may find its rate very high. So, those looking for a budget-friendly material must not go for alloy steel.

In contrast, carbon steel is found at cheaper rates. The percentage of alloying elements and carbon, availability of raw materials, and manufacturing and investment costs may also affect their prices.

3: Alloy Steel vs. Carbon Steel: Applications

Alloy Steel vs Carbon Steel- Applications

Uses of Alloy Steel:

Let’s take a look at its typical applications.

  • You can utilize alloy steel to manufacture various industrial products. These components include wires, bolts, rails, ships, nails, screws, bars, etc.
  • Because of its high resistance against heat, it is an excellent option for those applications requiring high temperatures. These applications include power plants and petrochemicals.
  • It offers a lot of automotive applications due to its affordability and strength.
  • Being highly corrosion resistant, it is a perfect material for manufacturing components that need to resist corrosion.
  • The power generation equipment is manufactured on a large scale using this versatile material.
  • It is extensively utilized for building structures, including skyscrapers and stadiums, because it provides greater holding strength.
  • Alloy steel is used to manufacture flat products, including flattened strips or plates, for welding purposes in the building trades.

Carbon Steel Applications:

It is an incredibly brilliant material with a cheap rate, high strength, and toughness and can be utilized in manufacturing. Its most notable applications are described below.

  • Automotive industries manufacture various automotive components using carbon steel, such as machinery, wheels, gears, pipes, automobile body parts, etc.
  • Low-carbon steels are utilized explicitly for manufacturing various domestic appliances and shipbuilding in the flat-rolled strips and sheets form.
  • Wrought iron low-carbon steel is known to be used in railings and fencing due to its lower carbon contents.
  • It proves a superb material for manufacturing washing machines, couplings, axles, fridges, shafts, cars, gears, etc.
  • The greater tensile strength of high-carbon steel makes it a superb option for making springs, punches, cutting tools, dies, etc.
  • It is an ideal material for manufacturing complex components on an industrial scale because this steel type offers a massive amount of hardness and brittleness.

4: Alloy Steel vs. Carbon Steel: What are the Pros and Cons of these metals?

Alloy Steel vs. Carbon Steel- What are the Pros and Cons of these metals

Benefits of Alloy Steel:

  • Alloy steel doesn’t rust easily due to the presence of alloying elements that offer high resistance.
  • It has lots of alloying elements, so it has more capacity to withstand harsh environments.
  • Good wear resistance and durability make it suitable for various applications. It has a good service time and did not wear after long-term use.
  • It has excellent durability, ensuring the long-term functioning of its manufactured products.

The Disadvantage of Alloy Steel:

Here are the most noticeable weaknesses of alloy steel.

  • Alloy steel is a costly material, so it is not a suitable option for the ones with tight budgets.
  • It offers less weldability than carbon steel, so it needs extra handling during the welding process.
  • The melting points of alloy steel are meager. Thus it can be challenging, especially when heat treated.
  • The machining of steel alloy can be quite a challenging task. The reason behind this is the breaking and chipping of various metals.

Advantages of Carbon Steel:

Carbon steel provides numerous benefits, which are as under.

  • One of the most notable benefits of carbon steel is that it is less expensive. From this perspective, it can be a must-to-go option for your more significant projects.
  • It is a hard material that does not undergo deformation easily, making it super durable.
  • Carbon steel can be reusable and recyclable because of its high sustainability.
  • Handling carbon steel does not require additional safety precautions as it is safer and lacks harmful chemicals. Being harmless, it is specifically a good choice in cookware manufacturing.
  • Carbon steel is beneficial for the easy availability of its raw material.

Disadvantages of Carbon Steel:

The main disadvantages of carbon steel are as follows.

  • Carbon steel shows poor corrosion resistance.
  • It has lower flexibility, so it can easily undergo deformation or fracturing.
  • The less tensile strength of low-carbon steel makes it unsuitable for those projects that require load-bearing capacity.

Kemal: Manufacturing Metal Parts and Prototypes for You

Kemal- Manufacturing Metal Parts and Prototypes for You

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You can use any of these steels as they are best in their ways for specific projects. For example, the excellent corrosion resistance and ductility make alloy steel a good choice in the mining and aerospace industries.

On the other hand, the properties of carbon steel, such as hardness, make it perfect for automotive manufacturing components.

Carbon steel is more potent than alloy steel because of carbon steel’s higher strength, toughness, and hardness than alloy steel.

Alloy and carbon steel are not the same and have different mechanical and physical properties. The variation is mainly due to different element compositions, making it suitable for industrial applications.

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