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304 vs 316

What is the difference between 304 and 316

Two of the most common grades of austenitic stainless steel are 304 (1.4301) and 316 (1.4401). In appearance the 2 are indistinguishable and the few tests to differentiate between them include either hazardous chemicals (in the case of a molybdenum drop test) or expensive equipment (such as positive material identification). The 2 grades though have very unique characteristics due to their chemical composition and care should be taken when selecting which type is best suited to your application.


The cost of stainless steel is largely dependent on the alloys that are present in their composition. All stainless steels require a minimum of 10.5% chromium and they are alloyed with iron which makes up a large proportion of their final makeup. The various other elements present though have an impact on the properties and characteristics and ultimately, cost.
316 contains a minimum 2.0% molybdenum which makes it much more corrosion resistant than 304 however, as it is a more expensive element, generally makes 316 a more expensive grade of metal.


Both grades are austenitic which means that they do not have magnetic properties however cold working can have an effect on this. When the stainless steel is formed or cut, there will be a slight increase in their magnetic properties although this is only minor.

Chemical composition

Grade C Si Mn P S N Cr Ni Mo
304 0.07 1.00 2.00 0.045 0.015 0.10 17.5 - 19.5 8.0 - 10.5 -
316 0.07 1.00 2.00 0.045 0.015 0.10 16.5 - 18.5 10.0 - 13.0 2.0 - 2.5

Corrosion resistance

Stainless steel as a family of metals is very corrosion resistant but with the addition of molybdenum into 316, this increases the grades ability to withstand harsh environments. Often referred to as marine grade, 316 is suitable for use in environments that are more aggressive than ambient although care should still be taken to clean the metal regularly to prolong its service life.

As a global supplier of stainless steel products, thyssenkrupp Materials (UK) not only carry a large range of 304 and 316 in stock for immediate supply but we also have our own coil processing facilities both in the UK and Europe to help us offer bespoke finishes and sizes. Contact us to find out more.

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