304 vs 316 Stainless Steel: What You Need to Know

While Stainless Steel 304 & Stainless Steel 316 the two most commonly used grades of stainless steel may seem similar at a glance, both have important variations that can lead to substantial savings over the life of your product depending on your intended uses.

All stainless steel grades contain a mix of iron and chromium at various levels but the exact mix of various contents and other additions make the differences between two grades. The most popular stainless steel grade 304 contains 18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel — though other alloys exist within the same grade. While Stainless steels 316 grade include less chromium around 16 percent approx.  But increased nickel levels and added molybdenum to the mix. In most common alloys, you’ll find 10 percent nickel and 2 to 3 percent molybdenum. However, specialty alloys might have as much as 9 percent molybdenum.


The two steel grades are comparable in appearance, chemical makeup and characteristics. Both steels are robust and offer excellent corrosion and rust resistance. SS 304 is the most versatile and widely used austenitic stainless steel in the world, due to its corrosion resistance. Other reasons for its popularity and widespread use, 304 stainless steel is also lower in cost compared to SS 316.

Stainless Steel 316 Pipes is more expensive as it provides greater resistance to corrosion, especially against chlorides and chlorinated solutions. For applications where salt exposure is a concern, stainless 316 more desirable. If you have an application with strong corrosives or chlorides, it is highly recommended to have the extra cost of stainless steel 316. 316 stainless steel will last longer than 304 in such applications, providing you with additional years of life and use. If you use milder acids or do not have salt exposure in your case, stainless steel 304 is fine. Below are some common applications for both steel grades.

These SS 304 & 316 Grades are available in different forms like SS 304 Round Bars, pipes, tubes, rods, wires, sheets, plates, coils etc.

Applications for 304 Stainless Steel

Auto moldings and trim

Wheel covers

Storage tanks

Kitchen equipment/appliances

Electrical enclosures

Applications for 316 Stainless Steel

  • SS 316 Coils for electric motors, generators, inductors,
  • Marine parts
  • Outdoor electrical enclosures
  • Chemical Equipment
  • Pharmaceutical equipment

To sum it up, 316 steel is worth the expense if you need superior corrosion resistance and your application contains water. If not, 304 steel will serve your needs just fine.