The inelastic buckling behaviour of different rectangular thin isotropic plates having a free edge is studied. Various combinations of boundary conditions are subject to in-plane uniaxial compression and each rectangular plate is bounded by an unloaded free edge. The characteristic deflection function of each plate is formulated using a polynomial function in form of Taylor–Maclaurin series. A deformation plasticity approach is adopted and the buckling load equation is modified using a work principle technique. Buckling coefficients of the plates are calculated for various aspect ratios and moduli ratios. Findings obtained from the investigation are found to reasonably agree with data published in the literature.