Asphalt Prices: A Guide

Time to get a new driveway, huh? Well, you’re probably thinking about getting asphalt installed; why else would you be here, then?

It should be said straight out that the main reason people choose asphalt is due to cost. Among all the paving solutions you can have for your home, asphalt is the cheapest and most common. The only cheaper option really is loose stone, but this material comes with its own headaches (mostly maintenace) that makes it a relatively weak option for most homeowners driveway needs.

To that end, this article will give you a brief run down of the main factors that affect the price of asphalt, along with a very broad and general estimate of what you might pay for the material for your next outdoor hardscape project.

What Determines Asphalt Prices

Asphalt is a hot mix of ‘liquid asphalt,’ which is actually the stuff that is distilled from oil byproducts, and aggregate, which is a fancy word for stone. The price of these components together determines the asphalt paving pricing that you can expect.

The main causes for the changes in asphalt pricing depends on a number of factors. Those interested in the exact prices per ton can find an asphalt “price index” that shows how these prices have changed over time; for instance, check out this government resource. This resource gives you the price of the asphalt per ton; to figure out how much you’ll need will depend on the price of the asphalt per square foot. Note though that it’s the prices in California, and it’s somewhat old, but at least you can get a general idea – you can expect to be quoted anywhere from $80 to $130 per ton for your asphalt, and this number will continue to increase as oil prices increase. In addition, the thickness of your driveway will also affect the price; thus, you’ll come up with a ‘volume’, measured in yards or some other quantity, that you will need to purchase.

To do this, multiply your square foot measure by the thickness of the driveway in feet. This gives you cubic feet; multiply this by 145 pounds per cubic foot to get the weight of your asphalt. Divide this by 2000 to get tons, and then check the table (listed above) for a general price.

The exact amount you need will depend on your project; your contractor should give you an estimate on this. In addition, the price will also depend on the quality of the asphalt you purchase, as well as how much aggregate it contains relative to liquid asphalt.

The main factor that affects the price of asphalt is oil costs. Asphalt is made from oil-based products, so as the price of oil increases, the overall price of the asphalt will increase. The increase in oil pricing can also have secondary effects on the price of asphalt aside from the affect on the price of its components. For example, contractors who install asphalt may have to charge higher prices due to increased fuel costs and delivery costs for their work. Thus, oil price pressure can have a profound impact on not only the base price of the material but also on the overall costs of installing it.

Note that these costs will affect any other asphalt products, such as asphalt shingles. This just goes to show how critical oil prices are to our economy, and how increased pricing pressure can trickle down to all areas of the broader economic picture.

The second major component is the price of the aggregate. This depends on a number of factors as well, but also note that it is oil (e.g. fuel) dependent.

So How Much Will I Pay?

As we’ve seen above, the raw price you’ll pay will depend on many geo-economic factors, so whatever number we quote you will inevitably be wrong a month from now. In addition, there are other factors that affect the price of the material, factors that are particular to your local area and project. For more information on asphalt driveway cost, see the article linked.

We can, however, give you a decent range of the prices, or an average, that you may expect to pay for the material. A good measure for the full installation of your driveway is around $1 to $5 per square foot, though you’ll probably pay more towards the lower end of this range. Note that this may or may not include the $1 – $3 cost required to install a new aggregate base, if needed.

To get a more specific price, you’ll have to ask contractors for an estimate. This estimate should be free, so don’t think you have to pay for this service. You could also try to find cost calculators on the internet, though these too will only give you a rough guideline as to the costs associated with your project. Here is a cost calculator that may give you a good idea. Note, though, that they will also not give you any notion of the ongoing maintenance costs you’ll incur, so use them with care, just like you’re using the information from this page.

Additional Costs

Note that the installation is not the only aspect of the asphalt driveway prices that you have to worry about. To keep your new driveway looking nice, you’ll have to maintain it every year or so. This will require sealcoating, resurfacing, and overall repair of your asphalt driveway as it cracks, fades, and wears away. For example, you’ll pay somewhere around 8 to 30 cents per square foot for resurfacing. Granted, you could skip this maintenance, though the lifespan and overall appearance of your new project will greatly suffer in the short and long term.