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.

An Asphalt Driveway Cost Estimate

If you want to get a new asphalt driveway installed in front of your home, you are probably going with this material due to its low cost. Let’s face it – blacktop isn’t the most unique material in the world, and it doesn’t look as great as other options like concrete pavers. It is strong and durable, however, and it is very cheap because it is so common.

General Asphalt Paving Pricing Estimation

So how much will you pay for your new driveway? The asphalt driveway cost will depend on a number of factors, many of which will be detailed and described below. Note, in general, that the main paving costs will derive from two main sources: the materials and equipment needed to lay the new driveway, and the contractors and laborers needed to actually do the work. It is these two main factors that will ultimately determine the asphalt driveway cost per square foot.

In general, the price for your new driveway will be between $1 to $5 per square foot. If you get any special type of asphalt, such as stamped or colored, expect to pay more. For isntance, the stamped asphalt driveway cost can be nearly double the unstamped variety. This may or may not include any excavation that needs to be done or any other special preparatory work that has to be done. Prices will be lower per square foot if you have a larger driveway – the more work done, the less you will pay per unit area, as it will be more efficient for the blacktop contractor to come in and do a larger project than a smaller one. (The fixed costs are much the same regardless of the size of the project, and these fixed costs will be diluted more if they are associated with a larger project.)

However, as stated above, these costs will depend on more specific factors. Let’s take a look at some of the important ones.

Factors that Will Affect Paving Costs

The main factors that will affect the blacktop driveway cost estimate include:

*Oil and other commodity costs. Blacktop is an oil product, so as oil prices increase, you’ll pay more for blacktop. That’s just the reality of the chemistry and economics and is largely unavoidable. And with the continually increasing cost of oil, don’t expect this to decrease any time soon!
*The thickness of the asphalt. Some climates may require thicker asphalt in order to protect against frost and other damage. Obviously, this would cost more money.
*The depth of the base. 4 inches of gravel is usually the standby, but more or less may be needed depending on the environment.
*Your location. If you live in a richer area, you’ll have to pay more for the work. But you probably already know that you’re paying more for products and services, so this is most likely expected.
*The contractor you hire. Expect to pay for quality, and be ready to suffer the consequences if you look for and receive a ridiculous bargain. Anyone doing work for bargain basement prices will give you a bargain basement driveway, so buyer beware. However, there is some leeway in the price here, especially if you can team up with your neighbors to get driveways done at the same time. You could get a nice discount this way.
*The square footage of your driveway. This is obvious, but remember that a large project may enjoy lower prices per square foot due to increased efficiency of laying the blacktop.
*The season. If you get your driveway done during the busy season (spring to early summer), expect to pay more due to increased demand.
*The specifics of your job. If you want curves, or if your driveway is sloped, or a myriad of other design features, you may have to pay more for the privilege.
*If any problems or issues pop up during the installation, expect to pay. For instance, if the contractor has to deal with utility lines at all and needs to hire a subcontractor, you’ll be footing that bill. A general rule: The smoother the job, the less you’ll have to pay, so try to be open about any potential issues before the work begins.
*If you want special kinds of asphalt, such as stamped or colored, you’ll pay more.
*If you combine asphalt with other driveway materials, you’ll obviously have to pay for the installation of those materials too. For instance, many people get concrete pavers or natural stone pavers (cobblestones) as an apron and border for an otherwise asphalt driveway. This will cost you more than a plain blacktop drive.

Getting an Estimate From a Contractor

Ultimately, it’s hard to give an exact price given that costs depend so much on local factors. For an exact measurement of your cost, you’ll need to get an estimate done by a local contractor. You can also use an asphalt driveway cost calculator to help give you a more focused estimate, though it won’t always be entirely accurate. Always get more than one bid or quote, as you’ll want to see what different contractors will offer you for the job. Don’t necessarily take the lowest price – balance out the quality of the work with the price you’re willing to pay. Substandard work will always come back to bite you.

Repair, Maintenance, and Other Costs

Note that your expenditure won’t end when the asphalt is newly installed in your front yard. You will also have to pay repair and maintenance costs down the line if you want your driveway to last long. Consider it part of the fixed cost of the driveway – the consequences of not maintaining your driveway could be getting a whole new one, a very expensive endeavor. Periodic sealing, sealcoating, and resurfacing will help keep your driveway looking great. Expect to pay anywhere from 10 to 20 cents per square foot for these services if you don’t do it yourself.

The Asphalt Driveway: What You Need to Know

One of the more popular options available for paving a driveway is asphalt. These types of residential driveways are ubiquitous throughout the world due to their cheap price, durability, and relative easy of install. This article will describe what you need to know about the asphalt driveway – what it is, its benefits, its drawbacks, its prices, and what to look for when getting a driveway installed.

More information on other driveway materials, such as driveway pavers, can be found at these links.

The Benefits and Drawbacks (Pros and Cons) Of Asphalt

The major benefit of asphalt is its durability and resistance to vehicular traffic. You can park and drive on it with no problems. It is also very easy to install, as long as the company or contractor knows what they are doing, and the material is also cheap. Thus, prices for the installation of asphalt driveways are usually low, especially if you get contractors to bid against one another. The installation can be finished quickly, so you won’t have to wait for days for the project to be completed. (In theory, at least – see the ‘Scams’ section). Another benefit is that you won’t have to worry much about stains, even of oil, because they will usually blend in with the black of the asphalt. Maintenance is usually quite easy, too.

Asphalt also does well in many climates, as it can resist cracking due to cold and be flexible in hot environments due to the composition of the driveway. It is easy to remove snow from, with shovels, plows, and deicing salts, and absorbs the sunlight in the winter, helping to melt snow and ice.

There are some drawbacks to asphalt, however. Though maintenance is easy, you will still have to seal the driveway once a year, or at least get someone else to do it. While it’s not necessarily required, the proper application of asphalt sealer will help keep the driveway looking great and being strong for years to come. A little investment now could spare you the costs of replacing the driveway well before its time.

Another drawback of asphalt is that it doesn’t look as good as other driveway options. It is certainly outclassed by paving stones, and even concrete, especially if it is stamped or colored, can be more interesting to look at than asphalt. Indeed, asphalt is kind of generic, but this may not be a problem for you if you just want the job done and don’t want to invest into the looks of your home. Just know that your design options will be limited – in the patterns, shapes, and colors you’ll have (or rather lack) at your disposal. If you are looking for more flexiblity and creativity in designs, go with concrete, paving stones, natural stone, or brick pavers.

Like concrete, asphalt may crack due to freeze-thaw cycles. This is a common problem in areas with cold and wet climates, but it can happen anywhere. Whether or not this happens depends on a number of factors, including random chance, but the most important factor is the quality of the base on which the asphalt is installed. When looking for a contractor, make sure he or she knows the importance of the base, and is willing and able to put in the time necessary to prepare it properly. You may want to subcontract out that part of the work to someone who is great at preparing bases if you don’t trust your contractor’s ability to deliver on this.

Asphalt may also have issues in hot climates. If it gets too soft and too much weight is put on it, it may form ruts or dips that can be unsightly.

One other disadvantage is that you can track in oil and grime from the driveway into your home and other clean areas if you are not careful about taking off your shoes. For instance, it’s totally possible to track in seal coating into your home, especially if it’s a hot day and the asphalt is soft or just recently sealed.

If you are concerned with the environment, asphalt may not the be best choice, as chemicals and oils will leach into the ground. However, if you use recycled asphalt, you will help save the environment by using fewer fossil fuels. You’ll also save a few bucks, too!

Finally, you will not be able to install asphalt yourself unless you have the tools and experience to do so. Thus, if you are looking for a DIY driveway project, asphalt may not be the choice for you. If you do want to get asphalt done, you’ll have to hire a pavers contractor – and that comes with the obvious drawbacks of that process.

Asphalt Driveway Cost Estimate

Asphalt is usually one of the cheapest options out there, though the price will vary depending on many factors. One of these factors is the price of crude oil. Components of oil are actually important components of blacktop, so as oil increases in price, blacktop increases in price. Other factors include the size of the job, the season, your location, the contractor you hire, and the specifics of the job itself. In general, however, the cost per square foot for most driveways will range from $1 to $6. The exact cost will depend on the estimate you receive from a contractor; you may also be able to find a cost calculator as well to give you a more specific, but still rough, estimate.

If you get an old asphalt driveway resurfacing, you’ll pay much less in the short term than if you got a new driveway. However, realize that many of the flaws, like cracks, may come through the new layer, despite the contractor’s best efforts, so it may pay in many cases to get a totally new installation.

A more in depth look at the asphalt driveway cost can be found at this link.

Asphalt Driveway Maintenance and Repairs

Asphalt benefits from periodic sealing, though it is by no means required. If you want to extend the life of your driveway, or if you want to protect it from water damage, have it sealed every year or two. However, wait at least a year before sealing a new asphalt driveway. You will want to to do this when the surface turns a bit more grey and when you can see the small stones coming to the surface. If you don’t want to hire someone who specializes in sealing asphalt driveways, it is possible for you to do the work yourself as long as you follow the “how to” directions listed on the sealant product you purchase.

If your driveway does get cracked, chipped, or otherwise damage, it is possible to hire someone who does asphalt driveway repair; you can also do the work yourself, if you know how. Simple crack filler or patches might not look great, but they will look better than the unfixed alternative; they are usually relatively easy for you to DIY.

How Do These Driveways Compare to Other Materials?

What about concrete vs. an asphalt driveway? These are two of the most popular options for driveways, not counting concrete pavers and stone.

Asphalt is very similar to concrete, in that they are both a mixture of sand and stones, but asphalt is bound together with asphalt cement instead of Portland cement. Asphalt is, in a sense, “concrete asphalt,” in that it contains similar components to concrete and is bound together in a similar manner. Despite the minor differences, both are strong, and asphalt has the added bonus of being quite flexible.

Whether you pick asphalt or concrete is up to your budget, design ideas, and home style and theme. Concrete is usually slightly more expensive than asphalt, but this may not be true all the time. You’ll have more design options with concrete, even if you do pick special colored or stamped asphalt, but the installation and maintenance of your asphalt will probably be easier.

Note that asphalt and concrete are both different from a crushed asphalt driveway, also known as tar and chip or macadam. Instead of mixing the stone, sand, and binding agent before laying the driveway, the stone and sand are laid on the driveway first and then ‘sprayed’ with the cement.

A more in depth comparison of hardscape materials can be found here.

What About Asphalt Driveway Scams?

Asphalt driveway paving is big business in the home construction niche, so you’ll have no shortage of people willing to do the work for your home. However, many people report having many problems when dealing with contractors, everything from delivering substandard work to excavating an old driveway and then waiting for months to finish the job, leaving the homeowner with a dirty and dusty driveway throughout that time.

One of the main reasons this happens is that certain unscrupulous contractors will wait until they score multiple jobs in one area before laying down the asphalt. This is because asphalt must be hot in order to be laid, and it is more convenient and efficient to lay more than one driveway at a time. Thus, they will often excavate a driveway, wait for more homes, and then finish the job days, weeks, or even months later. This is why it’s so important to get reviews of contractors’ work before you commit to them. You need to make sure you are getting good value, and not getting scammed, so do your homework and ask for referrals from friends and family who’ve had good work done in the past.

When picking a contractor, the most important factor is how much attention they pay to a base. The base of the driveway should be around 8 inches of well compacted gravel or aggregate base. In addition, this base should extend farther than the actual driveway in order to give a little edging around the structure. Don’t let the contractor install the new driveway without assessing the thickness and the strength of the base – if you are getting a new driveway because the old one cracked, you’ll want to make sure you get a full checkup, even if this will cost you more in the short term.