How much does an asphalt driveway cost? Budgeting for the cost of an asphalt driveway is not as simple as inputting a few details into an online cost calculator, there are just too many variables. In this asphalt driveway cost guide we will walk you through all the different scenarios that you may encounter and the installation factors that can affect the final price you pay.
Stick with us and by the end you should be confident enough to accurately estimate the correct pricing for your project and be ready to talk to professional asphalt contractors.
Let’s start with the bottom line and then break down what each of these costs include. Here are the four most common scenarios in order of cost for the material and installation:
Installing an asphalt driveway is a multi-step process. Not all will apply to your job.
Breaking up an existing driveway with heavy equipment and hauling it away is quite costly, especially for concrete due to the labor intensive nature of the work.
When a new driveway is being installed, the soil must be removed to a depth up to 10 inches to form a bed for the driveway. Topsoil and clayey soil must be removed to a deeper level than soils that are mostly sand or gravel. That soil must be loaded and hauled away or deposited elsewhere on the property to be used in landscaping. The paving company will take soil samples to determine how deep your driveway bed needs to be.
Once the driveway bed has been excavated, you’re ready to start installing material to build the driveway one layer at a time. There are several layers to an asphalt driveway. Whether your driveway needs them all depends on which scenario you are completing.
Subgrade layer: 3-8 inches of aggregate material is typically used in the asphalt bed. Aggregate makes an excellent base because it does not rise and fall frost and thaw cycles.
Base layer of asphalt: Most paving companies recommend 3 total inches of asphalt. However, some prefer what is known as “full-depth” asphalt. A full-depth driveway contains up to 6 inches of asphalt. We mention this as an FYI as you talk with asphalt contractors about your driveway project. Our asphalt driveway estimates are based on the standard 2” asphalt base layer and 1”-1.5” topcoat. In terms of bulk price, asphalt is priced by the ton. One ton of asphalt covers about 80 square feet with 2 inches of material or 160 square feet with 1 inch of material. Current wholesale pricing of bulk base-grade asphalt is $70-$80 per ton; top-layer grade is $75-$85 per ton.
Top layer of asphalt: This is a layer of finer asphalt material that produces a smooth driveway surface. It is the only layer installed for scenario #1.
Your asphalt driveway should be sealed after it has cured for 6-12 months. The installer will advise you on exactly when to have it sealed.
So far, we’ve covered costs for a straightforward driveway job. However, some jobs include one or more factors that raise costs.
Mobilization costs and trucking costs: Jobs at a distance from the contractor’s yard or the source of aggregate and material create higher costs for the contractor in terms of wages and fuel. The cost is passed on to customers in the form of a higher estimate for the work.
Wooded property: Wooded land is much more difficult to excavate (though the trees might have some timber value). Trees must be cut or pushed down, cut up and hauled away. If stumps are left, they must be pushed out by a dozer or dug out by a backhoe. Expect excavation costs to rise by 25% (lightly wooded, small-diameter trees) to 500% (heavily wooded, large-diameter trees)
Extra fill required: Low areas, especially if wet too, must be built up with large amounts of fill dirt or gravel. Fill is also brought in at times to alleviate the pitch of steep driveways. The volume of fill required will determine the cost.
Adding drain tile: If your property is low and standing water is an issue during heavy rains, drain tile might have to be installed adjacent to the drive to handle the run-off. While no job is typical, a good estimate is 15 feet of drain tile for every foot of driveway that has water standing adjacent to it. So, for example, if water puddles next to the last 12 feet of your driveway, you’ll need about 180 feet (15×12) of drain tile to alleviate the problem.
If there is excessive standing water near your driveway, these measures might not be adequate, and your yard might not be suitable for a driveway in that location. Constant accumulations of water will eventually lead to erosion of the driveway’s base and cause serious problems such as settling, sinking, cracking or collapsing.
Permits: Your city or county might require a permit for driveway installation. The cost of the permit includes an inspection to make sure the preparation and installation is handled properly to ensure a durable driveway and water run-off that won’t cause problems for your or nearby homes.
Extensive repairs to and existing driveway prior to resurfacing it: Cracks, buckled asphalt, missing asphalt and low/sunken spots all need to be addressed on an existing driveway before a new top layer is installed. For every 5% of the driveway that needs to be repaired first, the price goes up 10-20% depending on how extensive the repairs are. At some point, the cost-effective decision is to tear out the old driveway, correct issues with the sublayer of aggregate or with water, and put in fresh base and top layers of asphalt.
Cosmetic borders: Asphalt driveways are sometimes bordered with paver stones or other decorative material that can withstand traffic.
Installed border: $2.50-$4.50 per linear foot depending on the material used
Retaining walls: In rare cases such as where a hillside has been excavated to form the driveway or the garage is partially below grade, retaining walls will need to be built to prevent collapse and/or erosion of soils. Retaining walls cost $25-$35 per square foot. For example, a wall 30 feet long and 4 feet high, 120 square feet, would cost $3,000 to $4,200.
Calculating your Asphalt Driveway Cost Estimate
Making an approximate calculation of your driveway cost ahead of time will assist you in deciding if a driveway estimate you receive is reasonable.
We’ve given you detailed information about all of the costs associated with residential asphalt paving so that you won’t be surprised by the description of the work to be done and how much it will cost. The majority of asphalt driveway jobs are fairly standard – a new or resurfaced driveway that is fairly level and offers few difficulties. That’s the scenario we use to come up with a base “standard” cost as a starting point. These points are:
1). Start your estimate at the standard cost:
2). Review the list of factors affecting cost. Revise your estimate upwards for those that apply using the information given:
Sample Asphalt Driveway Installation Estimate
It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture in all of the details. To make things clear again, let’s look at a recent job that will help you see how these factors affect cost. We chose this job because it was a fair representation of 75% of residential asphalt driveway installations.
The home is new construction in a bedroom community 20 miles outside St. Louis, Missouri. The driveway is 75 feet long. The first 50 feet is 10-foot wide before it widens to 40 feet in front of the two-car garage to provide entry to the garage, additional parking and a small basketball court. So:
50’x10’ = 500 square feet
25’x40 = 1,000 square feet
Total: 1,500 square feet
Here is a summary of the work and the costs in each category for this driveway:
Driveway excavation and preparation: Six inches of existing soil were removed and hauled away. A tree stump was removed, and the cavity filled with aggregate. The bed was graded, and a culvert was placed in the ditch at the road and covered with 7 cubic yards of gravel. No drain tile was installed.
Material installation: The distance to the gravel pit where the aggregate was sourced is 25 miles, resulting in slightly higher-than-average trucking costs. There was no upcharge based on the distance of 12 miles to the asphalt plant. Gas cost was $2.39/gallon at the time.
Total Asphalt Driveway Cost: $7,220 or $4.81 per square foot
The analysis of this job shows that its cost was slightly higher than average due a small premium in trucking costs, the culverts and the material added in the ditch. All in all, it is just what you’d expect given the scenario.
Getting Asphalt Driveway Estimates
There are many asphalt driveway cost estimates found online, but they vary widely without giving many specifics about how the cost was determined. That’s the issue we have addressed here with pricing for every aspect of the work. Using this information, the estimate you work up for your driveway should be right in the ballpark of estimates you get from local driveway paving companies.
The residential paving business is very competitive, and some contractors use high-pressure and unscrupulous sales techniques. There are paving scams too.
Therefore, when you’re ready to have local asphalt contractors bid on the job, contact several of them. We recommend letting each know that you are getting multiple estimates for the work and that you want quality materials and installation that doesn’t cut corners.
This will result in competitive bids for a driveway that will be durable in the years to come. Ask each contractor for references, and make a few phone calls. Consider asking each for the address of jobs that were completed 7-10 years ago, and drive by those homes. Problems to look for include large cracks, crumbled pavement, standing water or other low spots.
We’ve noted that the cost of sealing a driveway is 40 to 75 cents per square foot. The driveway should be resealed every three to five years in moderate climates and every two years in climates with extreme sun, heat or freezing temperatures. Asphalt is porous, and water infiltrating the material will begin to cause deterioration, especially if your driveway goes through freeze and thaw cycles.
Repair issues might appear in as little as five years. Problems that occur before that are the result of improper preparation or installation. In that event, contact the installer and ask them to make the repairs at no cost, even if their warranty has expired. They might be inclined to do it to maintain their reputation.
Repairs should be made immediately. Be vigilant about cracks because they allow water penetration, erosion beneath the asphalt, settling and rapid deterioration of the driveway through freeze and thaw cycles. Small cracks should be filled with liquefied rubber – molten rubber is best. Large cracks should be filled with sand to replace material that has eroded from beneath the asphalt before being finished with rubber. When you have your driveway sealed, the contractor will include crack repair as part of the estimate.
When cracks are the result of the asphalt settling and developing low spots, the material should be removed. The low spot must be filled with compacted aggregate before being covered with cold (good) or hot (better) asphalt patch.
An asphalt driveway should be resurfaced with a layer of asphalt when a fresh coat of sealer and minor repairs no longer cover its obvious deterioration. This might occur in as few as 10 years or as many as 25 years depending on the quality of the installation, the level to which it has been maintained, your climate and whether the roots of nearby trees are buckling the surface from beneath. Costs for resurfacing an asphalt driveway are currently $2.00 to $3.40 per square foot for most jobs, as we’ve noted.