The Cheapest Way to Pave a Driveway

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If you’ve ever had to install a new driveway on a piece of land (or redo an existing driveway) you know how expensive this project can be. In this post, I’ll share with you the cheapest way to pave a driveway. We saved a lot of money using this method!

Forget everything you know about driveways… Asphalt, concrete, crusher run gravel, railroad ballast, paving stones… If you have a long driveway, or if you need a system of driveways on a farm, and you plan to go with those common methods of paving a driveway, you are going to need a separate mortgage just for the driveway (or driveways).

Believe me, I’ve been there. But no worries, I have a better idea for you. With a little bit of resourcefulness and work, you can cut your driveway expense significantly.

The Cheapest Way to Pave a Driveway…

This is the cheapest way to pave a driveway. We used recycled materials to cut the cost of paving a long driveway. Let me give you a few ideas for using alternative materials to pave a driveway.

My affair with driveways started after we bought our 20 acres of farmland. There was no access to the land, so for a while, we used the neighbor’s driveway every time we came to visit. This could not last of course, so I started researching how to build a driveway.

I was very ambitious, I wanted to be able to park our RV at the end of the field, so we wouldn’t be too close to the road. I thought “come on, how much can a 400 ft driveway cost? Surely not too much, it’s just a bunch of rocks…” Well, try thousands!

How Much Does a Driveway Cost?

Asphalt, concrete and paving stone were out of the question – we couldn’t afford any of them. And who needs a concrete driveway on a farm anyway?

So we were left with railroad ballast (the larger rock) and crusher run gravel (the smaller rock that we see on most gravel driveways) and the widely known way of building a driveway. But wait, even then we couldn’t afford a 400 ft driveway, every truckload of rock cost $350-$400 (back in 2013), and each truckload only covers about 50 ft.

You need a layer or two of railroad ballast (the professionals told me), depending on how packed your ground is, and on top of that a layer or, more likely, two, of gravel (4”-6”). This adds up, and don’t forget the price of a hired tractor man and his machine, cause you aren’t going to rake it around, ain’t nobody got time for that! 

Paving a Gravel Driveway…

gravel over the ditch pipe

**Please forgive me for the quality of the next few pictures, it’s a long story, but some pictures are better than no pictures.

So anyway, we compromised on a 50 ft driveway (as if we had any other choice, pahh!), and I convinced myself that maybe it wouldn’t be that bad to park that close to the road.

A 15-inch concrete pipe had to be installed in the ditch. It cost $322.60 delivered, I was happy to find out that the local DOT people would install it for free if I didn’t mind waiting a few days. I didn’t.

a dump truck unloading gravel

We have hard red clay around here, so we decided to dump the railroad ballast stone on top of it and skip the ground scraping step (if we had soft ground here, we would have had to scrape the top layer of the soil).

a tractor with a box blade spreading gravel

After the dump truck had dumped the stone, the tractor man used the box blade attachment to move the stone and create the driveway. His charge was $150 (which is rather low at $50 an hour).

rail road balast rock

Here is a closer look at the railroad ballast. The rock is larger than crusher-run gravel, and it is washed clean (no sand mixed with it). It’s supposed to make a good base for the gravel.

50 feet of gravel driveway

This is the length of the driveway one truckload makes. Approximately 50 ft long, 12 ft wide, and 2” thick (this is just the layer of railroad ballast). We had another truckload delivered which we used to widen the end of this strip so that we could maneuver the RV.

The total cost for the two loads was $822.66 + $150 for the hired tractor + $322.60 for the pipe = $1295.26 for a 50 feet driveway. And this is without topping the driveway with crusher run and finishing it all the way…

I was sitting at my house, happy to finally have access to the land, but realizing that my vision of a future house by the wonderful, clear-water, creek at the back of the property was in jeopardy. 

It is at least 2500 ft to the back of our rectangular-shaped property. We just spent more than a $1000 on 50 ft, and this is without the gravel since we decided to let the railroad ballast pack a little before we ordered the gravel.

There must be a better, “not normal”, creative alternative, I thought. I just had to find it… Then I did.

Cheap Driveway Alternatives…

A few weeks after we installed this driveway, we went to visit friends in Virginia. They have a beautiful 50-acre farm on the river with lots of outbuildings connected by driveways. The moment I stepped out of my car I noticed their driveways were different. They were black, almost like asphalt but not exactly.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s grated asphalt,” our friends said and then explained that they have a friend who drives a dump truck. He was called to work with a road construction company, and after they had filled his truck with the grated asphalt, he was looking for a place to dump it. They paid him $100 a truckload to dump it on their farm.

It was the first time that I’d heard of an alternative driveway material. I had never considered it before and in my research, I did not find much information about it anywhere online.

Since that weekend, I’ve never looked at a dump truck driver the same. They were all my potential friends now.

an asphalt millings driveway

What do you know, only a few days after we came back from that trip it happened. A construction company came to repave the parking lot next to our locksmith shop. My ex-husband (wasting no time), practically jumped on the dump truck driver.

asphalt millings driveway at our old house in town

We got three (as in 3, just to make sure we are clear on that) full dump trucks of grated, scraped or whatever you want to call it parking lot asphalt for….. Wait for it…. Wait…. $50 (as in 50 dollars for all three, just to make sure we are clear on that).

Then we used our new tractor and box blade to shape the material into a driveway (since we now had access to the land we wanted to start working it so we purchased a tractor). 

In the image above is our 200 ft or so driveway in town (we don’t live there anymore), which was also suffering. You can see that we still had some work to do, organizing the rocks on the sides, smoothing it further and so on.

I want to point out a few things…

  • First, of course, is the difference in money spent ($1000+ vs. $50).
  • Second, the first driveway is 50 ft, and this one is 200 ft.
  • Third, since the railroad ballast is a bigger and cleaner rock, weeds grow in between the rocks so I had to deal with them. The parking lot grated material has sand mixed in it, so weeds don’t see the sun, therefore, I don’t see them, we don’t meet, no one needs to kill anyone and everyone is much happier.
large rock leftover from the asphalt driveway

Lastly, this was not perfectly milled asphalt, it was what came out straight from the parking lot.

We ended up with a pile of bigger asphalt pieces. In the beginning, I was a bit terrified, it didn’t look good in the driveway and our neighbors gave us the evil eye (we shared the driveway with two other families). But we ended up removing the larger pieces by hand.

Where to Get Cheap Driveway Materials? 

Since the visit to our friends in Virginia, and this driveway saga a whole world had opened to us. We ended up purchasing a dump truck and we started building driveways for others on the side for extra income. We were able to save a lot of people a lot of money. We don’t do this anymore but I sure learned a lot from the few years we installed driveways. 

Obviously, we had to find a reliable supply of cheap driveway material. We looked around and found a quarry in our city that recycles asphalt. We were able to get it for $8 a ton (compared to $17 a ton for gravel. Those were the prices at the time of my writing of this post in 2013 or 2014. Obviously things might have changed).

I still think that the best thing is to get in touch with someone who drives a dump truck and ask them to notify you if they are called for a paving job. You can ask friends on Facebook if anyone knows a local truck driver. 

As far as I know, a lot of these drivers are independent contractors. It’s their responsibility to find a place to dump the waste and in most cases, they need to pay to be able to dump it. If you offer to pay them instead… It’s a big win for them. 

But if you can’t find a willing dump truck driver, call quarries around where you live and try to find a place that recycles. You will then have to find a truck driver to haul the material for you. 

You can, in some cases, find drivers on Craigslist, but you can also ask the quarry if they provide this service. If they don’t I am sure that they can give you a few numbers of drivers that they know. 

Even if you live out in the country, I am pretty sure that you can save some money by purchasing the asphalt millings and paying a driver to dump it at your place. 

Another idea is to call paving companies around your town and ask if they are looking for a place to dump their waste. Many of them will be happy to dump it at your place instead of paying to dump it somewhere else. 

Other Costs Associated With Paving a Driveway…

Please don’t forget that material is not your only expense when paving a driveway. After having some experience and learning how to pave a driveway I have to admit that, more than anything, you have to make sure your driveway is not going to wash out. 

You can buy the more expensive rock or the cheaper driveway alternatives, but if you don’t dig that ditch on the side of the driveway, or if you didn’t lay enough material so your driveway is higher than the land around it, the material is going to wash. 

So take into consideration the cost of ditch-digging (if you need one), soil scraping, the cost of a concrete pipe (if you need one), the cost of the material and the hauling of the material, and the cost of the spreading of the material if you don’t have a tractor and a box blade and can’t do it yourself. 

We were able to save a lot of money because we were able to do all the work ourselves. I hope this post will give you some ideas. Even if you end up saving just a little bit, I’m happy I shared this info with you. 

One Last Note About Cheap Driveway Paving…

After we started working with the local quarry, we found out that they were also recycling concrete. Recycled concrete was even cheaper than asphalt millings ($6 a ton) and we ended up installing a crushed concrete driveway for the farm and using it in many other jobs. Both recycled materials packed and held very well. 

Please take a moment to scroll through the many comments below. Many people have great ideas and thoughts on this cheap way of paving a driveway. And if you are the kind of person who likes to think outside the box, you might also like my alternative building methods post which goes over 12 alternative ways to build structures. 

More DIY Projects on the Farm…

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144 thoughts on “The Cheapest Way to Pave a Driveway”

  1. Please come to my home….I need help. I just wanted to say that I enjoyed your rather informative and creative piece on creating a driveway! Not only was it informative but humorous, as well. You missed your calling – you definitely have a way with words! Needless to say, my neighbors would have me committed but I really do need a driveway to ‘fit in’ and stop the hate mail I receive from neighbors!

  2. Hi
    Nice post but this kind of gives people the idea that it is a Asphalt paved driveway for this price . It isn’t until you click on til you see it is a stone paved driveway. Asphalt and concrete is expensive but a lot less messy . You can plow a asphalt paved driveway , you can’t a stone paved as yours. Stone paved is very muddy in excessive rain or snow , but not Asphalt paved driveways. Resourceful thinking but you get what you pay for . An this is a great way for a quick fix? Until a Asphalt paved driveway can be afforded.

  3. Hello,
    We live in Central California, in the Fresno county foothills on 5 acres, and our driveway is about 800’ from the dirt/gravel road up to the house.
    Unfortunately here in California old asphalt has become a hot driveway commodity in the country and once it is removed to re-asphalt a road it is then crushed and sold by the dump truck and transfer trailer load for around $700 ?
    We needed fresh surface on our driveway this past summer as every 3-4 years the gravel disappears; being pushed down into the roadway as it is dirt underneath.
    It took 7 dumptruck and transfer trailers to cover, including the circular driveway yard area . ?
    In hindsite I should have spent 10k 8 years ago and had a asphalt paving company come in and pave the entire driveway; now it would cost 30k?

    1. Yeah, those materials can go up in value if there is a lot of demand. Driveways are expensive, sometimes there is just no way around this. We will have to add to ours soon since it has been a few years. It needs another layer.

  4. Well I’m in the paving business , never seen big rock used for paving right over it, big rock is a base, the smaller gravel, grade 8, or 9, about 4 “ over to cap and give you an extremely good base,then asphalt, first lift , which is binder, a coarser mix, is put on rolled then surface, a finer grade, then if rolled right, meaning get compaction so down the road your driveway will last, if your trying to cut corners, just leave driveway alone til you get the cash, in the asphalt business when you get these fly by pavers, you lose warranties, and longevity , and in a couple of years be doing it all over, just saying.

  5. Michael O'Connell

    What do you recommend on getting a hold of this material? Just cold-calling asphalt companies? Do you have any other suggestions? We’ve a200 ft driveway and for just limestone 8’s they want 500 for a full triaxle. Not to mention (though I am) the 200+ for steel edging or railroad ties to keep gravel ON driveway. To do it right we’d need a minimum of 2 full triaxle dump trucks (1,000)plus tractor rental, edging etc.
    So, any way to lower our costs would be incredibly helpful!

    1. You can call asphalt companies but what they can give you is the asphalt after they grated it from the road. It will have big chunks of asphalt and it is a bit hard, although possible, to work with that. So basically it won’t be the milled material just the asphalt right after they grated it.
      I think your better option is to look for a mill. So you can maybe look in the phone book or google “asphalt mill (your city or zip code).”
      If you know someone that works in paving it’s best to ask them, they know where the millers are because this is usually where they dump the grated material. You can also try looking for “concrete crusher (your zip code or city).” The guys that crush the concrete are usually the same guys who mill the asphalt. Crushed concrete is another good material for driveways and it’s actually cheaper than the asphalt.
      If you can’t find anything call a paving company and ask them if they know where the miller is. They know and they probably are not going to have a problem sharing this information.
      Then call the miller and ask them how much they sale the asphalt or concrete for. You might need to find a driver to haul it for you (check craigslist for dump truck service) or ask the miller if he knows a driver that wants to make extra cash.
      Let me know if I can help further.

  6. I wish I have the same guts and skills as you do so I can do my own driveway. Ended up hiring Estates Paving ( I am quite happy with their work, but maybe I could have saved money and enjoyed doing it myself. I find your article very encouraging. Thanks!

    1. The thing is… You absolutely have to have a tractor with a box blade to do this. If you don’t have the right equipment this can be a real nightmare. You can’t move all this rock with a shovel.

      1. I was 65 years old (woman) and I had the TRG start dumping (at the furthest point) and moved a little and let a little more off, an did it this way until the drive way had been filled and than had him start at the furthest point and they kind of back filled, or dragged and the piles to help spread it. He was nice enough to run the dump truck over the whole drive, also, to help out with the compacting. I did rake it out, and shoveled some but I took my time and would run my vehicle over all of it about 100 times…lol

      2. Lol! I know a few people who did it this way because it was hard to find someone with a tractor to do the work.

  7. Quick Question! Did you put a layer on? I know here in NY they like to see a raised drive with 4 inches of crusher run and then 2inch of the asphalt on top -.- they suck us dry up here.. However if i can get away with just the raised drive and the 2-4in of grated asphalt i’ll be a happy camper!

    1. On our old driveway in town, what we did is just spread more grated asphalt on top, but there was already a driveway there so it was just a fix. On our farm, we built a new driveway and we just used the recycled material (grated asphalt and crush concrete), we didn’t put any rock under it. I think that it will be even better if you can afford the crusher run under it or maybe check how much is railroad ballast in your area, it’s bigger rock that is washed and it might be a nice base for the grated asphalt.

  8. Gabriel Faucher

    Yes it’s the cheapest way to have an asphalt in driveway but It is better to have the proper asphalt to have a safe way. but nice article you have 🙂


    Great advice! I have a pretty good base was thinking about making a asphalt drive one five gal container at a time! I’ve heard that sometimes you can get a remainder of a load pretty cheap but I’ve never tried. Most times I try to barter I end up paying them more than retail. Another contractor story gone wrong and I’ve got a bunch of those! Looking forward to reading more at your site. The sweet potatoes caught my eye…I have a vine and the bugs are eating it like crazy many I can get some tips :~)

    1. Elizabeth, I hear you. Sometimes we try to do things the cheapest way and end up paying more. This happened to us with the dump truck we bought to make the driveway. We thought we will be saving money if we will do it ourselves. We did save money on the gravel, but the truck broke a few times and we ended up paying a lot to fix it and for insurance and such.
      Anyway, you try. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s just money at the end.
      I never had bug issues with my sweet potatoes. I had the wild bunnies eat the leaves but not bugs. If I come across a solution I’ll let you know.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Wow, it is so awesome that you were able to get such a good deal on your driveway! I have to say that it looks really amazing, too! In fact, I would also love to get a crushed gravel driveway for my home as well. Right now, our concrete one is cracking, so we need to have it replaced badly. Who know, maybe I could get the concrete crushed into bits, and just use that!

    1. Oh, that’s a good idea. You’ll have to contact a crusher in your area and ask if they will do that for you.

      1. I’m glad that you think it’s a good idea— wasn’t sure if it was or not! And I’ll be sure to let you know how the project goes 🙂

  11. Wait wait wait! So you guys paid for that? Man we got paid to let them dump the grated asphalt on our 18 acres. Hell at one point we got the contractor of a demo company to lend us a dozer and dump trailer loads to pave our driveway which is about a 1/4 mile give or take and we also made money on that cause they paid us to let them. Remember these guys have to pay to dump! Charge them 20,30,40, or even $50 a load. You get your driveway and put some cash in your pocket! Just my 2 cents.

    1. Since I published this post I was waiting for someone to say they got paid to let the stuff be dumped on their property! I know it’s possible, I think the problem is that when you live out in the country and it is far for them to drive to your property, they don’t want to make the effort unless they get paid for it. But it is a good idea to give a call to local paving companies and ask if they need a dump site, or pay attention to when there is a paving job around your property. How did you find them and offered them to dump at your place?

  12. Nice solution. As for the large chunks and a garden bed…make sure to line it or something as I believe asphalt has toxic stuff that could leech into soil and into what you grow.

    1. Yes, I learned that after I wrote this post. We ended up not using them for garden beds, just various projects around the yard (that doesn’t involve plants).

    2. If Asphalt is so toxic , why is my grass and my trees and the vegetation so green? I do not see any dead vegetation around my driveway or along the road .
      Thank you

  13. Please, do not use asphalt on your land- it is a hazardous waste, read about PAHs- carcinogenic pollutants.
    It is safer to use crushed concrete if you must and have to save money- never asphalt. Water will take it all over your land and into ground water. Just walking on it will bring pollutants to your surroundings

  14. What about DuPont Gravel grids? Or any brand of gravel grids? Will the crushed asphalt be small enough to fill the 2″x4″ grid cells? ( gravel grids are new to the driveway creation. I highly recommend checking them out!)

    1. If you buy milled asphalt (here it is around $12 a ton) or crushed concrete (around $6 a ton here) from a crusher’s yard, they are both milled finer than gravel so no doubt they will fill the grid just fine. The material we used in the pictures above came right from the paving company, it wasn’t milled, so some of the asphalt pieces were very large. I don’t think this will work well with the grid. Check out this post, you can see how fine is the crushed concrete.

  15. We bought 7 acres of raw land and had to create a driveway across a stream. To cover our driveway cheaply we used slag from a steel mill. It is the impurities that comes from the recycling of steel. It cost us around $300 to cover our 1,000 foot long, very muddy, fresh dozed driveway. We are still looking to one day after the mud has settled to add the crushed asphalt to our driveway as well but needed more for mud control before taking that step. Just an idea for someone dealing with a great deal of mud.

    1. Wow, never heard of this. How did you come by this product? How can someone find this? I guess look for a steel plant maybe?

  16. Looking at the pictures it sure reminds me of the commercial paving work that a neighbor of mine is wanting my buddies and I to do. Lee, what type of rocks were used for the paving work that you did? I ask because my buddies have put me in charge to find certain rocks and mix to use for the driveway that we’re paving.

    1. As far as I know, when it comes to recycled materials for a driveway, you are looking on either crushed concrete of milled asphalt. What you see in the pictures of this post is asphalt, however, we didn’t get this material from a recycle yard. We found a driver that was picking up this stuff after they graded it from a parking lot before repaving. So it wasn’t milled evenly and there was a lot of sand mixed in it. It is still a great driveway. We had to work a bit harder at shaping it, but it was so cheap, it was definitely worth it.
      Since then, we built a few driveways for others and another one on our farm. We couldn’t find a driver that was willing to dump on our site so we purchased the material from the crusher. Here in NC, crushed concrete goes for about $8 a ton, and milled asphalt goes for $12 a ton. This compared to $18 a ton for gravel.
      We used both. The asphalt is really good. It packs very well.
      The crushed concrete is great too but looser.
      There is one more option. You can look around and see if there is a concrete plant around where you live. They do a plant cleaning once a year or so and are usually very happy to give or sell their waste. This material will be more powdery. We used this too and so far (about a year) it is holding great.
      I hope this helps.

  17. Lee,
    I need to convert my front yard to larger parking area, how would i get a dumb truck with this kind of asphalt. Where do i look for them , I am located in central new jersey.

    1. Start by opening your phone book (or google) and look for paving companies. Call the main office and ask them if they would like to dump crushed asphalt at your location. If you are close to one of their job sites, most of them will be happy to dump at your yard and avoid paying the city dump site.
      If you see a paving job in progress, don’t be shy, walk up to the dump truck driver and ask him if he wants to dump it in your yard for a small fee. This is what we did. The guy was happy to make $50 on the side (he was picking crushed asphalt from a parking lot paving job). Our house was 2 miles down the road.
      Ask if any of your friend know of a dump truck driver and can connect you. Even if this driver does other kind of jobs, he might know another driver who picks asphalt from paving jobs.
      Search on Craigslist for “crushed asphalt”, “asphalt millings”, or “crushed concrete”, you might find something this way.
      Lastly, you can look for crushers in your area. Those are companies that take blocks of asphalt and concrete from contractors, crush them and sell them for much cheaper than gravel. We are new building a driveway at our farm and since it is 45 min from the city we had a hard time finding drivers that will deliver material. So we found a crusher that sells crushed concrete for $6 a ton. Compared to the $18 a ton you pay for gravel, it is a very cheap alternative.
      A truck load of this material can’t be spread with a shovel. Make sure you have a tractor with a box blade ready to do the spreading (you can usually find people who will offer this service on Craigslist under services > farm & garden).
      I hope this helps,
      Good luck!

  18. Hi there

    I’ve been researching cheap roads for ages and ages! Thank you for being awesome 🙂

    We live in the Caribbean and there’s so so so many hills on our land. Do you think this would work on hills?

    1. Yes! We are building a road on our farm those days, it is very hilly there. We didn’t do the steep part yet, but I will post photos once we are done.
      Just make sure you direct the water away from the driveway. Make sure to have ditches to let the water flow away from the driveway so it doesn’t wash down the hill.

  19. Very Impressive. Do you have any more recent pics? How did you clean up the sides? Stone work or anything fancy? I have 120ft gavel driveway with 60yrs of gravel (2ft thick) layer over layer installed. Driveway is so thick its becoming overbearing. steep hill drive so the wash out is terrible to grade over each hard rain…. This may be the solution to all my problems.
    Please reply or re-post with any additional pictures. You have my attention. Thanks, Mwest

    1. I’ll try to post new pictures soon. The driveway in this post is where we live right now, we didn’t do anything special to it since I posted this. It looks much the same. We are now building another one for our farm from crushed concrete. It was hard to find a driver that will go dump there since it is out in the country, but we found a place that sales recycled crushed concrete. A ton of gravel around here cost $17-18 a ton, this crushed concrete cost $6 a ton. Significant savings and it seems to work great. We haul it ourselves. We might need to spread a layer of crushed asphalt or something else on top of it though because it is a bit dusty, but for the base, it is a really cheap alternative. Will try to post more photos soon.

  20. Thank you for sharing this! We are in the process of purchasing acreage and the 1300 foot driveway is needing something more than dirt and mud!

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