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

  1. Thank you so much for all of this information. I wanted to also let people know that Companies also drive around and come to your home to offer deals on asphalt milling, please beware!
    Being new to buying large farm land I wasn’t aware about calling around and pricing milling. (hadn’t heard of it before). But I was desperate to fix our driveway. Needless to say about 200 feet cost me $4000.00. At first he said 1or two trucks would do it but!!!!!! It’s thick in places and so thin on others that a lot of it washed away. I wish I would of had your information in the beginning. I still have to fix my driveway ?

    1. I hear you! I was lucky to find this option before we did anything on our farmland. Since then, I got divorced and sold a lot of farm equipment. I no longer have the dump truck. I also need to add some materials to my driveway now. I’ll have to see if I can get someone to haul it for me.

  2. I realize it’s cheaper but it looks like hell. 1” gravel here is $20 a ton with a $75 delivery fee. I bought 4 tons of 1” gravel and spread it myself. Looks great and packs well, I even added sand to help it pack better.

  3. Thank you for sharing we have a long drive way and i was trying to find a cheaper way as it cost my $5000. last time and did last 6 moths

  4. Kenneth Millstein

    If you are in a winter snow area, how do you deal with removing the snow in a driveway like the ones pictured?

    1. I live in the South so I don’t know much about snow removal but I think that you will do the same as for any driveway. There is no difference.

  5. Thanks for taking the time to write this, this will help me with my
    landscaping company in Wilson nc because there have been times when they asked if we could create them a new driveway

  6. Well I just paid $1,200 for a 28 ft wide driveway that is 150 ft deep plus a 28 ft long culvert in Kentucky. It’s better to use crushed rock around your culvert then clean 57 in your driveway then go with some chip rock so it’s a smooth ride. North Carolina sure is proud of their gravel that’s way too much money.

    1. Thanks for the information, John. It’s interesting to see the differences in building costs from state to state. It is expensive here…

  7. Using asphalt Millings is not a new thing however you can go a few steps further; using a rented roller machine and a roofing propane torch compress to a smooth surface then seal it like a regular asphalt drive. Lasts much longer and looks awesome

  8. Ridiculous. Your way to install an affordable driveway is to jump a dp truck driver and miraculously convince him to give you loads of gravel for nothing. I dont know where you are or how a gravel truck just magically “appeared” when you needed it, then, agreed to give you gravel for nothing..but thats a lucky, one in a million break you got. So shut your mouth and be thankful instead of telling everyone else they should be getting free gravel too, and all they have to do is flag down dump trucks? Worst article ever.

  9. Thank you so much for the great article!
    I am in the same place now as you were back then. I have vacant land and it needs a huge drive way so I will be looking into these guys. I am not sure how to get to them but I will research

  10. Now all I need to find is a dump truck driver. Lol. This sounds a lot easier than the 500 feet I am looking at.
    Good tip since I am needing to find a solution when spring hits. At least I have the start of a gravel driveway which is mostly holes now, but it would not hurt to have enough to also add the road to the barn, garage, other barn…

    1. LOL! A dump truck driver will come in handy. I’ve heard from people that it’s getting a little more difficult to find the milled asphalt these days. I hope it’s not the case in your area.

  11. Just had a driveway quoted. Roughly 1,500 sq ft.
    Came in at $5,400.00 for asphalt.Have to remove old asphalt. But still seams high. Next quote was for concrete. Came in at $ 8,000.00. I’m in Kalamazoo
    Mi. Contractors are enjoying the overabundance
    of work. And pushing the limits of quoting.
    Guess I’ll be doing it my self.

    1. I think you are right. After we did our driveway, since we already had the truck and tractor, we advertised driveway work on Craigslist. One of our projects was a 1000 sq ft driveway. If I remember correctly we ended up charging around $2500 maybe even less (it was a long time ago) and we made a really nice profit.
      I don’t know why they charge so much but I hear the same is happening with new home construction contractors too.

  12. That is our EXACT situation right now. 10 acres of raw land, using the neighbors access. We need to everything on the cheap. Like dirt cheap. New to your blog. Finding a lot of great info!!

    1. So happy you find useful info here! I know how hard it is to start creating something from nothing. Keep the big picture in mind and do one big project at a time. The most important thing is… do it right. Even if it takes a bit more money or time, do it right so you don’t have to repeat it soon after.

  13. Try calcium chloride spray to keep the dust down and preserve the road. It worked good on our private road for several months until reapplication occasionally.

  14. I am extremely happy to come across this article. My boyfriend and I are in the process of buying my grandmas old house, that was once a school house (1909). We are first time home buyers and are trying to find the cheapest route, but also something that will hold up without having to spend more on repairs, as the house needs a lot of remodeling inside and out. How does the driveway hold up, with rain? Also, if you live in a state that gets snow, how well does it do with snow plowing/snow blowing?

    1. I think it’s just like any other driveway. It has been three years since we installed it. We are not at that house anymore but we installed the same driveway at our farm (using crushed concrete and milled asphalt). We didn’t make it thick enough at the farm but it held well for the past three years. I feel that it’s now time to add a little bit more material.
      It didn’t wash away, and we have a little bit of snow here in the winter and it’s doing just fine. We don’t even have holes in it… It is just packing so I think it’s time to add some material.

  15. We have 15 acres in east Texas and have recently put in a long curving driveway at least 1,000 ft long. Have a good clay base. Had concrete washout put over that, but didn’t do much good. It was mostly sand. We’ve had a lot of rain and right now have a lot of mud. We need a better, much firmer, driveway for concrete trucks, etc. to be able to get in for constructing a house. We’ve already spent a fortune on the land and really need to do as much inexpensively with the driveway right now as we possibly can. We can hopefully go back after all of the construction is finished and maybe put the crushed asphalt with deisel over it or something to make the drive look nice. But for now we need something sturdy that the trucks won’t tear up coming in and out & will keep them from getting stuck. I’m interested in more info about using the shingle strips. We have a friend who owns a roofing company and could probably get old shingles for free. Is it possible to use the shingles without shredding them? If not, I have no idea who could shred them for us. Can you move them with the tractor & box blade when they are shredded (or not shredded)? I wonder if they can be crushed like the asphalt and concrete can be crushed. Would that work? We have no idea what to do. Just need to do something inexpensive and get it done quickly because the heavy trucks need to come in really soon. Any advice from anyone asap would be greatly appreciated.

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