**Attention** If you’ve been approached by a contractor knocking on your door, who’s “in the area” and they have some “extra asphalt” and they can “give you a great deal to pave your driveway if you do it today”! STOP READING THIS RIGHT NOW AND WATCH THIS VIDEO. “The Most Common Ways Asphalt Installation Contractors Rip Us Off and How To Avoid Them”!
If not, keep reading!
Asphalt driveway costs are determined by strict calculated method and not just a simple square foot price. We have customers calling all the time and asking “How much would it cost to pave my driveway… just give me your square foot price?” And that seems pretty simple, right? It seems like it would make sense for a contractor to just be able to throw out a number, doesn’t it? Really, you should beware of any contractor that is willing to just throw out a number.
Let’s say you call a contractor and ask them “What’s your square foot price?” And let’s also say just for example, after asking you a few questions, the contractor says “$1.75 a square foot”. You say “Oh? Great can you come and give me a bid?” What do you think that contractors going to do now? They just found out an idea of your budget and you didn’t even realize it. Now, when that contractor comes to give you a bid, what do you think they’re going to do now? They’re going to say “Well I didn’t realize you had this and that so… the price is actually $2.00 a foot”.
Sure, you could say no, but then this is where the “fly-by-nighters” really get you. Now they know exactly what you’re willing to pay for your driveway and they’ll make you think that they’re going to cut their price to earn your business when in reality their going to cut the quality and increase their profits!
Asking a contractor “What’s your square foot price?” is simply setting yourself up for getting ripped off. Not all of the time, but most of the time.
Or equally bad, you’ve received an estimate to pave your driveway and instead of vetting that contractor, you’re simply making sure they’re in the ballpark on price. Please be a smart shopper and get two to three bids before you make any decisions. Price should not be the single deciding factor, price, experience, reputation and quality of work should all be the deciding factors.
The truth is… there are many variables that determine the cost to pave an asphalt driveway.
How Asphalt Driveway Costs Are Determined
- First and foremost, how big or little is the driveway… how many square yards do you have?
- How much preparation is involved in order to make the driveway drain properly?
- Does your soil need sub grade preparation requiring excavation and installation of road base or some other type of structural material?
- How much hand work is involved when installing the asphalt? Areas where the equipment can’t get to?
- How far is the job site away from the asphalt manufacturing plant?
- How many trucks will be needed so that the crew doesn’t have to wait around for more material… or so that there’s not many trucks are waiting around to unload material?
These are big factors in determining a price to install an asphalt driveway. Obviously, as with just about anything, the more volume, the less the square foot price becomes.
So, when a contractor supplies you with a quote, they’re factoring in the following:
- Trucking Costs
- The asphalt material
- The installation or laydown costs
- And of course… their profit.
Here’s how asphalt driveway costs are calculated:
- Mobilization: Most contractors will factor in a mobilization fee which is the amount of money it costs just to get the equipment and crew to a job site. When you look at the cost a contractor incurs just getting to the job site, it can add up pretty quickly. Asphalt installation takes a much larger amount of equipment than any other driveway which includes the dump trucks, the paver, the rollers, the tractors, and of course all of the hand tools. An average paving crew can run from 5 to 10 members. So, when you factor in the cost of the hourly wage of 5 to 10 men getting the tools and equipment un-loaded, the hourly wage of the truck drivers who transport all of that equipment, and the cost of fuel to get to the job site… that can easily add up to a few or more hundred dollars and they haven’t even put a bit of asphalt down yet! Obviously the bigger the job, the more the mobilization costs are spread out. The smaller the job, the less the mobilization cost are spread out. This is a big factor in what can make smaller jobs more cost per square yard than larger jobs.
- Preparation: The next cost factored into an estimate, is the amount of preparation that’s involved. For that, each driveway is unique in its own way. A little driveway will take much less preparation than big driveway, that goes without saying. But sometimes, to prepare a driveway for proper drainage, big or little, can be quite a task. The most important aspect to a good installation job is good drainage, and good drainage starts with the preparation. Obviously, we don’t want water running towards our home or into our garage, so making sure that the drainage is accounted for properly is the most important aspect of installing a driveway. So, the cost of the preparation is obviously a variable in the price of paving a driveway and can only be determined by actually seeing it.
- Materials: First, if the region you live in requires a sub-grade material to be installed prior to laying the asphalt, then this will be indicated on the proposal by the number of tons of base rock being installed or by the square yard and thickness of base rock being installed. Next is the asphalt material. Obviously, this part of a cost estimate is a variable depending upon the size of the project and the thickness of the asphalt. Contrary to what some people believe, there are no large volume discounts contractors receive from their suppliers. In other words, contractors don’t go to their suppliers and say “I’m laying down 600 tons of asphalt today, how much can you drop the price? There is no “volume pricing” in this industry! All contractors pay basically the same price for their materials which is usually agreed upon with their suppliers at the beginning of each season. So, while the cost of the asphalt material is a variable depending upon the size of the job, the price of the asphalt mix is a fixed price. It’s much more likely that a contractor that’s been around for any length of time is going to get a slightly better price than other companies, but probably nothing so significant that’s going to make them the lowest bidder by any large figure.
- Trucking: When a contractor gives us an estimate to pave a driveway, they’ll need to determine the right amount of trucks needed to haul the materials. Too many trucks and they’re paying truck drivers to sit around waiting for the others to unload, not enough trucks and the crew is getting paid to wait for the next load to arrive. It’s a balancing act and a mathematical calculation that’s determined by the amount of base material and asphalt material needed for the job, factored by the distance the project is away from the suppliers and the asphalt manufacturing plant. The further the project is away from the plant, the more trucks that will be needed… the closer it is to the plant, the less trucks that are needed. The thicker the sub-grade material or asphalt mat, the more asphalt mix is needed therefore the more trucks that are needed. It’s not always a perfect calculation, we try our best when scheduling trucks, but either way it’s a risk that comes out of your contractor’s profit if it is miscalculated and not yours!
- Installation or “Laydown”: When it comes to the actual installation of the job your contractor will need to determine how much handwork is involved, determine how much time it will take to install the asphalt with the equipment, and factor in usage or replacement costs for the use of the equipment. If there are areas that the heavy machinery cannot get to easily, then the installation of the asphalt must be done manually in those areas, which will take additional time. When we factor in the wages and workers’ compensation insurance of 5 to 10 crew members as well as liability insurance and equipment that can cost a half a million dollars or more, the charges in the laydown process of the material can easily run a few hundred dollars per hour. We have to figure and calculate as best as we can to stay competitive in price. Calculate too little time and we lose money, calculate too much time and we probably don’t win the bid! Either way it’s a risk that comes out of your contractor’s profit if it’s miscalculated and not yours!
- Profit: The last part of the cost to pave a driveway is the profit to the contractor for the installation of the driveway. This is obviously a number decided upon by the contractor. Now this number is not only a calculation for profit but it is also a “risk vs reward” number. This is a VERY risky business. There is a considerable amount of risk asphalt contractors take when running an asphalt installation company. Contractors can lose lots of money very fast if something goes wrong. Broken down piece of equipment, traffic jams, “No Show” employees, weather… all kinds of things can cause us to lose money fast. There is also a high risk of lives working around all of this heavy equipment and believe me accidents have happened that have taken lives. So, this number is not just about the profit. These hard-working folks take on a lot of risk and work late hours many days in a row for this profit. Asphalt paving is seasonal work in Iowa so this number is also an offset for the winter months that the company is producing little or no income for themselves, their employees and their businesses.
And that’s how the cost is determined for an asphalt driveway! In my opinion, any contractor who is willing to throw out a number without any knowledge of any of the things mentioned above, should ALWAYS preface their answer by saying “I’d have to see it to be 100% accurate but…” and then give you a budget number.