Concrete or Asphalt Driveway: Which is Better

What's the ideal aesthetic when you think of your home? Do you picture a long, clear driveway leading to the house? Does lush, well-kept greenery flank the driveway? Well, homeowners have been using and continue using driveways as extensions to the home's outward appeal. 

Concrete is generally widely preferred for residential driveways because concrete is durable and lasts longer than asphalt. However, asphalt driveways have many benefits and can be an affordable option, particularly if you have a long driveway that needs to be paved.

ConcreteAsphalt
Installation Time7 days to be drive-ready, and 30-45 to fully cureTakes 1-3 days to be drive ready, up to 30 days to fully cure
Installation Cost$5-$13 per square foot, including $3 to $11 for materials depending on the mixture PSI. $7 to $13 for a new installation, including $2 to $6 per square foot for material
Care & MaintenanceConcrete can crack and shift from tree roots and heavy vehicles. As a result, patching damaged areas can prove challenging.Requires resurfacing every 5 years to maintain a smooth driving surface. Asphalt needs to be sealed every 2-3 years.
DurabilityIt can last 40 or more years. Commercial-grade 5" poured concrete can last up to 80 years or more.It can last up to 25 years. Requires resurfacing and routine sealing to maximize the useful life
Performance in Extreme WeatherDue to its hardness, concrete can be susceptible to freezing weather. Can require additional support in cold weather. Asphalt is softer and can withstand temperature fluctuations. Asphalt can withstand more ground movement.
AestheticsConcrete can be colored, etched, stamped, or resin reinforcement Asphalt is black and has limited aesthetics other than lighting
Resale ValueConcrete carries a higher resale valveAsphalt has a lesser resale valve
Environmental ConsciousnessConcrete is more environmentally conscious because of its longevity. Although recycled, asphalt production has a higher carbon footprint than concrete over its lifespan

If you're asking yourself what's better between a concrete driveway and an asphalt driveway, you're in the right place. We'll compare the good and the bad bits about each option using different angles to help you make a choice or make the switch. 

Every homeowner's dream is to install solutions that last a long time and can still look good. 

Concrete beats out asphalt on longevity. A concrete driveway has more support underneath it, meaning it can withstand a heavier load. On average, you're looking at 20 to 30 years with proper care. 

Time Taken to Install and Use

When you start the driveway project, the main entrance is limited. It's vital that the installation takes a short time but retains exceptional structural standards. Installing a new concrete driveway can take between 1-3 days

Depending on the weather and the layout of the ground, you should have a dry top layer in six hours. The time is enough for light foot traffic. However, it will take up to seven days for concrete to be cured enough to drive over. And even then, keep the load light. 

Concrete hardens over time. Allow between 30-45 days before driving heavier vehicles such as RVs

Installing an asphalt driveway features a lot of preparation if you have to uproot tree stumps and flatten the area. Still, once the site is cleared, laying the driveway and having it ready can take less than an hour. On the other hand, asphalt takes less than 72 hours to be safe for vehicle load and foot traffic

But like concrete, allow the asphalt up to 30 days to fully cure before you consider driving heavy vehicles over it. 

Rating for installation time, asphalt is better than concrete. 

Cost to Install

Affordability is a crucial factor both at the beginning of the project and in long-term maintenance costs. Are you looking for long-term cost-saving, or are you looking for minimal short-term spending?

A standard asphalt driveway costs between $7-$13 per square foot to install. If you're working with the standard 600 square foot driveway fit for two cars, that's a total of up to $4,200 to $7,800. If you put in decorative features such as different coloring and lighting, your bill could shoot to about $15 per square foot or more.

A standard concrete driveway costs between $5-$13 per square foot, including labor. For 600 square feet, you're looking at between $3000 and $7800 for the basic package. However, you can include color options where you should expect to spend up to $10000. 

On price, both are solid investments, but asphalt is better for your pockets at first. 

Care and Maintenance

Proper and frequent maintenance makes sure your driveway not only looks good but also saves you repair costs on possible car damages. A damaged driveway can be dangerous for your tires. 

An asphalt driveway requires a new coating every two to five years. The coating is meant to give your driveway that crisp black shine that keeps it appealing. It also improves the water-resistance of the driveway to make sure you're not repairing the driveway too often. 

x
Why Home Inspections Are Important video

Fortunately, you can buy recycled tar for asphalt driveway maintenance. Recycled asphalt is an affordable option for sealing cracks and resurfacing. Also, you can always DIY clean your asphalt driveway with a steel broom every two years or when you think it needs cleaning. 

For a surface that is meant for cars, oil stains are some of the most notorious things you will have to deal with in concrete driveway maintenance. Still, concrete is easier to maintain in the short term. A well-done foundation incurs less damage over time. 

Pressure washing is enough to keep a concrete driveway looking good. If the concrete driveway sustains noticeable damage, for example, huge cracks, a simple patch fix won't do. You will have to re-do the entire driveway. 

Considering concrete cracks during winter, it needs more maintenance than asphalt. 

On the frequency of maintenance, it is easier to deal with asphalt over time. Therefore, asphalt is better than concrete if you're looking for a low-maintenance driveway. 

Durability

Durability is a crucial influencer of whether to install a concrete driveway or an asphalt driveway. A well-maintained asphalt driveway in a calm area can comfortably give you up to 25 years with minimal repairs. On the other hand, concrete is susceptible to a lot more than just weather changes, stains, and the risk of heavy vehicle traffic. Nevertheless, concrete can last up to 40 years with proper care

But what does it take to last that long with each material?

Asphalt is less likely to get oil stains. It absorbs some of the oil spills since asphalt is already a petroleum product. You won't need harsh cleaning products to get rid of spills from the car. Additionally, because of its soft material, asphalt can expand and contract more without significant damage. 

On the other hand, concrete is at the mercy of ice during winter, oil spills, paints, and heavy loads. Concrete driveway maintenance features plenty of power washing, patching small cracks, and taking care of spills as soon as you see them. 

Concrete is a clear winner for durability over time. 

How They Perform in Extreme Weather

Two weather extremes test the limits of your driveway; scorching hot summers and blistering cold winters. Summer is okay for concrete. Sure, the concrete driveway expands and contracts in heat. But most well-constructed driveways have the structural support to withstand such pressure. 

Cautious homeowners will apply a sealant to a concrete driveway to keep the inner structure moisture-free. They realize the full rewards of the sealant when the concrete survives a harsh summer without the erratic expansion and contraction that would cause it to crack. 

However, it is a different ball game during winter. Winter is harsh on concrete. Ice thaws out, seeps into the concrete, and creates pressure under the driveway. 

In a short time, the concrete cracks. Not only does it cause it to crack, but deicing with salt can cause more damage to concrete driveways. Even solutions like blue deicing salt can stain the concrete. 

Pro tip: Use sand instead of salt to deice a concrete driveway. 

Winter also makes concrete heave upwards, creating an unnatural shape. Overall, winter is a stressful time for a concrete driveway. The first winter after you install a new concrete driveway might be the hardest. 

As discussed above, concrete takes a long time to cure. If you install a concrete driveway as winter approaches, the underlying support system might not be strong enough to handle the flood of thawing snow. You might be faced with added repair costs if you do not winter-proof your concrete driveway. 

A reliable drainage system can save both your asphalt and concrete driveway in winter. 

Overall, asphalt is better in extreme weather since its soft surface can withstand more underground pressure, especially during the first extreme season. 

Which Looks Better

Concrete and asphalt have excellent visual appeal even in their simplicity. The standard driveway in a neutral color works in most areas. 

Asphalt is a typically black driveway that blends well with any exterior. With the backdrop of your house in any color, the black shimmering asphalt surface makes the front or back area look good. However, some homeowners go a step farther and improve their asphalt driveways. 

They put in lights, decorative markings, and colors. Not only does the driveway customization look good, but it also increases the exterior appeal and home value. However, the additional decor comes at additional costs. 

The average cost of coloring an asphalt driveway ranges between $10-$18. But you can dye only the topcoat and spend up to $10 per square foot. 

Concrete, on the other hand, has plenty of customization options. These include:

Coloring: Staining your concrete with contrasting colors to give your house and driveway a new look boosts the visual appeal of your home. It gives your home individuality while boosting the monetary value of the home. 

Etching: Etching takes personalization to a new level. You can etch names, patterns, and designs to your concrete driveway to give your home a unique identity. If you were to resell the home, the new owners would not have to spend too much on improvement unless the etched design was specific to you. 

Resin reinforcement: Resin reinforcement on a concrete driveway uses simple things such as glass in the concrete that is covered in resin. This decorative technique will give your driveway instant appeal and set it apart from other homes if you live in a controlled development area. 

Stamping: Stamping lets you keep the same grey color but improves the look by including designs into the driveway. You can give the driveway the appearance of tiles or stones simply by applying pressure into the surface while the concrete is still soft. 

If you're looking to make a statement, concrete has more options than asphalt for aesthetics. 

Resale Value

A well-maintained driveway can increase the value of your home by up to $7000. If you live close to an asphalt road, an asphalt driveway gives your home instant appeal as it looks connected to the street. A concrete driveway, on the other hand, gives your home a unique sight. 

The resale value here depends on how much you have spent on improving the driveway. If you have added several features to the driveway, such as ornamental lights on the sides of an asphalt driveway, incoming buyers can expect a brilliant look and improved visibility. 

The difference in resale value might be debatable. However, some factors will tip the value of one element in favor of the other. See, a concrete driveway has a lifespan of up to 30 years. Since it is less susceptible to damage, prospective buyers might be inclined to spend more on the house with a concrete driveway than an asphalt driveway. 

However, if the prospective buyer is more focused on maintaining the overall look of the surrounding area, they might favor an asphalt driveway. 

A concrete driveway is better than asphalt in raising home resale value based on durability and customization options. 

Environmental Consciousness

With homes switching to green energy, the eco-friendly approach must extend outside to the driveway. 

Installing a new asphalt driveway requires hot mix asphalt. And while asphalt production causes significant environmental stress, it is highly reusable for repairs. If you were to relay or repair an asphalt driveway, you would need to heat the asphalt from your driveway to get it ready for use. 

Reusing asphalt saves you the cost of new installation and reduces carbon emissions as well. 

Alternatively, you can use cold mix asphalt to repair cracked sections of the driveway. You will use a fraction of the repair costs, and it is more environmentally friendly. 

Also, you can use porous asphalt. Porous asphalt means that rainwater not only doesn't stagnate under the driveway, but it does back to the water table. 

Concrete lasts a long time — about 40 years with utmost care. With proper drainage structures in place, you don't need to repair a concrete driveway as often. You would, however, need to be careful not to stress the support structure underneath by limiting heavy vehicles on your driveway. 

We cannot sidestep the fact that asphalt uses environmentally unsustainable resources despite it being recyclable. A concrete driveway is better than an asphalt driveway for an environmentally conscious homeowner. 

So What's Better for a Driveway? Asphalt or Concrete?

Both concrete and asphalt have their upsides. Depending on your priorities, either would be a great choice. However, you need to get the right people on the job to maximize the benefits of the driveway you choose. 

Asphalt performs better in places with fluctuating weather conditions. Concrete has more customization options. If your long-term goals involve the home's resale, asphalt is a better choice since it gives the incoming homeowners more overhaul options. 

The key to deciding is finding out what matters most to you and finding the right professional to install the driveway you want. Get a licensed home inspector who'll assess your home and help you in making an informed choice. 

HomeInspectionInsider.com is owned and operated by Hubert Miles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. HomeInspectionInsider.com also participates in affiliate programs with other affiliate sites. Hubert Miles is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

Recent Posts