Best Tarmac For Driveways: What’s The Difference Between Tarmac Driveways And Asphalt Driveways?

Doesn’t it seem like choosing the right type of driveway for your property is one of the most tasking things you will ever do? There are so many options to choose from and some appear to be exactly the same as others, leaving you even more confused.

Tarmac and asphalt are among the most commonly used materials for driveways and other outdoor floor surfaces and for a lot of people, they are the same thing. While it may look like that on the surface, there are some clear differences between the two and it is important to be aware of these when you are choosing an appropriate material for your drive. 

If you have been struggling to understand the difference between tarmac driveways and asphalt driveways then look no further. We have compiled this handy guide that will allow you to understand the differences as well as helping you to make a decision on which is best for you. 

An Introduction To Tarmac And Asphalt

You may often hear the words tarmac and asphalt being used interchangeably, but they certainly are not the same thing. 

Tarmac, which is short for tarmacadam, is created by blending tar onto a layer of crushed stone. This surface is incredibly durable and nice looking as well as providing a driveway with excellent traction. Tarmac is laid onto the ground and compacted using a roller to give a smooth finish to the surface. 

However, most modern driveway installers don’t use tarmac anymore and now opt for something known as bitmas. This is an even more durable material that is far less prone to damage when cars leak petrol or diesel.

Instead of using tar, manufacturers use bitumen which provides a surface that is far more similar to asphalt (which we will look at shortly). But there is still a key difference between bitmac and asphalt in that the former has far more sand.

Asphalt features crushed aggregates just like tarmac and uses bitumen like bitmac but as we have mentioned, the concentration of sand is far greater in bitmac. Asphalt also features much denser aggregates and is slightly more hard wearing that tarmac. 

In any case, both materials are excellent choices for driveways, paths and other outdoor ground surfaces. 

What Are The Main Differences Between Tarmac And Asphalt?

We have seen that there are some clear differences in the way that tarmac and asphalt are produced. While they are very close in nature, this slight difference in how they are made is not the only thing that sets them apart from one another. 

For starters, asphalt can be reused. It is possible to scrape it from the surface it currently sits on and reprocess it for something else. Therefore, if you are looking for a more eco-friendly product, asphalt is the way forward. It is not at all possible to do the same thing with tarmac. 

As well as being better for the environment, asphalt is also a much more affordable option. Any homeowner will tell you that they don’t want to have to break the bank when installing a new driveway so if you can get a better deal on asphalt then this is surely a huge draw. That said, this affordability applies more when installing asphalt over a larger area. If you try to use it for a smaller project, it may not be as cost effective as tarmac. 

Moreover, you will find that, while tarmac does offer good traction for vehicle tyres, this is not quite as superior as asphalt. You see, asphalt is much smoother once it is laid down and this provides a much better grip which in turn means that it is safer especially when used for your driveway.

The final obvious difference between tarmac and asphalt is that the latter tends to sustain far less damage when it is exposed to diesel or petrol spillages which is not uncommon on a driveway. This means that it is not quite as high maintenance as tarmac. 

Should I Choose A Tarmac Driveway or An Asphalt Driveway?

As with anything, there are pros and cons to both tarmac and asphalt and this can make it difficult to choose between the two. While we now understand the main differences between these two driveway surfaces, it can also help to look at the benefits of using each one. 

Benefits Of Tarmac

One of the key benefits of tarmac is that it is incredibly long-lasting and will stand up very well to the elements. Regardless of the weather or temperature extremes, tarmac will withstand a lot and so, if you are looking for a driveway that won’t need to be replaced any time soon, this might be a good choice. 

When it rains, driveways can be prone to water getting under the surface and cause the area to shift or become damaged. Since tarmac has not got cracks or openings, this won’t be a risk so you can feel confident that you won’t need to perform maintenance over the long term. 

What’s more, tarmac is incredibly easy to install and will give you a hard-wearing driveway with very little interruption to your life. The tarmac can be laid over your existing driveway so there is no need for any sort of excavation work. Once the hot liquid is laid down, it is simply a matter of allowing it to cool and bind. After this, it is ready to use.

If you have heavier vehicles then tarmac is an excellent choice. This is a highly resistant material that will fare very well on high traffic areas and when put under pressure. This is one of the main reasons that it is so often used to surface roads

Benefits Of Asphalt

In the same way that tarmac is a very durable material, asphalt is just as, if not even more hard wearing. As we discussed with tarmac, it is very unlikely that the material will crack or break and the same is true when using asphalt. Although, in this case, the material is far more flexible and so this durability is somewhat increased. 

The reason for this is that the bitumen, which is a by-product of petroleum, is much more flexible and this makes asphalt ideal for colder conditions. There won’t be any risk of cracking should the surface freeze and thaw. 

In addition to this, you will find that asphalt is incredibly easy to maintain and you won’t have to fork out a lot to keep it in good condition. Since installing a driveway can be an expensive venture, you want the maintenance costs to be kept to a minimum. 

In the event that cracks do appear, and we must reiterate that this is unlikely, these can be filled with fillers that you can purchase almost anywhere. Of course, you could pay a contractor to fix the problem but this may not be quite as cost effective. But provided you take good care of the asphalt, keep it clean and free from debris, it should stand the test of time very well. 

As well as not costing much in terms of maintenance, asphalt is also far more affordable to install. As we have already discussed, this might not be the case for smaller areas but when you are laying it down over a larger surface, the price difference is very obvious. It also doesn’t take much more time to install than tarmac and will cure in the space of a couple of days. 


When it comes to choosing a new driveway, your options are endless. With various types of concrete, brick, gravel, and stone, it would seem as though making a decision is impossible. But what a lot of people come down to is a decision between tarmac and asphalt. These durable materials are affordable, strong and make for an attractive outdoor space; but what’s the difference?

There isn’t much of a difference between tarmac and asphalt since both contain a layer of aggregates but one is mixed with tar while the other is mixed with bitumen. The stones used in asphalt are generally smaller so you end up with a much smoother surface as well as one that is much more robust. 

If we had to choose between the two, we would say that asphalt would be the slightly better choice as it is more affordable and durable. But in any case, you will find that these surfaces provide you with a long lasting and aesthetically pleasing driveway.

Driveway Expert