When It’s Best to Repair Your Driveway or Simply Replace It

Matt Marandola
Written by Matt Marandola
Updated November 11, 2022
Kids play ball on asphalt drive
Photo: Cavan Images / Cavan / Getty Images

Don’t let your driveway’s disrepair disrupt your dribble—or anything else, for that matter

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Your driveway serves two major purposes: function and style. And a driveway in disrepair definitely lacks style. A well-maintained driveway can boost curb appeal, plus it’s easier to drive on and walk along a driveway that’s free of holes and large cracks. If you are looking into driveway repair, first weigh the pros and cons of patching, resurfacing, or replacing a driveway.

Patching a Driveway

If you’re dealing with growing cracks in your driveway, you’ll want to patch them as soon as possible. Patching means filling tiny holes or cracks with asphalt or concrete sealant, which you can pick up at a hardware store. If you don’t patch these small imperfections quickly, water will seep into the cracks and the gravel below the asphalt, leading the asphalt to crumble into a pothole.

Pros and Cons of Patching a Driveway

Patching a driveway can be a helpful fix, but there are some drawbacks to this method.

  • Pros: Patching is the easiest repair method to do yourself, and it’s the least expensive. The patch material costs $2 to $3 per square foot, plus about $40 for an asphalt squeegee.

  • Cons: This method only repairs smaller cracks less than 1/4-inch wide, and patching is more of a short-term solution.

Resurfacing a Driveway

If you have a few small cracks, you’ll want to patch the driveway, but what if you have cracks or other damage on more than a quarter of your driveway? Then, it’s time to consider resurfacing, which involves scraping off damaged parts of the driveway and pouring on new asphalt or concrete.

Pros and Cons of Resurfacing a Driveway

You might consider resurfacing the driveway for deeper cracks or more extensive damage. This method is more intensive than patching, but it will cost less than replacing the entire driveway.

  • Pros: The cost to repair an asphalt driveway is $3 to $7 per square foot, and replacing an asphalt driveway can cost up to $15 per square foot. Resurfacing is a more cost-effective option compared to replacing the driveway, and it will add up to 10 more years of life to your driveway.

  • Cons: This is not a DIY project; you’ll need to hire a local pro for driveway resurfacing, and it costs more than simple patches. Expect to pay an average of $3,000 to resurface an asphalt driveway. It still works best for driveways that are in overall decent condition and are five to 15 years old.

Replacing a Driveway

New asphalt driveway
Photo: gmnicholas / E+ / Getty Images

Anything more than moderate damage will likely require you to replace the driveway, especially if the driveway is older than 15 years.

Pros and Cons of Replacing Your Driveway

Replacing your driveway is the best option for old driveways or driveways with a lot of damage, like deep cracks, pits, and potholes. But this solution will cost more than patching or resurfacing.

  • Pros: Replacing the entire driveway is a long-term solution, and you can start fresh on scheduling maintenance, like resealing the driveway. Replacing the driveway is the best method to fix large cracks, potholes, and other extensive driveway damage. 

  • Cons: This solution is the most expensive. The cost to replace an asphalt driveway can go up to $15 per square foot or an average of $4,500. The cost to replace a concrete driveway is $2,000 to $7,000

Patching vs. Resurfacing vs. Replacing a Driveway

Country house with asphalt drive
Photo: Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock

How will you really know whether patching, resurfacing, or replacing your driveway is right for you? Compare the cost, durability, and difficulty method of each level to determine the best solution for your damaged driveway.

Appearance

If you have a few narrow cracks in your driveway, you can patch them up and be on your way. Keep in mind that this will not be the most attractive fix, though, as the patched cracks will be visible.

Resurfacing is best for driveways that are aging or have more than 25% of the surface covered in light to moderate damage. If you resurface the entire driveway, it will look brand new.

Replacing the driveway is necessary if your driveway has large potholes or several cracks wider than 1/4-inch. A new driveway will last 15 to 20 years with proper maintenance.

Best appearance: Overall, resurfacing is the best option in terms of appearance, as the driveway will look brand new for less cost compared to completely replacing the driveway.

Cost

Patching is the least expensive repair at $2 to $3 per square foot, plus the cost of an asphalt squeegee, $20 to $60.

Resurfacing can make your driveway look and feel brand new for a fraction of the cost of replacing it. If you have several small cracks, resurfacing can last several years, too. Resurfacing costs $3 to $7 per square foot.

If you want to replace your driveway, it is more of an investment, but it will last longer than just repairing it. Expect to spend about $15 per square foot to replace a driveway.

Best value: In terms of cost, patching is the least expensive option, but resurfacing will last longer than patching while costing less than a complete replacement. Resurfacing gives you the best bang for your buck.

Durability

Patching a driveway is a temporary fix. Even if you fill a small crack, water will eventually seep in between the new patch filler and the old asphalt, eroding the asphalt and widening the crack. Patching can help avoid replacing a driveway for two to three years.

Resurfacing the driveway, although more expensive, adds several years to the life of an existing driveway. You’ll get five to 10 more years out of the driveway if you resurface it and follow up with regular maintenance.

Completely replacing a driveway means the new driveway should last 15 to 20 years. 

Most durable: In terms of durability, replacing a driveway is the best option. But regardless of whether you patch, resurface, or replace, you’ll need to keep up with maintenance to keep your driveway looking and performing its best.

DIY or Pro

You can pretty easily DIY a patching job; just be sure you are adding patch filler to narrow cracks rather than trying to patch potholes.

You’ll need to hire a local driveway repair professional for both resurfacing and replacing a driveway. The pros can properly assess the damage and make the repairs. If you attempt repairing or replacing a driveway yourself, you could cause more damage.

Best for DIY: Patching is the only driveway option that you should DIY.

Is Driveway Repair Right for Your Type of Driveway?

A concrete driveway in the middle of the suburbs will have a different repair process than a gravel driveway hidden on an old country road. While you may need to fix up a few cracks in your concrete or asphalt driveway, you can’t really patch a gravel driveway if a storm washed away a quarter of it.

Asphalt Driveway Repair Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Your driveway will still look relatively well maintained or even look “new” with a resurface. 

  • Asphalt driveways last around 15 years, so any repairs you make before then can help extend the life of your driveway.

  • Repairs will generally cost less than replacing your asphalt driveway.

Cons

  • Repairing or resurfacing an asphalt driveway does not take away the aging asphalt underneath.

  • If your asphalt driveway is more than 20 years old, it may make more sense to replace the driveway instead.

Cost 

  • Repairing or resurfacing an asphalt driveway will cost you between $3 to $7 per square foot

How to Know if You Should Repair or Replace an Asphalt Driveway

  • You may want to completely replace your asphalt driveway if the driveway is past the 15- to 20-year mark, which will cost you around $15 per square foot

  • If you notice a crack in an asphalt driveway, tackle sealing it ASAP. Failing to seal a crack in an asphalt driveway will cause a domino effect of more cracks forming. It may even lead to a personal pothole forming right in your driveway if the gravel underneath the asphalt gives way.

  • For one or two small cracks, asphalt sealant or specific asphalt caulking will do the job for repairs. Spider web cracks will require a special asphalt resin to quickly patch up the cracks and seal your driveway. If a hole forms, it’s best to use a pothole-filling kit.

Concrete Driveway Repair Pros and Cons

Pros 

  • For issues such as grease stains, chips, or cracks, it’s usually more cost-effective to simply resurface the concrete driveway. 

  • Repairing a concrete driveway will almost always cost less than opting for a full repair.

  • Making repairs to a concrete driveway is an easy way to improve its look and extend its use.

Cons

  • Concrete driveways over the 30 year mark may be near the end of their life, so making significant repairs at this stage may end up costing you more in the long run. 

Cost

  • It costs between $2 to $6 per square foot to resurface a concrete driveway.

How to Know if You Should Repair or Replace a Concrete Driveway

  • If your concrete driveway is more than 30 to 50 years old, it’s likely time to rip it up and start over again. At this age, it’s likely the driveway has seen significant repairs, and you’re likely to throw just as much money into repairing as you would simply replacing the driveway.

  • Whether it’s a fresh concrete driveway or one you’ve had for over a decade, concrete driveways are prone to chips and cracks. Like asphalt, concrete driveways with a small crack or two will benefit from a concrete sealant to remedy the situation.

  • You may also run into the problem of concrete crumbling on the edges. Crumbling concrete, otherwise known as spalling, happens when there’s too much water seeping into the concrete. This issue may have occurred at the initial time of pouring, and there was too much water mixed in or from a constant freeze and thaw cycle.

  • If grease and oil stains also may have popped up over time, luckily, there’s a fairly easy fix here: Head over to your local hardware store and buy a specific concrete cleaner to have your concrete driveway look shiny and new.

Gravel Driveway Repair Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can help extend the life and look of your gravel driveway.

  • Is less cost- and labor-intensive than completely repairing your gravel driveway.

Cons

  • None unless you plan to totally replace the driveway soon.

Cost

The cost of new gravel will cost around $40 to $45 per ton. A 50-foot gravel driveway requires around 7.75 tons to complete, so unless you’re missing 1/8 of your driveway, you’re not likely to need more than 1 ton.

How to Know if You Should Repair or Replace a Gravel Driveway

  • Once you’ve laid down a gravel driveway, there’s no real reason to completely replace it unless you’re tired of the current material or color.

  • Normally, gravel driveways account for slopes and weather conditions, but extreme weather conditions can disturb your driveway. To repair a gravel driveway damaged by weather, you will need to regrade the driveway so it’s back up to standards and then replace any missing gravel.

  • You may also run into issues with Mother Nature throwing weeds and plants throughout the driveway. While they’re not always harmful to the driveway, it’s still unsightly. Consider pulling them or using a weed killer to tackle this problem.

Maintenance Best Practices for Your Driveway

Whether you decide to patch the cracks or replace the entire driveway, maintenance is key to helping your driveway last a couple of decades.

  • Patch cracks as soon as you notice them and before they become too wide or deep.

  • Reseal your driveway every three to five years.

  • Shovel snow instead of salting the driveway, which can cause driveways to crack.

  • Pressure wash your driveway every six months to one year. If you notice fluid stains, like oil from a car, clean those immediately.

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