Key Differences Between Tarmac vs Asphalt Driveways

Table of Contents

tarmac vs asphalt

Many of us do not realize that there is much difference between the tarmacadam driveways and asphalt driveways. Since both of them are widely and most commonly used surfacing materials for driveways, they’ve plenty of similarities.

However, there are a few distinct dissimilarities between these two materials as well. Even though they do appear almost the same on the external, there are still a few aspects that you must consider when you decide to use any of the material.

In case you are looking for an ideal material for the driveway but don’t know if you go for tarmac or asphalt driveway, you have just come to the right place. Picking between these two is quite tricky in case you don’t have any clue about those road surfacing materials.

That is why, for your ease, we have assembled a guide on the basic difference between the tarmac driveways and the asphalt driveways. This guide will surely make things clear and will help you to know which one is appropriate for your requirements.

What Is Tarmac Driveways?

strong surface oil industry

Tarmac which is the short form of ‘tarmacadam’, has gotten its title from ‘John Loudon McAdam’, because he was the person who first introduced this unique ‘macadamizing’ technique in 1820.

You must be thinking what is this Macadamizing? Well, Macadamizing is a procedure in which a coating of gravel is poured on the top of the pavement base. But that is precisely not what makes the tarmacadam the “tarmac” that people use for their driveways.

It is the ‘Tar’ that makes the Tarmac. The ‘tar’ of tarmac is the additional layer that the businessman called ‘Edgar Purnell Hooley’ added to McAdam’s macadamized driveway.

After that, Edgar opened a tar factory and there he noticed a drum of the soppy black stuff had tipped over as well as spilled across a macadamized street.

So, to prevent the stickiness, he decided to spread gravel on the top of the normal pavement. This coating of gravel and tar made a durable, dust-free, and sturdy driveway. Edgar then patented as well as trademarked “Tarmac for drives” in 1901.

However, the downside to using tarmac is the fact that it gets damaged easily by diesel and gasoline fuel. That is why tar in tarmac now has got replaced with a further resistant material called asphalt.

How Long Will Tarmac For Driveways Last?

Several factors impact the valuable life expectancy of tarmac driveways. These factors are:

  • The overall wear & tear the driveway faces
  • The total amount of traffic the tarmac driveways handle
  • The usual weather condition.

Under perfect circumstances, the tarmac driveways ought to last between 12 to 13 years.

(For more advantages please see our article about the 5 advantages of a Beautiful Tarmac Driveway for your house).

So, let’s now know about asphalt and how it is different from the tarmac.

What Is Asphalt Driveways?

asphalt paving largely replaced tarmac

Asphalt is a prevalent surface for driveways because it’s an inexpensive solution for large surfacing areas. But when you use it for a smaller surface, then it can cost you a little extra than usual.

Even though asphalt surfacing is often being mentioned as asphalt tarmac surfacing but in reality, the two things aren’t the same. The main difference between asphalt and tarmac is that asphalt is tremendously hard-wearing, but the main disadvantage is that it’s not as hardy to the continuous deterioration by car tires as tarmac.

However, asphalt is way more unaffected by extreme weather circumstances and requires less maintenance. Another difference between these two ‘tarmac vs asphalt’ is that asphalt is way kinder to the environment than tarmac.

When the driveway gets old, you can reclaim asphalt and then reuse the material elsewhere fairly easily. For driveways you can also use asphalt concrete. Do you know what asphalt concrete is?

Well, asphalt concrete is a blend of asphaltic cement mixed with grit or sand which delivers a long-lasting and hard-wearing driveway. These driveways are way more expensive as well as harder to repair than the asphalt or tarmac. Also, Asphalt concrete gets damaged more easily by fluctuating temperatures.

How Long Will Asphalt for Driveways Last?

The way you treat your driveway will determine the lifespan of asphalt. For instance, extreme weather conditions and heavy traffic can cause dents and cracks in the driveway. So, the eventual useful life expectancy of asphalt driveway depends on several factors just like tarmac. However, precisely, you can use asphalt indefinitely, but a general useful life expectancy of asphalt is 20 years.

The Differences Between Tarmac VS Asphalt driveways

modern variation and differences

While tarmac and asphalt are usually used for pavements, driveway surfaces, and roads, they aren’t the same. Asphalt is a mixture of aggregates and bitumen that needs up to two days before it completely cures. Whereas, Tarmac is a combination of crushed stone and tar that cures quickly. Anyways, below, we have put together a few basic differences between tarmac vs asphalt. Let’s have a look at the differences:

  • Asphalt offers a better finish and smoother surface as compared to the tarmac. This helps to increase the tire grip as well as makes it a more suitable, safer option for your driveways and roads. This happens because tarmac consists of larger aggregates as compared to asphalt has.
  • Asphalt is reusable but tarmac is not. You can scrape off the asphalt surface as well as reprocess the material to use for a different project. This thing makes the asphalt a more eco-friendly choice when we compare it with tarmac.
  • Tarmac is likely to damage from diesel or petrol spills, while asphalt needs less maintenance.
  • Asphalt is cheap material when you use it over a big surface area. That is why it’s commonly used for driveway surfaces, pavements, and roads. However, when it comes to a small surface area, asphalt is quite an expensive option.
  • Tarmac needs more maintenance than asphalt.
  • Asphalt is a little bit more expensive than tarmac when you use it on a long surface.

Similarities Between Tarmac and Asphalt

tarmac asphalt
  • Both are used for a wide range of paving applications for several decades now.
  • Both paving materials have the same makeup.
  • These two are involved in a petroleum product, fillers such as sand, and aggregate such as stone.
  • Both can take on large loads and heavy vehicles.


Both asphalt and tarmac are used for surface pavements, roads, and driveways, but they aren’t the same material. Tarmac or tarmacadam is a blend of tar and aggregates, whereas asphalt is a blend of bitumen and aggregates. Tarmac is easy and quick to install and a litte bit cheaper than  asphalt (see our Tarmac/Asphalt Driveway Cost Calculator).

Not just this, asphalt is more eco-friendly than tarmac as you can break and reuse it at the end of the useful life expectancy. Since asphalt tops are smoother as compared to the tarmac, they’re safer to drive on because of better tire grip.


labour costs for new surface
Q. Where Are Tarmac And Asphalt Used?

A. Both asphalt and tarmac materials are extensively used for roads (such as motorways, highways, caravan parks, private roads, car parks, etc.,). They are similarly used on pavements and driveways. Both elements are extensively used for the domestic and corporate world.

Q. Which Product Is Cheaper?

A. Among the two materials, tarmac is a little bit cheaper than asphalt with when it comes to use it for either small or large surfaces. 

Q. What Are The Benefits Of Asphalt And Tarmac?

A. Both elements offer longevity, durability, and effortlessness of installation than the other surfacing elements like Block Paving.

Q. Which Product Is More Environmentally Friendly?

A. When it comes to being eco-friendly, then asphalt wins the game.

Q. Between asphalt and tarmac, which one is the most porous?

A. Asphalt and tarmac are both permeable surfaces, which means that they allow water to pass through them. This is an important feature for a durable surfacing material, as it helps to prevent flooding and puddles from forming. Asphalt is slightly more permeable than tarmac, but both materials are very effective at managing water flow. In fact, permeable paving is becoming increasingly popular as a way to manage stormwater runoff. Porous asphalt is especially effective at allowing water to pass through, making it an excellent choice for areas that are prone to flooding.

Q. What is SMA?

SMA stands for Stone Mastic Asphalt. This is durable Asphalt enhanced with fibres to make it even more long lasting. It has less external materials than tarmac, making it slightly harder-wearing but still very durable for your car’s wheels!

Q. Is SMA tarmac porous?

Since SMA means Stone Mastic Asphalt, SMA tarmac doesn’t really exist, but it’s possible to hear this association of words by abuse of language. So let’s talk about asphalt instead: while traditional asphalt is not porous, there are a variety of permeable asphalt mixes that allow water to pass through the pavement. These mixes typically have a high percentage of coarse aggregate, and they are designed with specific voids that allow water to flow through the pavement and into the ground. Permeable asphalt can be an effective solution for reducing runoff and managing stormwater, and it is often used in areas where traditional drainage methods are not feasible. While permeable asphalt does have some advantages, it is important to note that it is not suitable for all applications. In particular, permeable asphalt should not be used in areas where vehicle traffic is heavy or where snow removal is required. For more information on the pros and cons of permeable asphalt, please consult with a local tarmac contractor.

Q. What is Bitmac?

This is a modern version of tarmacadam, where the tar has been replaced with bitumen.

× How can I help you?