Asphalt Or Blacktop: What's The Difference?

The terms asphalt and blacktop are often used interchangeably to describe materials that are used for paving driveways, parking lots, and other surfaces. However, they are not the same thing. Instead, each material has unique characteristics that make it better suited for specific projects. Understanding these differences can help you make an informed decision when talking to your asphalt paving contractors about your project. Here's what you need to know.

Material Composition

Asphalt is a mixture of sand, stone, and petroleum products, including tar and bitumen. The mixture is heated to a high temperature and poured onto a prepared surface. The result is a hard, durable surface that can withstand heavy traffic and harsh weather conditions.

In contrast, blacktop is made from a blend of sand, gravel, and a binder. Asphalt paving contractors typically use it for smaller projects, like your driveway.


Asphalt has a smooth, jet-black finish and is most commonly used for roads, highways, and large commercial projects. It is known for its durability and strength, and most state Department of Transportations look to a "35-year life cycle cost analysis."

Blacktop, on the other hand, has a rough, textured finish and is usually used for residential projects such as driveways and small parking lots. It has a shorter lifespan for the average homeowner.


Blacktop is much typically less expensive than asphalt due to its simple composition. Asphalt, in turn, is more expensive. This price difference is due to the composition of asphalt and the fact that it needs to be sturdy for the sheer volume of regular highway traffic.


Both asphalt and blacktop require regular maintenance to ensure their longevity. Crack sealing, seal coating, and routine cleaning are essential for preventing damage and extending the lifespan of both materials. Home improvement expert, Bob Vila, suggests seal coating your driveway every three to five years.

Blacktop is more susceptible to cracks and erosion than asphalt but has far less traffic to cause damage. Conversely, asphalt is more resistant to damage from harsh weather conditions and heavy traffic, but then there are potholes, which can form over time and are the bane of many drivers. In fact, Rhode Island has "23.4 for every 1,000 km of road," the worst record in the nation.

Asphalt and blacktop are both great materials for paving surfaces, but they each have unique characteristics that make them better suited for different projects. Understanding the differences between these two materials can help you determine the best option for your needs. If you're still unsure, consult with your local asphalt paving contractors for advice on the best material to use. They will be able to help you make an educated decision based on your project, budget, and desired results.