The world depends on roads and driveways to get around. Tarmacadam, nowadays shortened to tarmac, is a road surface invented by Scottish engineer John Louden McAdam in the 1800s and patented by Welsh inventor Edgar Purnell Hooley in 1902.

The terms “tarmacadam” and tarmac are also used for a variety of other materials, including tar-grouted macadam, bituminous surface treatments, and modern asphalt concrete.

While tarmac is not at all used for driveways in Australia today, many people use the word to refer to generic paved areas at airports, especially the apron near airport terminals.


What Is The Best Driveway Solution – Tarmac or Asphalt?

Tarmac has lots of benefits making it a popular choice worldwide. But how does it compare to asphalt, which we use in Australia? Both products have similar makeups. Both involve a petroleum product, aggregate like stone, and fillers like sand.

In addition, many people confuse tarmac and asphalt. While the two materials look very similar, it is incorrect to use the two terms interchangeably as tarmac is not used in Australia.

When you are considering tarmac for your driveway surface in Australia, you’re actually thinking of asphalt.


However, for those of you who are still wondering whether tarmac is a good surface solution for a driveway, we have researched the subject and outlined our main findings below.

Firstly, let’s take a look at exactly what these materials are.


Composition and Longevity

Tarmac is a simple mixture of stone, sand, and tar. Asphalt is a more advanced mixture of modern chemistry.  Asphalt is a sticky, black, thick, petroleum-based liquid containing fillers and binders.

There are many different formulas and mixes of asphalt whereas Tarmac’s composition is always the same. Although both can stand up to heavy vehicles and large loads, tarmac is prone to rutting. On the other hand, asphalt will last much longer enduring different chemicals and stains. You may therefore want to choose asphalt as a better alternative for your driveway.


Application and Use

Asphalt is more commonly used in Australia today. Most people associate it with driveways and roads. But that is just one facet of asphalt.

Asphalt can be used in many locations and purposes from construction industry to building roads and electrical battery containers. Asphalt can be beneficial in aquatic applications such as reservoir liners, in flood control, erosion, water storage, and other problems in conservation. There is no stopping in the many positive things asphalt can do for people.

Tarmac is used only for very specialised projects such as the area where airplanes are parked, whereas the entire airport is constructed of different materials including blends of asphalt and concrete.

Tarmac at the airport

The airport runway and plane hangar are two of the few applications for tarmac.



As mentioned previously, Tarmac is very rarely used in Australia nowadays and there are some clear disadvantages to using it in its true form. For example, Asphalt can be scrapped off and reused, unlike tarmac.

Asphalt suffers less cracking and weather-related damage because of its hard-wearing nature. It can also take stress without cracking. Because of these reasons, Asphalt is more sustainable and environmentally friendly than tarmac.



If you are looking for a driveway material that is both tough and cost-effective, asphalt is generally the preferred choice in Australia. It can be laid in just one or two days, and only takes two days to cure. Asphalt driveways require less maintenance and can be repaired easily and inexpensively.

While all road and driveway surfacing materials including tarmac have their own individual benefits, asphalt is an ideal option if you are concerned about budget and are looking for an affordable driveway solution.


Tarmac vs Asphalt as a Solution For your Driveway

While there are many types of materials used around the world, asphalt is undoubtedly one of the most popular in Australia. Give us a call or send us a quote request and we can provide you with free upfront advice on whether asphalt is the right choice for your project – at no cost.

Our focus at NK Asphalt has always been on tailoring asphalt installations across a range of areas, spanning from semi-rural driveways and large suburban asphalt driveways to commercial car parks and heavy-duty areas, with our customers enjoying the durability and convenience of asphalt solutions.

We welcome you to check out our past asphalt driveway projects to view some of our work.


Get A Perth Driveway Quote

If your job is 150m2 or more and in the Perth or surrounding areas.

Trevor Calnon

Trevor is a founder and Director and has over four decades of experience in the asphalt and bitumen industry. NK Asphalt was established in 1989 to deliver top-notch asphalt works across the Perth metro area and outer suburbs. He is dedicated to providing the right solution for clients and is an expert in all aspects of asphalt works - and the alternatives that clients often compare.