Those in search of an inexpensive, simple, and quick way to fill their driveways may often find themselves looking into gravel. While not always common in residential neighborhoods, gravel can be a sensible option for those with long driveways in rural areas. While a gravel driveway requires routine maintenance, it offers excellent drainage and eliminates issues such as surface cracks.
Compared with driveway materials such as pavers, asphalt, and concrete, gravel is not complicated to put down. “Gravel requires very little skill to install. With lots of elbow grease, a skid steer or small tractor, or a few of your friends with some shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows, you can install gravel quickly and easily,” says Clay Reed, a licensed general engineering contractor and owner of Stellar Sidewalks and Aaxis Construction.
Whether you plan on doing a little gravel touch-up in front of your home or want to embark on a DIY driveway project from scratch, we’ll help you get started. We researched the best gravel for driveways, delving into factors such as size, texture, and stability.
Sakrete All-Purpose Gravel
Small size makes packing down easy
Gravel has been washed
A bit pricier than other standard gravel options
We designated Sakrete All Purpose-Gravel as the best gravel for a driveway because its rock shape and finish make it ideal for creating a steady, clean surface. If you’re looking for reliable gravel that’s easy to work with, you can depend on this to get the job done. Although it can technically be mixed with Portland cement and all-purpose sand to make a concrete mix, it's also suitable for decorative and landscaping projects.
Each rock roughly measures between 1/4 and 3/4 inches in size, which makes the gravel easy to pack down for a level, well-draining gravel driveway. The crushed gravel also interlocks to prevent shifting and movement between the individual pieces. Additionally, the rocks have been washed so that you can see their texture—there’s no need to worry about dirt and dust creating an untidy appearance.
Note that this pick is a tad more expensive than other standard gravel options at $9. Another consideration is that it features a gray color. While this may not be the most inspiring finish, it’s fairly standard—just keep this in mind if you’re partial to a crisp white or a warm brown.
Price at time of publish: $7
Layer: Top | Sizes Available: 1/4 to 3/4 inches | Texture: Crushed
Vigoro 0.5-Cubic Feet Bagged Mountain Granite Landscape Rock
Good for water control
Jagged edges interlock instead of rolling around
Packable small size
Small size could make it prone to scattering
Granite is permeable, so come rainy weather, it allows water to drain through instead of pooling on the surface and creating puddles. A solid pick for controlling water, Vigoro 0.5-Cubic Feet Bagged Mountain Granite Landscape Rock is less delicate than decomposed granite, featuring pieces that measure roughly half an inch in size. But by virtue of still being small, it’s easy to pack down and even features jagged edges to block out gaps.
That said, the small size, more miniature than your typical 3/4-inch crushed gravel, may be more prone to scattering. Keep in mind that there have been some reports of multiple rock colors in a bag, so you might not get a uniform blue-gray finish as the listing indicates.
Price at time of publish: $672
Layer: Top | Sizes Available: 1/2 inch | Texture: Jagged
Vigoro 0.5-Cubic Feet Bagged Marble Chip Landscape Rock
Not prone to discoloring or fading
Attractive shimmering surface and white color
Jagged pieces lock together
Some big pieces may yield gaps
For a stylish surface, Vigoro 0.5-Cubic Feet Bagged Marble Chip Landscape Rock will resist fading and discoloring to give you a beautiful, shimmery finish for your driveway. Whatever your home’s color scheme looks like, there’s a pretty good chance that it’ll match with luxurious white marble, which is also great for keeping your driveway cool during hot days. Also, the jagged rock shape interlocks for extra stability.
There may be size discrepancies between bags; the product details list the rocks as measuring between 2 and 4 inches, but most reports and the product specifications note that the chips typically range around 1/4 to 1 1/4 inches. Going with the latter set of measurements, this product would make for a reasonable top or middle layer. Just be mindful of any gaps created by larger pieces. Also, note that marble chips are generally pricey.
Price at time of publish: $5
Layer: Top, Middle | Sizes Available: 1/4 to 4 inches | Texture: Jagged
Best Smooth Rock
Deco Rock Pea Gravel
Easy for gravel to scatter
May need to add reinforcements such as pavers for stability
Pea gravel can be an attractive top layer for driveways with its multi-color finish and smooth surface—this latter factor makes it comfortable for bare human and pet feet. But because of its smooth texture and small size, it can be prone to scattering, which may lead to an uneven and unsteady walking surface. Moreover, you might be left with a patchy appearance and unwanted weeds.
This option is worth considering if you like the polished look of pea gravel but want something slightly more stable. To keep the pea gravel from shifting, consider using it in conjunction with pavers or binding it with cement.
Price at time of publish: $5
Layer: Top | Sizes Available: Not listed | Texture: Smooth
Vigoro 0.5-Cubic Feet Bagged Pond Pebble Landscape Rock
Not susceptible to blowing
Pieces can interlock
Need to lay down carefully on steep grades
Some reports indicate that bags may be dusty
Gray is the standard color for driveway gravel, but you can certainly have your pick of whites, browns, reds, and beiges, too. If you’re looking for a warmer color than gray or white, Vigoro 0.5-Cubic Feet Bagged Pond Pebble Landscape Rock can be an appealing option with its tan hue. But the beautiful finish isn’t the only thing we like about this stone. As opposed to small pieces of crushed gravel or pea gravel, these large 1 1/2-inch stones are less likely to roll around or blow away in tumultuous weather.
Featuring a mix of jagged and smooth pieces, these rocks can offer more stability in a driveway than traditional smooth pebbles, although you still want to be mindful of steep grades. Do note that you may find yourself needing to wash these rocks before using them, as we've read some reports that the bags may be dusty.
Price at time of publish: $5
Layer: Top or Middle | Sizes Available: 1 1/2 inches | Texture: Jagged, Smooth
MSU 1,100-Pound 3/4-inch Gravel/Crushed Rock
Quantity ideal for big projects
Crushed edges makes for stable surface
Gray color may not be the most aesthetically pleasing
Heavy to transport
Those venturing on a DIY driveway gravel installation project will get the best bang for buck with this 1,100-pound bag of standard 3/4-inch crushed gravel, which makes for a reliable top surface. One bag will cover roughly 9 cubic feet, so you’ll be getting a great value if you need to tackle a long driveway. When you pack this material down, the edges of the crushed rock make it so that the pieces don’t migrate easily.
While it’s quite practical, this crushed gravel may not necessarily be the most aesthetically appealing choice with its gray color. Another consideration is delivery fees. While you might be able to pick up 50-pound bags intermittently, you may need to pay to have these bags delivered to your home.
Price at time of publish: $28
Layer: Top | Sizes Available: 3/4 inch | Texture: Crushed
If you’re looking for the best rock for driveways, pick up a bag of Sakrete All-Purpose Gravel. To get your project off on the right foot, the 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces are small and jagged, so they will pack down easily for a stable driveway surface. For more elevated looks, we also like Vigoro 0.5-Cubic Feet Bagged Marble Chip Landscape Rock for a touch of luxury.
What to Look For
Type of Gravel
Gravel comes in a wide variety of forms, but the three basic types of gravel for driveways are crushed stone, pea gravel, and river rock.
- Crushed stone: Most people think of crushed stone when they think of gravel. Often considered the best rock for driveways, it features gray, jagged pieces about 3/4 inch in size. Although its color isn’t particularly flashy, it’s a go-to for gravel driveways because it packs down easily and offers good drainage.
- Pea gravel: About the size of a pea vegetable, pea gravel, like the Deco Rock Pea Gravel, features smooth, small, and round pieces. Although some people may like its smooth texture and multiple colors, pea gravel can make for an uneven surface if you don’t bind or stabilize it somehow.
- River rock: Smooth and available in multiple colors, river rocks range roughly 1 to 3 inches in size. Often used in landscaping, they offer a more appealing look than crushed gravel. But because they tend to be big and varied in elevation, they can leave gaps that create an uneven surface.
Gravel can last up to 100 years. This is quite long-lasting when compared to other materials, as asphalt typically lasts up to 30 years and concrete up to 50 years. Concrete and asphalt are also vulnerable to issues such as frost heave. While gravel driveways need to be touched up every few years, repairing and replenishing them is as easy as pouring in more loose stone gravel onto your driveway.
Gravel helps with drainage and prevents water buildup, which is beneficial because too much water can lead to slippery sidewalks and waterlogged soil. While gravel is great for drainage, you still want to layer it and do routine touch-ups on it so that it is stable. Water trapped below the surface of your gravel can lead to issues such as potholes, which can damage vehicles.
Additionally, you want to use other forms of drainage alongside gravel. “It’s not advisable to attempt to control the path of water solely using gravel,” says Clay Reed of Stellar Sidewalks and Aaxis Construction. “If you need to control the path of water, use gravel in conjunction with other systems such as piping or hardscape to create the flow where you want it to go.”
Size and Color
Gravel for driveways comes in a wide range of sizes and colors, which makes it easy to customize a look to your liking. Driveway gravel, especially the top layer, usually measures around 1/4 to 1 inch in diameter, although you could have smaller or bigger pieces, too. Your color options typically include gray, white, brown, and red. This means that if you’re not into a utilitarian gray hue, you could also try out options such as white marble, like our best style pick, or brown pea gravel.
What size gravel is best for driveways?
You can choose from a wide range of gravel sizes for driveways, but the standard size for your top layer of gravel is 3/4 inch, which is about the size of a nickel. Underneath, you’ll want to work with bigger base layers. For driveway gravel base layers, you should start with fist-sized rocks around 6 inches in diameter. Then, you’ll want to top that off with golf ball-sized rocks around 1 to 3 inches before going in with the nickel-sized rocks.
Do I need to layer my driveway with gravel?
Driveway installation options typically include gravel, asphalt, concrete, or pavers. Gravel is a popular choice because its costs are low, and it’s easy to install. Touching up on gravel is also simple, as you only need to replenish your gravel instead of doing any complicated repairs. If you do end up using gravel for your driveway, you want to layer your rocks to create a stable surface. The base layer will consist of the largest rocks while the top surface will feature smaller ones.
Keep in mind, however, that gravel isn’t the right fit for everyone. “Gravel is not conducive to mobility for persons with disabilities, such as those who use wheelchairs, walkers, or are visually impaired. It can also be a challenging terrain for people who wear dress shoes or heels, as well as those who ride bikes,” says Reed. Moreover, Reed notes that you want to avoid allowing water to percolate in the soil near the foundation of a home—this is why gravel isn’t ideal for residential homes where the driveway is right next to a building.
How much does a gravel driveway cost?
Many people gravitate towards a gravel driveway because it is cost-effective—you can expect to pay around $1 to $3 per square foot. This average cost is much more economical than pouring concrete, which will cost you between $6 to $10 per square foot, and laying stone pavers, which will cost you around $10 to $50 per square foot. On average, a gravel driveway will cost between $2,250 and $5,900, but your total cost may vary depending on the scope of your project.
What kind of maintenance is required for a gravel driveway?
Depending on how much traffic your gravel driveway gets, you might need to add gravel every one or two years. “If placed correctly, gravel requires very little maintenance beyond topping it off with the occasional scoop of gravel to account for minor settling and replace any lost gravel,” says Reed. While flooding and drainage aren’t typically issues with gravel driveways, wind, and rain can shuffle your gravel around and settle debris on it. From time to time, you will want to spray dust off of your gravel and rake through debris to keep it looking full and tidy. Occasionally, you may also need to manage weeds.
To keep gravel from shuffling around too much in the first place, Reed advises homeowners to use geo-cells, a plastic, honeycomb-shaped material that sits on the sub-base. “Once geo-cells are installed, you fill the driveway with gravel and spread it out evenly until the geo-cells are covered and not visible,” says Reed.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Stacey Nguyen, a lifestyle writer who specializes in home and garden products. To make this list, she considered dozens of products, carefully selecting options based on factors such as size, shape, aesthetic appeal, and affordability. Expert advice was provided by Clay Reed, a licensed general engineering contractor and owner of Stellar Sidewalks and Aaxis Construction. Reed weighed in on what types of gravel to look for, offered insights on gravel installation, and provided tips on how to maintain gravel driveways over time.