A loose material driveway is your best option when keeping costs down is priority number one. But there are additional cost savings you can expect from these basic driveway materials. Gravel and loose stone driveways are pretty much indestructible, and you can plan on them lasting a lifetime.
Further, there are few repairs needed with gravel and stone driveways. Unlike asphalt and concrete, for example, they are not going to crack. You may loose some stones or gravel over time, but this "repair" involves little more than throwing some replacements on the driveway.
Tar and chip (macadam) is included among the "loose materials" options because the "chips" are loose stones. Once the "tar" is added, and the mixture rolled, the final result is a solid surface.
[See Pros and Cons of a Tar and Chip Driveway for more information.]
Driveway costs are subject to fluctuations, based on the costs of materials (oil-based products in particular) and labor, the location and design of the driveway, the depth of material and preparation needed, among other factors.
As with any kind of contracting work, do your homework before giving the job to someone. Take some time to find a good contractor (see How To Hire a Good Home Improvement Contractor), and then be sure to compare estimates. Remember that the lowest cost is not necessarily the best choice.
If you have a straight driveway and a reasonably flat surface, you should be able to have a loose material driveway installed for around $3 per square foot. On a typical 12-ft. wide by 50-ft. long driveway (600 square feet), that would cost you about $1,800.
Some of the work on these types of driveway could be handled by a DIYer; in fact, there is really no reason why you couldn't manage a gravel or stone driveway installation all by yourself, aside from having the material delivered. Even with asphalt and concrete driveways, you may be able to save some money handling preparation duties yourself. Doing the work yourself is usually one of the best ways to cut costs.