This past weekend I bought some gravel to use for covering the walkway to our back porch. Before making the purchase, Andrea called a few places to check on pricing. I was very surprised to see how much pricing varied, based on the quantity of gravel being purchased. Because of that, I thought it would be a good idea to do a post on the topic.
Home Improvement Store
The first place we checked was the home improvement store. We had previously bought gravel there for the drainage ditch that routes water away from the air conditioner. I expected the price to buy high, but had no idea how high until I compared to other sources. At the nearby nationwide home improvement store a bag of gravel, which covers 0.5 cubic ft, costs $3.58. Based on information I found online, a bag weighs, roughly, 50 lbs.
Even though the price is high, there are some benefits to buying from a home improvement store. The first benefit is that, since the gravel are in bags, it is more convenient for people without access to a truck or trailer. Also, if you really only need 0.5 cubic ft, it may not make sense to buy a larger quantity, especially if you have nowhere to store the excess.
The landscaping supplier, in the same town as the home improvement store, sells gravel in larger quantities. They sell them by the ton, although will also sell smaller quantities, down to half a ton, and maybe even less. Their price, as of this past weekend, was $15.00 per ton. I was told, however, that prices were expected to go up, because the quarry had informed them that they were raising their prices soon.
The obvious benefit to buying from the landscaping supplier, as compared to the home improvement store, is the pricing. It would take approximately 40 bags of gravel to equal a ton, at a total cost of $143.20. In fact, if buying anything more than 2 bags, the landscaping supplier is cheaper, since a half ton can be purchased for $7.50, compared to $7.16 for two bags from the home improvement store.
Another benefit is that the landscaping supplier has several different types and sizes of gravel to choose from. I went with #57 gravel, based on the suggestion of the employee there.
The local gravel quarry is, by far, the cheapest place to buy gravel. The only problem is that they require a minimum purchase of 2.5 tons, which costs $20. This works out to $8 per ton, which is significantly cheaper than the price charged by the landscaping supplier. The problem, however, is that its not easy to half 2.5 ton of gravel. In fact, the weight limit on my truck is around 1200 pounds, so I'd be afraid to trying haul much more than half a ton, although some full-sized pickups would be able to haul much more. I could use the trailer, which can safely haul a ton, or maybe ton and a half, but that is the most I could hope to haul with my current equipment.
If buying in bulk, the quarry is clearly the most cost effective place to buy gravel. What cost $20 there, 2.5 ton, would cost $37.50 from the landscaping supplier. They also have, by far, the best selection. I'll likely buy several ton of gravel from them this summer, and have them delivered, for use on the driveway and parking/turning area.
Even though the per ton price at the quarry is cheaper, the minimum purchase requirement means that for smaller quantities, the landscaping supplier may actually be the best option. If one were to use a truck or trailer that was capable of hauling a full ton, the cost at the quarry would actually be more, as they would still charge for the full 2.5 ton minimum. However, if one could haul 1.5 ton, then the cost at the quarry would be slightly less.
Obviously these prices are going to vary from one area to the next. This information is based on my experience with local suppliers. I think it is safe to say, however, that buying bags of gravel from a home improvement store is always going to be the most expensive option, and is probably only a good idea if you only need one or maybe two bags.
Also, I realize that not everyone is going to have access to a quarry, so that may not even be an option for some of you. I highly suggest, however, that if you are in the market for gravel you check local landscaping suppliers. The one I bought from actually works with someone who can deliver larger quantities, although for me it makes more sense to buy from the quarry in that situation. For anyone not living near a quarry, though, it could be worth asking landscape suppliers if they do have someone can deliver. The charge I was quoted was a $40 delivery fee for up to 5 ton. That might sound like a lot on the surface, since 5 ton of gravel would only cost $75. However, when I factor in the time and gas required to haul them myself, even if I used the trailer and hauled a ton at a time, it starts to seem much more reasonable. Making 5 trips, with the trailer, would require approximately 13.5 gallon of gas, which would most likely cost more than the $40 delivery charge. That isn't even including my time. It would take, at least 6 hours of driving time, not to mention the time it would take to manually unload 5 ton of gravel. I think its pretty clear that, at least in my situation, a $40 delivery fee is more than reasonable.