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We have an existing wraparound driveway, and with our daughters looking to get cars we're looking to add a few pads on the side for parking. I called around to talk to different contractors, as well as posted on Craigslist. Google tells me it should cost $7 - $10 installed, so I estimated a budget of $3k for approximately 300 square feet.

I've now received seven quotes. Five of them fall between $5000 and $6600 ($16 - $22 / sqft). One was $2500 and another was $1700 ($6 - $8 / sqft). The numbers vary wildly, and I'm wondering why they're so different. Specifically, my concerns are that because I don't understand what can cause the difference in cost:

  • I may miss that one contractor is using superior materials or techniques
  • I may miss communicating a part of the project scope that matters to the cost

In all cases I have communicated a need for minimum 4" thickness and 4000 psi concrete, as well as a need for them to haul away dirt after digging and finish/texture the driveway to match the existing. What else may account for the wild variations in quotes? I don't want to pay way more than I need to as money is tight, but I also don't want to end up with a maintenance headache a few years down the road.

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    I'm sure you've thought of this, but when you say "pads" for parking, make sure there's enough room to maneuver on and off the pad (i.e. turning radius), and make sure the pads are big enough to park a full-size car/SUV on. You'll really kick yourself if you plan for your kid's high school/college econobox cars then discover a few years down the road that they can't park their "mommy-mobiles" there when bringing the grand kids over.
    – FreeMan
    Jun 17 '20 at 16:25
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    Might also be worthwhile to specify some work conditions/cleanup after the job. Few threads here where people are asking how to clean up after contractor who left behind concrete splatter on their siding and RED chalk line dust (reputable contractors will use white, as it cleans up easier). See: diy.stackexchange.com/questions/141144/… Jun 17 '20 at 17:48
  • @FreeMan Thank you, and good point. We're planning to build our forever home in the next 2-3 years, and move from here within 5 for sure, so I'm not too worried about the driveway beyond the kids' college cars.
    – Nicholas
    Jun 17 '20 at 18:18
  • @PhilippNagel Great points; this seems like the kind of thing that should probably be included in any contract that's written up.
    – Nicholas
    Jun 17 '20 at 18:19
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    Bear in mind that extra parking spaces may have a positive impact on resale value, but smallish extra parking spaces may not...
    – FreeMan
    Jun 17 '20 at 18:27
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As you've seen, prices vary widely. That's why it's a good idea to shop around and ask for references. Some operations just don't want to bother with small jobs like yours, so they quote you a high number in the hope that you'll pick someone else. If you pick them, you pay for the "privilege". Some quote low-ball prices and I'd be wary of them. Yes, there are dishonest outfits. They may use shoddy materials and do crappy work or they may have "unforseen" issues that will cost you more once the job is started. You name the scam and there is a contractor who does it.

If if were me, I would look closely at those that are in the middle which is where things should cost.

Also, in most areas there are only a few concrete suppliers and their prices are usually quite close. Call and ask their price per yard delivered for 4000 psi mix. From that and the number of yards needed you should be able to estimate the concrete cost.

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    remembering that the concrete cost is only part of the overall project cost...
    – FreeMan
    Jun 17 '20 at 16:22
  • @FreeMan Isn't that what I said? "concrete cost"
    – jwh20
    Jun 17 '20 at 16:25
  • It is. I was emphasizing that point so the OP or a future reader wouldn't go get a concrete quote for X yards, then wonder why the contractor was wanting to charge significantly more than that. I agree, my point wasn't all that well made, but at least one other person seems to have gotten it. (there's an upvote on the comment)
    – FreeMan
    Jun 17 '20 at 16:55
  • Pouring top quality concrete on sh1t foundations is an easy eay to waste money...
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 17 '20 at 18:48
  • how does one use "shoddy materials" ? its cement. sand, stone. he can buy these directly and mix by hand, that's what I did.
    – anm767
    Jun 18 '20 at 23:01

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