When it comes to buying concrete, regardless of what your project is or how much is needed, the factors influencing your decision always remain the same – cost and quality. The goal is to get the best value for money out of your purchase without compromising on quality, but this can obviously be difficult when you don’t have all the facts at hand.

So whether you’re about to embark on a huge home renovation project relaying your driveway or pouring foundations for an extension, or you’re a construction manager looking to keep your industrial sites stocked and supplied with high-quality concrete, you need the right information to ensure you can make informed decisions. With that in mind, we will tackle the question: Is it cheaper to buy ready mix concrete than to mix your own?

WHAT IS READY MIX CONCRETE?

First we’ll look at what ready mix concrete actually is. While we know concrete on the whole is a mixture composed of cement, sand and gravel, what actually makes ready mix concrete… ready mix?

Ready mix concrete, also known as ready made concrete or just RMC, is a type of concrete that is pre-prepared and mixed off-site (as opposed to mixed on-site) according to a set specification. This can then be purchased for delivery as is via truck, or at a later date in the form of ready mix concrete bags and tubs of varying weight (for applications such as fence posts or filling holes/cracks).

Is Ready Mix Concrete High Quality?

Ready made concrete is composed of the same basic ingredients as traditional concrete: cement, water and aggregates (sand, gravel, or crushed stone). Depending on the application, admixtures to enhance certain properties of the mixture can be added but this is case-dependent. The key advantage of this type of concrete is the stringent quality control measures which are often implemented during the production process. The goal of these processes is to ensure consistent and high quality in mixes, so that every bag or tub of RMC delivers on strength and durability.

Concrete mixer being filled by shovel

MIXING YOUR OWN CONCRETE

Mixing your own concrete isn’t for everyone. To do so involves not just high investment but a significant knowledge of concrete mixing practices, ingredient ratios and concrete setting times. Those interested must purchase and combine the individual ingredients on-site, relying on either a concrete mixer machine or manual labour.

Equipment and Labour Requirements

To mix your own concrete, you need access to various equipment such as concrete mixers, wheelbarrows, shovels and possibly a concrete vibrator for ensuring proper compaction. This can represent a more than significant initial investment which may cause budgets to stretch, especially in the case of small-scale residential projects. Additionally, the mixing process is labour-intensive and requires skilled workers to achieve the correct proportions and consistency.

COST COMPARISON: IS IT CHEAPER TO MIX YOUR OWN CONCRETE OR BUY READY MIX CONCRETE?

While there is no outright correct answer to this question, when it comes to costs there are several factors which will influence whether ready mix concrete or site-mixed concrete is the cheaper option.

UPFRONT COSTS

Ready Mix Concrete

Materials: The material cost of ready mix concrete tends to be higher in general, since you’re paying for the convenience of your concrete coming ready mixed with the correct ratios of cement, sand, aggregates and any required admixtures.

Delivery costs: Depending on the quantity of concrete you need, you may be required to pay a delivery fee.

Equipment: No need for purchasing or renting additional equipment.

 

Mixing Your Own Concrete

Materials: The cost of raw materials can be lower, but they will need to purchased in bulk so that sufficient ratio requirements can be met. Additional quantities of ingredients may also be needed to account for any errors or spillages.

Equipment Rental/Purchase: Significant upfront investment in equipment is required – cement mixers, shovels, individual ingredients etc.

Labour: Higher costs if additional labour is required.

Waste: As touched on previously, without sufficient knowledge the opportunity for mistakes to be made is much higher. Wastage or excesses of any mixture will therefore mean you’ll be incurring additional, unnecessary costs.

 

Truck pouring ready mixed concrete into a foundation

 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF READY MIX CONCRETE?

Consistency and Quality

RMC provides a high level of consistency and quality control that is challenging to achieve with on-site mixing. The precise mix ratios and controlled conditions ensure that each batch meets the specified strength and durability requirements.

Time Efficiency

The use of ready mix concrete can significantly reduce project timelines to help meet deadlines. Since the concrete is delivered ready for immediate use, construction processes can proceed without the delays associated with on-site mixing.

Less Labour Intensive

It’s hard work mixing concrete on your own. Even if you hire or buy your own concrete mixer, you’ll still be required to manually shovel the material in, as well as monitor the mix to make sure it isn’t slopping out of the mixer due to the mixture being too wet or too full. Then there’s the matter of cleanup. You don’t want to leave your worksite in a state, which means you’ll be required to clean up any wayward shovelling attempts, or spillage from your wheelbarrow. You’ll also be responsible for washing out the mixer and returning it to the owner (who will probably charge extra for cleaning because they don’t agree with your standard of cleanliness). 

Ready mix concrete does away with every issue mentioned above, so you only have to worry about making sure your concrete ends up in the right place and looking the way you imagined.

Reduced Labour Costs

By opting for RMC, you can cut down on the labour required for mixing, allowing you or your workforce to focus on other critical tasks. This can lead to overall cost savings and improved productivity on-site.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF MIXING YOUR OWN CONCRETE?

Flexibility

Mixing your own concrete offers greater flexibility in terms of adjusting the mix design to meet specific project needs. With this flexibility, you can alter the proportions of the included materials to achieve desired properties, such as strength, workability and setting time.

Cost Control

For smaller projects, the initial investment in equipment might be justified by the ability to control material costs more closely. Additionally, sourcing local materials can sometimes result in cost savings.

WHICH IS CHEAPER? BUYING READY MIX CONCRETE OR MIXING YOUR OWN?

The cost-effectiveness of ready mix concrete versus mixing your own depends on various project-specific factors, including the scale of the project, availability of materials and labour costs. For larger projects with stringent quality requirements, ready mix concrete often proves to be the more economical and reliable choice due to its consistency, reduced labour costs and time efficiency. However, for smaller projects or those requiring unique mix designs, mixing your own concrete may offer greater flexibility and control over expenses. Ultimately, a thorough cost analysis considering all direct and indirect expenses will provide the best answer tailored to your specific construction needs.