The Cost of CAD Software Today

30 Aug, 2009 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

You won't find many bargains right now, but you will find some vendors that are being flexible regarding lapsed maintenance contracts.

How is the down economy affecting the price of CAD software and maintenance? In particular, will companies that let software subscriptions lapse as a result of reduced headcounts or budget cuts face high costs when they begin to reinstate those maintenance agreements downstream? Are CAD software vendors willing to bend rules regarding subscription contracts in the interest of these customers?

In August, Cadalyst called on CAD software developers to answer these questions. We contacted the larger CAD developers directly and posted an announcement on to invite all companies to submit information related to products that are primarily computer-aided design solutions.

With the exception of Alibre's $99 limited-time offer for Alibre Design -- the move that sparked the original flurry about CAD pricing -- vendors generally seem to be holding steady on pricing and the deals seem few and far between. This could signal that the companies are not in a position to make price cuts or that they don't want to risk devaluing their products -- or both. More importantly, we're happy to hear that some companies, such as Graphisoft, are working directly with customers who are finding it difficult to maintain current licensing agreements.

Following are the replies we received. Companies not included here did not respond or notified us that they would not participate. We'll update details if more information arrives. Information provided in this article was accurate at the time of publication but is subject to change.



Alibre Design Standard
3D product design and virtual prototyping and 2D drawing creation for manufacturing applications.

Best current price: $99 or $398 with yearly subscription (offer expires September 29, 2009); $999 (regular base price).

Other offers: Monthly, interest-free payment options are available.

Licensing/subscription: Alibre Design licenses do not expire. Regarding lapsed subscriptions, within seven days of expiry the cost to reinstate ranges from $299 to $399 depending on the software version. Thereafter, the price increases to $499-$599. Watch for occasional promotions offered to reduce the cost of maintenance reinstatement.


Autodesk provided information for its line of CAD solutions, including AutoCAD, AutoCAD Inventor Suite, AutoCAD Civil 3D, and Revit Architecture.

Best current prices: If you buy directly from Autodesk, you'll find the company has held steady on prices. Resellers are independent and free to set their own prices; check with your local reseller for current promotions. Check back on this article for updates regarding future promotions that become available from Autodesk and resellers.

Other offers: New this year, AutoCAD Inventor LT Suite includes Autodesk Inventor LT and AutoCAD LT software. Offering more affordable options for 2D/3D mechanical design and digital prototyping, it enables part-level 3D parametric modeling, multi-CAD translation, automated DWG drawing views, and more. Update: Purchase the AutoCAD Inventor LT Suite through January 15, 2010, and receive a $500 rebate per seat, for a final cost of $895 per seat. Full details of the offer are available online.

The Autodesk Assistance Program provides free software to the unemployed and software discounts to companies that hire program participants, among many other benefits. A 12-month standalone license of AutoCAD 2010 or AutoCAD 2009 software is available for $1,995 to U.S. commercial customers who need to meet project demands with limited budgets or to meet peak demand in unpredictable markets.

Autodesk customers who upgrade to the newest software version (for example, move from AutoCAD 2009 to AutoCAD 2010) or cross-grade to an industry-specific product (for example, move from AutoCAD to Revit) can take advantage of on-going upgrade, cross-grade, retirement, and legacy programs. Upgrade, retirement, and legacy programs cover many products, except AutoCAD LT. Programs are introduced as new products come online and can offer savings of as much as 20% off the normal cost of upgrading to the current release. 

Through the AutoCAD LT cross-grade program, current users of AutoCAD LT can save as much as 63% on the price of upgrading to a variety of other Autodesk software products -- for example, when moving from AutoCAD LT you can save 63% when you purchase a new seat of AutoCAD Civil 3D.

Licensing/subscription: Autodesk customers who wish to reinstate lapsed subscriptions must pay the price to upgrade to the current version of their software as well as the subscription price. A late renewal fee also applies but can be waived in some cases. The company reports it will offer flexibility to customers who find themselves in extenuating circumstances. For further details, see Cadalyst's article, “As Software Subscriptions Lapse in Down Economy, Autodesk Clarifies Policies.”


Dubbed "VirtualBuilding" by the company, it offers building information modeling and documentation for architects, for Windows and Mac.

Best current price: $4,250 (regular price)

Other offers: Discounts and special product bundles are offered throughout the year. ArchiCAD START Edition, an entry-level BIM solution, is available for $1,995 (regular price).  

Licensing/subscription: For customers experiencing temporary financial hardship, particularly those who took on multiyear subscription commitments in better times but have since reduced headcount, "Graphisoft is reworking agreements based on mutually acceptable terms," the company reports. "Everyone is aware of the letter of the contracts; however, these are exceptional times and where we can we try to marry the commitment with a measure of flexibility so that everyone gains."


TurboCAD Professional v16
2D drafting and 3D surface and solid modeling design application for mechanical, architectural, and conceptual design.

Best current price: $1,295 (retail price); $699 (upgrade from competitive CAD and graphics software applications); $149.95 (full version for educators/students).

Licensing/subscription: TurboCAD is not sold on a subscription license basis; licenses are perpetual and therefore do not lapse. For current customers, updates are free during the release of each new version. Otherwise, product upgrade pricing ranges from $199.95 to $499.95, depending on the version of the original product.  

DoubleCAD XT
AutoCAD LT "workalike" for creating 2D detailed drawings.

Best current price: Free

Licensing/subscription: License is perpetual and can be used for unlimited personal and commercial use. Updates are provided regularly at no cost.

DoubleCAD XT Pro
2D CAD application with advanced features for drafting and detailing, including architectural and mechanical design tools.

Best current price:$660; $695 (retail price); $149.95 (for educators/students).

Licensing/subscription: DoubleCAD is not sold on a subscription license basis; licenses are perpetual and therefore do not lapse. Version 1 customers should contact IMSI/Design regarding upgrade pricing when version 2 is released.



Vectorworks 2009
Line of 3D computer-aided design and building information modeling solutions for architecture, landscape architecture, entertainment, and machine design.

Best current price: $1,295 (base price); $2,895 (the works).

Other offers:  Free training DVDs with every v2009 professional license purchased.

Licensing/subscription: Nemetschek North America has always allowed users from any prior version to maintain licenses. Complete backward compatibility is not always possible, but software versions never retire. All users can upgrade at a time of their choosing.



Integrated 3D CAD/CAM/CAE. The primary design offering within PTC’s Product Development System, it details the form, fit, and function of products from conceptual design to tooling development and machining.

Best current price: $4,995.

Licensing/subscription: Pro/ENGINEER licenses are perpetual and do not expire. Customers who let subscriptions lapse may reinstate the contract by paying back the missed period. The company adds, "We have some flexible policies for some customers who are inactive for a very long time to encourage them to come back" to maintenance support.



ViaCAD 2D/3D
3D curve, surface, and solid modeler with tools to generate 2D drawings from 3D parts.  ViaCAD offers feature-based solid modeling combined with a history tree plus associativity for rapid design exploration.

Best current price: $99 (MSRP); users can upgrade from a prior major release to the current release for $19.99.

Other offers: If a ViaCAD customer decides to make an upgrade to a Punch! Shark product, available through resellers – for example, they need a CATIA or Pro/ENGINEER translator – the price paid for ViaCAD is deducted from the new product price.

Licensing/subscription: Licenses, including student licenses, do not expire.

About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson