Frequently as an AutoCAD user I get asked “Are there any cheap AutoCAD Alternatives?” while on the inside my immediate answer is NO!!! Though I know that’s only because I’ve always used autodesk, I don’t go through a day without using one of their products and honestly I haven’t found anything better. At the same time I can fully understand that the price of a full autoCAD product runs into the thousands and thousands of dollars and most freelance or just home users will never need all the features included in the latest AutoCAD release. So it is because of this that I write this post, when asked this question I ask a few simple questions.
Update: since this post is a few years old now and a bit out of date, I have updated the links below to the most recent versions of each software. Though in light of Autodesks switch to a monthly/yearly subscriptions, AutoCAD Lt has really become much more affordable for small firms and independant drafters. Check out the Autodesk Subscription options to see if a subscription might work better for you.
How much would you like to spend? And do you plan to work with or on projects that are completely AutoCAD Based?
If your answer is yes it will be difficult to find an alternative that will be 100% compatible for you. My first recommendation in this case is AutoCAD LT
2012 (now 2013) With this Light version of autoCAD you get the Full featured AutoCAD software toned back for home and personal use for a fraction of the full cost! In all honesty this is the best CAD software for the budget minded user. It is currently much cheaper than AutoCAD for only $949 at amazon. But this may simply be too much money, or overkill for someone who just wants to draw up their bedroom, or new deck plans.
For this group I then suggest either TurboCAD Deluxe currently !$99 on amazon or Design CAD 3D MAX currently ~$99 on amazon. Both of these are excellent cheap CAD software packages that offer an alternative to AutoCAD at a discount. Each CAD program provides some autocad file compatibility for .dwg, .dxf, .ctb, .stb etc.. as well as other common drawing and design file types. Both programs also have tutorials and help available while staying low in price and very affordable for an autoCAD alternative. I’ve outlined in the table below some of the features for each package along with the msrp and the best deal I found on amazon.
As always if you have any questions or a suggestion for an AutoCAD alternative you use please let me know below!