Construction Management

4 Best AutoCAD Alternatives

Published by in Construction Management

Autodesk’s AutoCAD is an industry-standard for high-end CAD designing. But does that make it the right CAD tool for your construction business?

hero image of a 3D model on a computer screen

Autodesk is a juggernaut in the industrial drafting solutions market. And its products are the go-to tools for many types of professionals, including product designers, architects, and instrumentation engineers.

The company’s AutoCAD is a popular tool in the construction industry, offering features such as 3D modeling and parametric constraints. But big things have long shadows; in AutoCAD’s case it’s the $1,610 per user per year price tag. It’s a fairly expensive option, especially for small construction firms.

If you’re looking for a less expensive software option, the fact that the market is fraught with terrible AutoCAD knockoffs doesn’t help either.

So, we’ve done the research to bring you the top four AutoCAD alternatives. Read on to learn about the key capabilities and pricing of the top four AutoCAD alternatives for construction businesses.

This article looks at four highly rated AutoCAD alternatives. See the full list of AutoCAD alternatives here

How we selected the best AutoCAD alternatives

Products are listed in alphabetical order. To make the list, products had to meet the following criteria:

  • Core AutoCAD capabilities: The product had to offer similar 2D and 3D modeling capabilities and support similar file types to AutoCAD.
  • Minimum of 20 user reviews published on Capterra’s site in the last two years: Recent reviews help us analyze the pros and cons of the alternatives.
  • High “likelihood to recommend” rating: The product should have an average recommendation rating of at least 8 out of 10 on Capterra.
  • High “features and functionality” rating: The product must have a minimum functionality rating of 4 out of 5 stars on Capterra.

AutoCAD Alternatives

1. FreeCAD: Open source parametric 3D CAD modeler

Recommendation rating: 8.1/10
Features & functionality rating: 4.2/5.0
Reviews: 71

FreeCAD comes with capabilities such as 3D parametric modeling, robot simulation, 2D drawing and sketching, and a rendering module for creating high-quality 3D images.

The tool is suitable for a wide range of uses in manufacturing and engineering industries. However, construction businesses can also use it to create floor plans or to design 3D building models.



Users like the tool’s many features, considering it’s completely free to use for commercial purposes. Users mention that certain modules can become outdated when there are no updates from the community.
Users also like the fact that the tool is lightweight and works on most systems, even those with low RAM, without crashing. Users also say that there is a steep learning curve.

How much does FreeCAD cost?

FreeCAD is an open-source solution and can be freely downloaded for use on platforms such as Windows, macOS, and Linux.

FreeCAD 3D Modelling

3D modeling of a building in FreeCAD (Source)

2. SketchUp: Intuitive 3D modeling

Sketchup logo
Recommendation rating: 9.6/10
Features & functionality rating: 4.8/5.0
Reviews: 128

SketchUp helps users draw 2D construction plans as well as 3D models of buildings. Along with design-related features, the tool offers features for document management with support for numerous file types (including DXF, DWG, FBX, OBJ, XSI, and VRML) and the facility to export images (including PDFs and HD animations).



Users mention that the tool has a short learning curve. Users mention the tool is not suitable for large-scale designs that require parametric modeling.
Users like the intuitive interface that makes direct 3D modeling easy. Users say the tool lacks functionalities and relies heavily on plugins, which come at an additional cost.

How much does SketchUp cost?

SketchUp’s cloud-based version offers a basic free plan for personal use; the paid plans start at $119 per user per year. The on-premise version is priced at $695 (one-time license fee), with an additional $120 for annual upgrades.

SketchUp Design Blueprint

3D construction plan design in SketchUp (Source)

3. SolidWorks Premium: Full-featured CAD tool

Solidworks logo
Recommendation rating: 8.6/10
Features & functionality rating: 4.5/5.0
Reviews: 324

SolidWorks Premium is a good option for 3D sketchers who want CAD software for detailed design work. The tool comes with extensive design features that allow for creating 2D drawings and 3D models. The tool also supports document management (with version control) for building a repository of up-to-date designs.



Users like the tool’s wide set of functionalities for 3D modeling. User mention that the software is buggy and prone to crashes.
Users like the vendor’s exhaustive training resources. Users mention that the software is incompatible with any operating software beside Windows.

How much does SolidWorks Premium cost?

SolidWorks Premium’s license costs and terms of use vary based on whether you’re using it for commercial or academic purposes. The student version is $150 for a 12-month term-of-use license fee; the commercial pricing is customized based on a business’s specific needs.

SolidWokrs 3D image designing

3D image design in SolidWorks (Source)

4. Vectorworks Architect: Suitable for BIM modeling

Vectorworks logo
Recommendation rating: 8.0/10
Features & functionality rating: 4.4/5.0
Reviews: 25

Vectorworks Architect offers capabilities such as 2D drawing, 3D modeling, and building information modeling (BIM). As its name suggests, the tool is designed to help architects; it allows building 3D construction site models, drawing site blueprints, and designing digital walk-through presentations.



Users like the tool’s capabilities to integrate with other CAD solutions. Users say the tool comes with a steep learning curve.
Users also like the tool’s capabilities for creating high quality graphics. Users mention that the tool can become slow on computers running on fewer than 4GB RAM.

How much does Vectorworks Architect cost?

Vectorworks Architect offers only custom pricing for the software with a free 30-day trial period.

Vectorworks Architect Stairs Design

Designing stairs in Vectorworks (Source)

What other great CAD options are out there?

Is there a great CAD program that we’ve missed? What do you use? If you use AutoCAD, why do you prefer it? Let us know in the comments below!

The AutoCAD alternatives listed here are based on ratings from Capterra users. To expand your search, compare other CAD software on Capterra.

Note: Listed pros and cons are derived from features listed on the product website and product user reviews on Gartner Digital Markets domains (Capterra, GetApp, and Software Advice). They do not represent the views of, nor constitute an endorsement by, Capterra or its affiliates.

Looking for Construction Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Construction Management software solutions.

About the Author

Pritam Tamang

Pritam Tamang

Content writer at Capterra, passionate about digital content marketing and technology trends. MA, University of Delhi. Based in New Delhi, India. I love the music of the 60’s and 70’s, and goofing around with a book.


Comment by Jorge Santos on

For me, the best alternative to AutoCAD has fall in to CMS IntelliCAD. Plus now it also support BIM Revit files import . Was not aware, but import and export STEP and IGES files is now included in the latest version. I’m testing it now and will probably upgrade because the price is unbeatable. Great guys there, always helpful to assist me.

Comment by Athira on

Thanks, Dan Taylor. I am also trying to find other AutoCAD tools for design my flats in Trivandrum.Thanks for sharing this Very Good Information to me.

Comment by Robert Bou on

Philip Hatfield asked about Claris like. Ashlar-Vellum Graphite is the closest and features a Claris CAD import (one of the few products that does.)

I’m the President / Product Manager of Ashlar-Vellum so I’m biased, but our 10,000+ users tell us that nothing is faster, more intuitive or capable than Graphite for general drafting, especially when compared to AutoCAD LT and its clones. That said, Graphite is not for everyone, just for those that are more concerned with production speed rather than command by command compatibility with AutoCAD. AutoCAD and its clones have their place, perhaps even 80% of users might be better off with exact compatibility rather than doing a job in 3 hours instead of 5.

Just like no 4 wheeled vehicle really competes with a jet fighter, nor does a jet fighter compete with a motorcycle, various cad programs shouldn’t always compete, they each have their best application, and appeal to various usage styles and operator personalities.

When choosing a CAD system, find one that speaks to your soul and allows your ideas and perspiration to make their mark in your life and in the lives of others.

No one size fits all.

Comment by Stephen Carlton on

No matter what you go with, make sure its compatible with AutoCAD.

Comment by George on


Softtech SPIRIT


Comment by Foad on

There are also plenty of open source options out there. Here in this reddit post I have tried to list all I could find plus explaining a little bit why we should use open source:

Comment by David Huie on

MicroStation PowerDraft is industrial strength if you have demanding projects–with the ability to use and produce an unmatched range of data formats and types (including Point clouds and 3D BIM models) and high performance for any size project. You can download a 14-day trial here.

Comment by Nils on

Switched our architecture office to ZWCad Pro this year…tired of the license scheme of autodesk…as well as the high prices..We used Acad for 2D features, as well as Xrefs, blocks and Lisp and we barely see the difference in use with ZWcad now…ctb’s also are seamlessly embeded..great move!

Comment by Richard Zins on

Nice website. Except for the fact that my software is not here 🙁
An excellent alternative with a great CAD program and 17 BIM modules that can sit on top is Arcadia 10

Comment by poch on

Have one, CorelCAD. Affordable CAD solution for expert results.

Comment by James Lamer on

Thanks for the tips. Very helpful.

I did browse for an Autocad alternative cad software and found….a lot of them… there are free ones that are useless – funny a couple listed here – and ended up having to pay for one. Seems to make sense because freebies are definitely not intended for professionals.

Most payed ones, also listed here, have a LOT of useless features (for my work tasks). Seems that some are packing features freely available in the Internet so why the heck would I have to pay for that or for what I’ll never use?

The best one I found for my money was CMS IntelliCAD that I found at

Has all the cad features that I usually use and it’s compatible with cad files I get from several sources. Plus, they also included a cad viewer that I can use to view my files on the go.

Keep the good work !

Comment by Amina Saeed on

Hello Dan Taylor,

Thank you for the very informative article on alternative CAD software. You may also be interested in a similar article by Canadian Tech Journalist, Ralph Grabowski:

Please check it out to read about some more CAD Software options.

Comment by John on

After using cad software from different companies for around 20 years, recently I found ActCAD as the best in features and also price. I believe it should be on top of the list.

Comment by Ravi on

I found that there is one more big cad alternative software name is ActCAD wich is available at for free trial and purchase
there we can find couple of softwares
This is getting popular in USA, UK and india


Comment by Alpesh Patel on

Hi Rachel,

Great post to read. But we are mostly using Revit when it comes to architectural services. We have also used AutoCAD in the past and it’s a great tool to use.

Comment by phi on

Any thoughts on DataCAD?

Comment by chrischrisan on

Thanks, Rachel. That’s a great post.

Have a check on Design Presentation, a fast and cost-effective CAD company in the US with best 2D CAD service, drafting service, cad modeling, AutoCAD services and lots more. Find more about us at

Comment by Sam yacuzzo on

Started with AutoCad in 1990. It stunk and was very slow on 286 and 386 machines.
Bought FastCad 6 months later. Owned 3 manufacturing businesses and last bought AutoCad 2009. Used Solid Works vs 18-20 for coal fired powerplant components. Designed airfoil propellers in Rhino. Rhino is my favorite. FastCad is still one of the best. It was the Work of Michael Riddle (known as the father of cad). I use Rhino now for everything can
recommend it highly. It reads and writes many CAD files and has plug-ins for 3d printing,
Cam, bolt generation, Rendering, element analysis, PDF and jpg creation and many more. AutoCad is not worth the money. Solid Edge is a fine program but expensive and upgrades are constantly promoted for sales.

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