7 Free and Paid Alternatives to AutoCAD

AutoCAD has been the standard for engineering and architectural drafting over the past few years. Autodesk has long been the leader in the field, but what if you want to expand your horizons past AutoCAD and try some other options?

We have found what we believe are the seven best alternatives to AutoCAD out there, some are free while some are paid. To help you familiarize yourself with the different programs, we’ll break each one down and analyze why they’re able to challenge AutoCAD.

1. SketchUp (free for 30 days)


SketchUp is one of the most widely used 3D modeling programs in the world. It has a fully functional free version, and the paid version simply adds another layer of depth to the software.

SketchUp is a unique 3D modeling program in that you draw shapes and then extrude them by clicking and dragging them to a distance. That makes it feel similar to building something in real life and less in the virtual space.

SketchUp is also extremely versatile. You can design anything from a hotel building, or a house, all the way down to tiny gears and small mechanical parts.

It is great for both architectural and mechanical engineering projects. That versatility is why we suggest anyone interested in a good AutoCAD alternative start with SketchUp.

2. LibreCAD (free)


LibreCAD may be the closest competitor in the way it operates to AutoCAD. This is a 2D CAD software that looks and behaves very similar to Adobe’s option.

The biggest difference? LibreCAD is totally free and open source. It is also available on Windows, Apple, and Linux, meaning you can run it on any computer platform you wish.

In addition to the platform choices, LibreCAD also has 30 different language options, allowing users from many different countries to enjoy this software.

LibreCAD has all the tools and features you need to draw and design your next project. It can stand up to the most expensive and respected software on the market, which is quite a feat for a free option.

3. SolidWorks (free trial)


SolidWorks, much like AutoCAD, is a software that came out decades ago. While they both have a long history, they are definitely not exactly the same. SolidWorks is both a 2D and 3D capable software but has an emphasis more on the 3D aspect.

AutoCAD is a 2D CAD program, meaning it can’t do the 3D modeling on equal footing with SolidWorks. SolidWorks is not the best program for architectural or structural work, but it excels in the engineering space.

Aerospace, automotive, engineering, and design are all areas in which SolidWorks is actually a better option than AutoCAD. Figuring out exactly what you need in a CAD program is going to determine which software is better for you.

4. DraftSight ($249/year)


If you’re looking for a great alternative to AutoCAD at a much more affordable price, DraftSight could be the perfect software for you. It is quite like the AutoCAD, and some would argue it’s even better.

When you combine exceptional features with a competitive price, you get a great package of tools that won’t break the bank.

The basic version of DraftSight offers all the 2D CAD tools you need to be competitive with AutoCAD. While you can upgrade to the professional version and get more 3D capabilities, the base version gives you more than enough features.

The ability to upgrade to a higher tier and performance package at a later date also gives you a way to move your skills forward in the future if you want.

5. FreeCAD (free)


FreeCAD is a great alternative to AutoCAD. As the name implies, it won’t cost you anything either.

While you do have the option to donate if you enjoy the software, that’s completely optional and only there to help the developer keep the updates to the software coming.

This 3D parametric CAD program is incredibly similar to AutoCAD in terms of feel and features. While it will take those fluent in AutoCAD a little while to get the hang of the different controls in this application, once they know the shortcuts and buttons, everything becomes a breeze.

If you’re a hobbyist or someone thinking of dabbling in engineering and you want free software that can get you AutoCAD levels of performance, we highly recommend checking out FreeCAD.

6. nanoCAD (freemium)


One of the main reasons many people stay away from AutoCAD is the high price point. While it is somewhat justified in the support and feature set of the program, it is simply too high of an entry point for many.

That is where nanoCAD comes in. This software is just a fraction of the price of AutoCAD, and has many amazing features. Here, you get a fully functional CAD program complete with timely updates and new features.

The tools included in this program are intuitive and easy to use, and the ability to import industry-standard files is a great addition. No matter what type of application you use, engineering or architectural, nanoCAD is worth your time.

7. SolveSpace (free)


We’ve mentioned AutoCAD’s cost several times already, and that’s because it is a legitimate barrier for many users.

If you want something cheaper, SolveSpace, a free 3D parametric CAD program that is absolutely free, maybe for you. This program will never cost you anything, and it can handle even the most complex CAD drawings.

Not only can you draw in 2D space like you can with AutoCAD, but you can model in 3D space as well. This software actually comes with the added benefit of being able to use the models for 3D printing.

If you just need to fix something around the house, you can model it in SolveSpace and print it right on your 3D printer. It can also be used for architectural purposes as well.

Final Words

AutoCAD is a great program, but it does have some downsides. The programs listed above are all viable AutoCAD alternatives and most of them are free. They each have their own interface and toolset, but they are more than capable of doing what AutoCAD does!

Have you used AutoCAD or any of the software on this list? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • David Wignall

    While I have a Construction background, including estimating costs, I’m not an Engineer (I have a pretty good grasp of the Math. And Physics involved in doing a construction project.).

    What I’m working on now is à program ( such as Cad. etc.) that I can use for the for the project that is currently in the planning stages.

  • Josh Stribling

    Thank you for providing this List!
    LibreCAD fits my need quite well, for drawing, offsetting, and trimming lines in 2D, and it works very similar to (if not more streamlined than) AutoCAD.

    I really like the recent command memory on right click, and the blue/green colorized selection box for inclusive or intersect selection. The “offset” (Parallel) command took me a second to get used to, as I was used to two clicks in AutoCAD to select the line then click again to offset to that side, but so far the one click offset by clicking on the side near the line seems to work pretty well.

    I taught SolidWorks and AutoCAD night classes at a VoTech nearly 20 years ago, and I have used SketchUp in the past as well, but I don’t think I’ve used it since Trimble bought it. I was at GDC in March 2006 when Google bought the company, so one day it was @Last Software, and the next day it was owned by Google with a sticker on the expo banner, lol.
    So I look forward to trying out the other options that you mention!

    Have you tried OnShape? I’ve been using that on and off for the last several years when I need to model something or play around with geometry. It’s a browser based SolidWorks competitor, free for personal (public) use (I think you get like 2 private projects, and then as many public ones as you like. It is available in the Browser (so cross platform) as well as mobile iOS apps.

    I still need to give Fusion 360 a shot as well.

    One small correction: In section 2 (LibreCAD), I think you meant “similar to Autodesk’s option” when you wrote: “similar to Adobe’s option”. All the “A” companies (Adobe, Autodesk, Alias, etc.) do get a little confusing, and I’ve done the same thing in the past.

  • Isidoros

    Hello Chris,
    just to add that there is also 4MCAD 19 Professional that provides also the same functionality with AutoCAD . 4MCAD 19 Professional perpetual license costs only 270euro.
    You could check the video below, as to get the concept.


  • Paul

    I have used nanocad and draftsight. Both are good alternatives to AutoCad, Draftsight is closer the mark though.
    My Draftsight is no longer free so I am looking for a program that will export PDF files.

  • Manish

    Thanks for sharing the cad software’s list