Since its inception, CAD (computer-aided design) software has improved the lives of engineers, manufacturers, designers and architects — to name just a few — the world over. Replacing manual drafting, CAD lets users create detailed and precise renderings of parts and components with ease, all without having to manually input design details.

As such, the software has throughout the years grown and matured, developing into countless sophisticated iterations of the original software, featuring more and more options. Likewise, several different versions of CAD exist for any number of industries including manufacturing, architecture and construction.

While the technology is well worth its cost in terms of how it eases the design process, it can be expensive to purchase, especially for fledgling startup companies. Regardless of the version, the software is expensive to develop and therefore expensive to own.

With the initial cost for the software ranging anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000, depending on the software’s features and capabilities, purchasers need to plan for additional, hidden costs well after that initial purchase price is paid.


Training employees on CAD can be costly, especially if more than a handful of employees needs training. The purchase price of most CAD software doesn’t include training sessions, which often becomes a separate expense outside of the initial software purchase. Training can also result in the untold cost of lost productivity. Hours that could be spent on completing actual work will instead be devoted to learning the system. Though likely to improve costs over time, the initial cost of lost productivity can be daunting.

Software Updates

One of the most significant hidden costs of CAD software is the endless stream of software updates. In order to access any of the latest features and tools, as well the latest in software capability, software updates should be current. However, this is often an expense apart from the initial price tag of the software. Updates are generally necessary for maintenance to fix bugs and improve software performance, making it an expensive but necessary hassle.

In addition, without the costly updates software could be vulnerable to viruses and other dangers that threaten to destroy systems and machines — an expense that could multiply when accounting for the lost productivity that results from damaged machines.


Sometimes, as a consequence of a software update, a computer hardware upgrade may also be necessary to support the new processing powers of the updated software. Typically, hardware upgrades can be expensive and in a worst-case scenario require an entirely new machine in order to perform as necessary.

What To Do

Larger companies and firms might have little trouble keeping up with the hidden cost of CAD. Yet, for a brand-new startup just finding its way, CAD can be an unexpectedly costly expenditure, which, although necessary to the company’s success, might be abandoned, at least until the startup begins bringing in money.

What can a startup do to access the software without experiencing the hidden and endless stream of costs?

Recognizing that the software can be too expensive, particularly for small startups to afford, some makers of CAD software are eliminating the expensive, upfront cost for the software by instead offering monthly software subscription plans where a flat monthly rate will cover the cost of the software as well as any likely updates and necessary maintenance.

Also changing is the how the software is used. Many companies offer free software that can be viewed on mobile devices to stay competitive.

Another solution to expensive CAD options is to consider how long the software would be needed by the company. If only necessary for short bursts of time, perhaps consider a rental licensing scheme that is pay-as-you-go until a project is completed and getting rid of it as soon as the company no longer needs it.


Deans Community High School—CAD: Advantages and Disadvantages

Graphic Communication Advantages/Disadvantages of CAD (Computer Aided Design)

PTC—Too Lean to Learn and Other Reasons People Avoid New CAD Software

Quora—What are the advantages and disadvantages of using CAD systems to create engineering drawings?

Techwalla—The Disadvantages of Computer Aided Manufacturing

To contact the author of this article, email