For as long as I can remember, AutoCAD has been the standard for computer drafting programs in the professions of Architecture and Engineering. Chances are if you own an Architecture firm, you have to buy Autocad. There are a few other programs out there, but none of them have the universal acceptance of AutoCAD in the industry.
Since I own an Architecture firm as well as many licensed copies of AutoCAD, I can tell you that it is not cheap. A fully functioning version of AutoCAD will cost you between $4-5K. They have a lighter version called AutoCAD LT that will cost you about 1/3 of the full price, but has less features. Now I don't know if that sounds expensive to you, but I can tell you that $5k per seat is really hard to justify, especially if you are starting out. Here are some things you should know about AutoCAD if you are thinking of buying a copy anytime soon:
1- You have to buy AutoCAD through an authorized reseller. This is so that they can control the price and prevent discounting. You can't buy it on Amazon. You can't buy it on EBAY. In fact, if EBAY catches you trying to sell a legal copy of AutoCAD, they will take down your listing as fast as they can find it. I don't know if AutoCAD has a government lobbying group but they protect the sale of that product like no other piece of software I've seen.
2- Once you buy from a reseller, they will never leave you alone. I think it's part of the contract they sign, but I literally had a reseller calling me weekly about upgrading my package to the new version before the new version was even out. Which leads me to my next point.
3- There's always a new version of AutoCAD that makes your old version useless. One of the things that I can't stand is that they keep enhancing the file extension on your drawing files, so that if an engineer saves something on AutoCAD 2014 and you have Autocad 2011 you won't be able to open it. At least make a converter or something! This is how they get you to keep upgrading.
4- Your AutoCAD depreciates faster than a new car. If you purchased AutoCAD 2011 three years ago, it is currently worth about 30% of what you paid for it. So imagine you paid $4K for a piece of software and when you go to upgrade to the new version and they charge you another $4K. This is because the new versions get more expensive and they devalue the older one. Again, thanks.
5- The real reason AutoCAD is so expensive----drumroll please---to offset the cost of all the pirated copies. I actually had a software sales person tell me that Autocad would be cheaper if people didn't steal it. So basically everyone who buys AutoCAD and does the right thing is paying the price for those who take it for free? Sounds like health insurance.
So what does all this mean? It means that as soon as a company writes a decent drafting program and makes it affordable then people will leave Autodesk faster than a speeding bullet. It's only a matter of time unless Autodesk gets human and starts treating its customers with some respect. After all, a copy of Photoshop is around $700. A copy of Office is half of that. There's no reason that AutoCAD should be $5K. Unless it comes with free health insurance. Now that's a concept I can get behind...