AutoCAD vs SolidWorks: Which One Should You Use for Mechanical Design?


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If you are a designer, it is pretty obvious for you to listen to arguments on AutoCAD vs SolidWorks. It is one of the most common topics in the life of a designer for at least the past couple of decades. Now, getting to the serious point, which one is REALLY better?

As a designer, AutoCAD and SolidWorks both enable you to create perfect, realistic designs. If you really know how to use the tools, you can surely get the most efficient design output from them. But both of the software have their own fields of perfection. Generally, we use SolidWorks for creating 3D models. On the other hand, AutoCAD’s field of specialization is its 2D modeling ability. Though, it is not likely that you can’t do 3D modelling with AutoCAD or 2D ones with SolidWorks.  But outside their “comfort zone”, both the software has their own problems and limitations. 

AutoCad vs Solidworks

Still, if you are told to pick one from the two software, it’ll be quite a tough decision to make. So, to make a better and less confusing decision, you should do an elaborate study on both the software. So, without delaying, let’s attempt to know a bit more about this two designing software.


AutoCAD is possibly the first-ever CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) software first released almost four decades ago. Since the starting of its journey in the year of 1982, AutoCAD has been the place of dependence and reliability for the 2D designers. Though the AutoCAD Vs SolidWorks argument sometimes results in favor of SolidWorks, still a designer can never ignore the service AutoCAD has been giving for decades. 

Focusing on the main point, firstly, let’s get informed about the features and usage of AutoCAD. 



The features are the basic advantages of AutoCAD software. The main feature which has brought AutoCAD this far is its variety of tools for enormous and accurate 2D designs. When it comes to 2D drafting, AutoCAD can surely seal the “AutoCAD vs SolidWorks” argument with its amazing tool library. Besides, files from other software are also compatible with AutoCAD. This is one very crucial point for the busiest and clumsiest engineers and designers. Again, AutoCAD also provides you with a user language library.



Mainly the engineers are the core users of AutoCAD for 2D drafting. To be precise, electrical engineers, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, and architects are the ones who can fetch the most out of the software. There are special tools and features for each of the above sectors of engineering and designing. Not only the engineers but also the graphic designers also use AutoCAD for creating logos and other types of designs. 

Operating System Compatibility

It is an advantage of AutoCAD to win the “AutoCAD vs SolidWorks” battle. Yes, AutoCAD is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems.

So, these were the basic things about AutoCAD software. Now, let’s move to the ones of the mighty SolidWorks.


The introduction of SolidWorks is totally unnecessary to the engineers and 3D designers. SolidWorks is probably the most vigorous beast in the world of 3D modelling software. 

The journey of SolidWorks is much shorter than AutoCAD. SolidWorks started its journey 13 years later after AutoCAD started theirs, in 1995. In 1997, Dassault Systèmes bought the software and started developing it. In continuation to this, in 2001, along with 3D modelling, for the first time, the simulation feature was introduced into SolidWorks in laptops. And, this simulation feature has been the most special and unique signature of SolidWorks for 20 long years!

As we have said previously, SolidWorks is basically a 3D modelling software. But the interesting part is, when you start a design, you’ll have to start with a 2D drawing. Gradually, you’ll develop the drawings into 3D models. Naturally, the 2D drawing of SolidWorks is not as good as AutoCAD. So, this is a minus point for SolidWorks in the “AutoCAD vs SolidWorks” debate. 

Now, let’s try a SolidWorks review based on its features and usage, and then we’ll head to the head-to-head comparison!




We already know that the most fascinating feature of SolidWorks is its finest simulation feature. For a more elaborate expression, we can say that, after creating a huge and sophisticated design, you can run it virtually through the simulation. This will let you test how good or accurate the model you’ve designed will work while its real-time application.

Besides, there are plenty of things you can do with SolidWorks. You can design 3D solid models and 2D drawings. The Software allows you to create mold designs. You can bring your conceptual designs into life by using SolidWorks. You can also create separated and small parts of a complex model and then assemble all the parts together. There are options to check the automation of the design. Moreover, if there is any kind of interference during the automation, you can simply erase the interference part. And, once you start exploring the vast amount of tools and options used in the software, you’ll surely find more and more features by yourself!


As SolidWorks is mainly a 3D mechanical design software, undoubtedly, it is mostly used by engineers (as they need the best ones for flawless designs). Engineers create models of machines, have a test run of them virtually through the simulations to see whether the machine will really work or not. It also helps them choose the best materials to build the whole design. 

Among the types of engineers who use SolidWorks, there are mechanical engineers, aerospace engineers, and so on. There are also companies creating medical devices that use SolidWorks for a perfect virtual test run. SolidWorks also has frequent usage in the mining industries. 


Operating System Compatibility


The “AutoCAD vs SolidWorks” debate has shown many negative points of SolidWorks. Here is one more. Yes, SolidWorks can only work in the Windows operating systems. There are some special laptops for SolidWorks. So, it is not the mechanical design software for mac and other operating systems.


These were all about SolidWorks. It seems like AutoCAD is going to win the “AutoCAD vs SolidWorks” battle easily with so many pros. Well, before going to a final verdict, let’s try to get the difference between AutoCAD and SolidWorks through a head-to-head comparison!


Head-to-head comparison 


  1. Firstly, To talk about 2D designing, AutoCAD is the boss of this category. Though SolidWorks has the ability to design on a 2D platform, the software is not specially made for this. There are just too many tools and options in SolidWorks, most of which are totally unnecessary for 2D drawing and designing. 


Undoubtedly, AutoCAD wins this particular comparison!


2.Secondly, let’s have an argument on AutoCAD vs SolidWorks for 3D printing. We will specially talk about the tools and the user interface in this category.  


Well, from the above discussion, it is clear to us that we can use AutoCAD 3D modelling also. For both 2D and 3D designing, there is a huge amount of tools installed in the software. It is pretty easy to lose yourself in this vast ocean of tools. But, to prevent you from losing yourself, you’ll have the option of keyboard shortcuts. If you use the shortcuts, you don’t have to search for a particular tool with your mouse. 


On the other hand, SolidWorks also have plenty of tools. But the tools are specialized ones that perfectly meet your needs while 3D modelling than the tools of AutoCAD. So, in the second category of head-to-head comparison, SolidWorks is a winner. 


  1. Thirdly, there is another platform for comparison between the two softwares based on the types of outputs of the final product. 


Despite being especially a 2D mechanical design software, AutoCAD can provide you with an STL, which is a 3D printing file. It can gather the small parts of a huge machine, but it doesn’t have any special function for perfectly doing that. AutoCAD allows you to have a printed version of the design. But, it doesn’t have the option of simulation for demonstrating the final product virtually.  


SolidWorks can provide you with the best version of a 3D printing file or STL. We’ve discussed previously about SolidWorks assembling all the small machinery parts to create a sophisticated machine. There are the Mate functions for accurately doing this task and creating the best fit between the small parts. Again, if you need a precise printed drawing output of the design, you have the “explode line” tool in SolidWorks. And lastly, you can test your final product by running them through simulations of fluid dynamics, effects of the environment, and so on. 


Thus, SolidWorks wins this category, too!


  1. Coming to the price, both the software offer you a 30-day trial version. After that, you have to buy the software. 


AutoCAD’s standard version needs a payment of 1600 dollars per year. Though, if you are a student,  you are allowed to have a student version. And the best thing is that the student version of AutoCAD costs nothing. Information that should be mentioned here is, the student version lacks some functions of the standard version. 

The standard version of SolidWorks takes 1295 dollars every year. Besides, you also have to buy the license for 3995 dollars. So, for the standard version, you’ll have to spend 5290 dollars for the first year. Being a student, you can try out the student edition with fewer functionalities for $150 every year. There are also the professional and premium versions of the software which respectively come for $6985 and $9990 including the license price for the first year. 

In this category, it is a bit hard to determine a winner. Of course, SolidWorks has a higher price. But, the price is worth the functionalities. The same goes for AutoCAD. So, in this category, It’s a tie!


Final Verdict


From the “AutoCAD vs SolidWorks” head-to-head comparison, we can see that AutoCAD is the winner of only one category, where SolidWorks wins two of them. With one category tied, SolidWorks can be titled as the best mechanical design software. But is it absolutely justified to call SolidWorks a winner?

Well, two of the softwares do two types of designing. SolidWorks has the ability to create the best 3D designs where AutoCAD creates the best 2D ones. Yes, SolidWorks holds the simulation option as one of its trump cards. But, AutoCAD doesn’t REALLY need a simulation option for testing the 2D designs. 

As the two software are from two totally different platforms, we can’t just announce one as the winner, right?

So, as a full-stop on the “AutoCAD vs SolidWorks” argument, we can say that both are the best in their respective fields.


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