Autodesk license costs options 1 & 2 – stay on maintenance, subscription now

Autodesk license costs options 1 & 2 – stay on maintenance, subscription now

Note: due to new information from Autodesk, an updated summary has been posted.

In this series of posts, I’ll examine various payment options for CAD software and compare them with the cost of staying on your Autodesk maintenance contract long-term. Once I’ve gone through all the options, I’ll do a summary post that compares everything, but there are so many variables that a single post that covers all the options in adequate detail would be very long and complex.

First, I need to describe what I’m using as the basis of my comparison. Prior to Autodesk’s recent announcement, the annual maintenence cost to keep one copy of AutoCAD up to date was US$540 and the equivalent subscription (rental) cost was US$1680. I’ll call this the 2016 cost.

Autodesk has announced that maintenance costs will rise by 5% in 2017, 10% in 2018 and 20% in 2019. The rises are compound, so the actual rises from the 2016 cost are 5%, 15.5% and 38.6%.

No announcements have been made regarding the cost of maintenance from 2020 onwards, but it’s safe to say that Autodesk won’t be making life easy for its maintenance customers. In order to compare costs beyond the short term, an assumption must be made about future maintenance price rises. I’ve made the assumption that these will be 20% a year, compound. That may be generous to Autodesk, but time will tell.

It would be remiss of me to mention an even lower baseline that could be used:

Option 0 – drop maintenance, keep using AutoCAD
Pros: zero costs, keep your perpetual license
Cons: don’t keep up to date, previous version & home use rights, reduced support

3 year cost $0 (average $0)
5 year cost $0 (average $0)
10 year cost $0 (average $0)

For some of you, that option will seem suddenly quite attractive. If it works for you, go ahead and you may as well stop reading now.

Others will want or need to keep their software up to date. Option 1 below is what I am using as my baseline for comparison. Assuming you’re a perpetual license holder who has been paying annual maintenance, just keep doing what you have been doing, as long as you can.

Option 1 – stay on maintenance
Assumptions: maintenance cost 20% compound rise annually from 2020
Pros: keep your perpetual license, keep it up to date, retain previous version & home use rights
Cons: increasing costs, expect more unpleasant “persuasive” surprises from Autodesk

3 year cost $1957 (average $652)
5 year cost $3951 (average $790)
10 year cost $13665 (average $1366)

There’s always the possibility that Autodesk could get really nasty and bump up maintenance costs even more, say 30% a year from 2020. That looks like this:

Option 1a – stay on maintenance (30%)
Assumptions: 30% compound rise annually from 2020
Pros: keep your perpetual license, keep it up to date, retain previous version & home use rights
Cons: increasing costs, expect more unpleasant “persuasive” surprises from Autodesk

3 year cost $1957 (average $652)
5 year cost $4216 (average $843)
10 year cost $19223 (average $1922)

A curious aspect of Autodesk’s announcement is that the offer associated with switching from maintenance to subscription doesn’t kick in until June. If your renewal date falls between now and then, and assuming no other special offers apply, the cost is huge. I’ve had to make assumptions here too. Again, being generous to Autodesk, I’ve assumed there will be no subscription price rises until 2020, at which point Autodesk will start bumping things up 10% a year. Here’s how that pans out.

Option 2 – subscription now
Assumptions: 10% compound rise annually from 2020
Pros: keep it up to date, retain previous version & home use rights
Cons: lose your perpetual license, ridiculously high costs

3 year cost $5040 (average $1680)
5 year cost $8921 (average $1784)
10 year cost $22572 (average $2257)

At this stage, it’s easy to dismiss option 2. You would need rocks in your head to switch to subscription right now before the special offer kicks in. The options that will be available from June will be examined in the next post.

There are a number of ways these options can be compared graphically. For example, here’s a bar chart showing the cost incurred in each year:

Here’s a line graph showing the same thing. I think this is clearer.

Although this graph is useful in showing what budget you would need each year in each scenario, it’s not ideal when comparing the total expenditure. Here’s a line graph of the cumulative total expenditure for each of the options:

However, the graph type I find most useful in comparing options shows the average annual cost for each option, and how that average cost varies over time.

With this format, you can do a direct comparison between options at any point in time. You can say, “Option A has the lowest cost per year for the first 6 years, then option B gets cheaper. If we’re going to be using the software for 6 years or longer, we should choose option B.” I’m going to be using this graph format from now on.

Posts in this series:
1. Autodesk license costs options 1 & 2 – stay on maintenance, subscription now
2. Autodesk license costs options 3, 4 & 5 – bait and switch
3. Autodesk license costs options 6 to 10 – abandon maintenance or Autodesk
4. Autodesk license costs options – summary
5. Autodesk license costs options – summary 2


  1. ralphg

    I wanted to note a flaw in your otherwise useful math: Autodesk has stated that it wants all maintenance people onto subscriptions in 3 years. This is perhaps why they don’t list cost increases after the three years.

  2. Steve, I think you missed an obvious option which is to drop maintenance sub for say 3 years, and then get back on rental so you don’t get too far behind on versions. That is likely what most cad managers will look at, not get off forever. The question there is when that approach will break even with staying on maint sub, and that would surely be a 6 year analysis or so and we don’t know the maint pricing past 3 years. I agree with your 25% or so number raise after 3 years. So maybe assume 6 years from now maint will equal rental (which may also go up or down), and look at that. If oil companies played with prices like this, it would be world war III.

  3. ralphg

    According to , the post 3-year price increase will be 60% for maintenance customers , and then prices will just keep going up to generate ever greater revenues. Here’s the money quote:

    Amarpreet Hanspal: So there’s a different price for each year, when that three-year lock in expires that customer immediately goes up to the terminal loyalty price a little over – roughly 60% more in their maintenance price, and then they’re kind of subject to ongoing price increases that will affect with our long-term pricing strategy.

  4. Herald000
    Full text here…

    When Business Greed and Arrogance Combine.

    “Smaller accounts, they’ll absorb the 5%. They might even absorb the 10%, but as they start looking out to the 20% they’re OBVIOUSLY* going to move. So you’re going to see a chunk that moves in the first year representing a certain size of customer then you’re going to see the next chunk that’s going to move in the next year and then the people who are really, really attached to their perpetual license, which we don’t think is going to be a lot of people will move later in the program. But you can see there’s absolutely a cumulative effect to this and not only a cumulative effect from people moving, but remember the discount to move drops 5% every year as well.”

    NO… hell no, “dear” mr. Amarpreet Hanspal.

    FREEDOM is priceless.

    I WILL NEVER TRADE MY PERMANENT LICENSE AND WILL NEVER become a slave of AD. In 2020 I will stop paying and I will stick with the last release.

  5. Griffin

    Dropping by from CGTalk to count pitchforks and torches.
    How many releases back could you go on the ACAD side before you had an impact on your own (not considering consultant interop) day to day productivity? For us in Arch Viz on Max we could go back to 2011 because of plugin compatibility. Without that limitation, the first 64-bit version Max 9 (2006) would probably still work.

      1. Griffin

        Autodesk changes the SDK every other release so in Max land it gets kind of tricky. You absolutely can not get any serious work out of Max without plugins (which drives the cost up way over the soon to be ridiculous rates). If a developer, who also is rental only, decides that there aren’t enough users to compile for an old version then you’re out of luck.

        A lot of Max users forget that Max is a throw in with the SuitesCollections and that there are a lot of Max “users” that probably never even touch it.

  6. Interesting, I have a Design Suite I pay maintenance on just to keep alive. It started out as AutoCAD LT long and many upgrade offers ago. Will now probably let it die an resubscribe if I ever need again. Net result, less income for Autodesk.

  7. Thinking today about costs and how does Autodesk get us into this brave new world. I wonder with their history of translation problems if they might just tinker with translators to make it impossible for the new to communicate with the old. They can force a certain number of subs to happen this way. The industry as a whole is suspected of doing this at times and I would think Autodesk is looking at every sneaky underhanded thing they can come up with right now. Especially since their declared allegiance is to investment barracudas and not us.

  8. cadtag

    Well, making lots of effective translators, and only making them available through a software rental account, would be an strategy to push people in that direction. I can see someone making their own little business doing translation services using their account and servicing their own little groups of clients.

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