[2019] Top 10 Free and Paid 3D Car Designing Software: Everything You Need to Know

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  1. Alias
    • Operating system: Windows, Mac
    • Price: Subscription-based; ranges depend on type of Alias product: 3-year free trial for students
      Monthly: €399 – €1,421.75
      1 Year: €3,176.25 – €11,349.80
      3 Years: €9,528.75 – €34,049.40
  2. 3Ds Max
    • Operating system: Windows
    • Price: Subscription-based: 3-year free trial for students
      Monthly: €248.05
      1 Year: €1,984.40
      3 Years: €5,357.88
  3. Blender
    • Operating system: Windows, Mac, Linux
    • Price: Free
  4. SOLIDWORKS
    • Operating system: Windows
    • Price: $3,995 per license
      Annual Subscription Service: $1295 per year
  5. Creo Parametric
    • Operating system: Windows
    • Price: Subscription-based: $2,310
  6. AutoCAD
    • Operating system: Windows, Mac
    • Price: Subscription-based:3-year free trial for students
      Monthly: €260.15
      1 Year: €2.075.15
      3 Years: €5,602.90
  7. Inventor
    • Operating system: Windows, Mac
    • Price: Subscription-based:3-year free trial for students
      Monthly: €320.65
      1 Year: €2,553.10
      3 Years: €6,893.37
  8. Caitia
    • Operating system: Windows
    • Price: $99 for Student Version
      Variable pricing, contact vendor
  9. SketchUp
    • Operating system: Windows, Mac
    • Price: $695 per license
  10. Rhino
    • Operating system: Windows
    • Price: $995 for Rhino 6

With the sheer number of CAD programs available out there, it can get overwhelming figuring out which program is best for a particular industry. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be tackling the different programs that would be good for designing and modeling automobiles and automotive parts. Lately, 3D printing has become a bigger part of the car designing process, so we’ll be taking that into account when recommending car designing software.

Currently, there are no programs that advertise themselves as niche car design software, but there are plenty of industry standard CAD software that are great for car design. 

CAD Software for Car Design

3D modeling software is an essential factor in modern car design. Car designing software can help in most additive manufacturing workflows but are also really good for other types of design processes. With CAD software, you could produce initial schematic drawings and even working technical drawings for car concept designs. This is useful if you’re looking to try out different ways to better optimize an automobile. If a complete redesign isn’t what you’re looking for, certain CAD software are also good for designing and prototyping mechanical parts and other automotive parts. You could use the program to redesign engines and mechanical systems, but also to design electronic add-ons to the car as well as interior parts.

If you want to go the extra mile, certain car designing software are good to use for realistic renderings and simulations. You could use these to aid in visualization but also for more technical uses such as testing drag and fuel efficiency. These types of output would be good for clients or pitch meetings.

 The Growing Trend of 3D Printing

3D printing has become such a widespread trend the past few years, industries such as aeronautics and aerospace have taken to applying the technology to their prototype and manufacturing processes. Of course, this includes the automotive industry where 3D printing car parts and prototypes have been slowly becoming the norm. This type of quick, iterative design process is useful in manufacturing processes when it comes to speed and cost-cutting prototyping costs. 

The advantages don’t stop there, though. Prototyping and producing car parts using 3D printing material can actually help in reducing the overall weight of the car. And since it’s so fast and cheap to produce the parts, several iterations can be done for any customization jobs on automobiles. Not to mention because of how innovative the technology has become, improvements and developments on 3D printing technology come out on a regular basis.

What to Look for in Car Designing Software

When choosing software to use for car design, you’ll have to figure out what kind of output you’re looking to produce. Different software are good for different things and there’s no one correct way to design a car, so you’ll also have to figure out how you’ll be designing to choose the right kind of software for you. For example, there are certain CAD programs that are good for creating 3D models of mechanical and industrial parts – this kind of program might be good for prototyping car parts and conducting performance tests. If you want to work on the overall design of the car, you’ll want to use software that has good simulation capabilities. You should also consider how compatible certain software are to 3D printing if you want to take advantage of 3D printing technology.

For more information on car design and manufacturing workflows, here is a useful video on the topic.

Do note, the programs we’ll be recommending aren’t exactly the best for beginners, but for those that know what they’re looking for in car design programs.

Alias

Image Source: Autodesk website

Alias is Autodesk’s premier industrial design and surfacing software. It’s a line of software that’s specifically good for consumer products and car design. The different Alias products are the following:

  • Alias Concept – For quick sketches, concept models, and visualization.
  • Alias Surface – For refining of concept models into Class-A surfaces. Good for consumer products and automotive designs.
  • Alias Design – For 3D product designs.
  • Alias Speedform – For turning 2D sketches into 3D product concepts.
  • Alias AutoStudio – For concept models, design analysis, surfacing, and visualization.
  • Operating system: Windows, Mac
  • Price: Subscription-based; ranges depend on type of Alias product:
    • 3-year free trial for students
    • Monthly: €399 – €1,421.75
    • 1 Year: €3,176.25 – €11,349.80
    • 3 Years: €9,528.75 – €34,049.40
  • Download here

3Ds Max

Image Source: Autodesk website

3ds Max is Autodesk’s main 3D modeling and rendering software. It’s been used by different game development teams for their 3D modeling needs, architectural and design firms for visualization purposes, and to create stunning virtual reality landscapes. As such, this is great for working on car designs and conceptualizations. It can work well for shaping models which is important when designing car bodies. If high-end renderings are what you need, 3ds Max is the industry standard.

  • Operating system: Windows
  • Price: Subscription-based:
    • 3-year free trial for students
    • Monthly: €248.05
    • 1 Year: €1,984.40
    • 3 Years: €5,357.88
  • Download here

Blender

Blender is a free, open source 3D creation software suite. It can handle modeling, animation, simulation, rendering, and many other useful workflows for car design. As one of the bigger names in the open source 3D modeling industry, the community is active and prolific when it comes to producing useful tutorials and guides for beginners.

  • Operating system: Windows, Mac, Linux
  • Price: Free

SOLIDWORKS

Image Source: DailyCADCam website

SolidWorks is a big-name in the mechanical engineering community since it’s a 3D modeling software that’s made for modeling, rendering, and simulating complex machine systems. It’s a useful tool for automotive engineers and designers who aim to create accurate conceptual car models. The interface of this software is also highly intuitive and can easily be used to create mechanical car parts.

  •   Operating system: Windows
  • Price:
    • $3,995 per license
    • Annual Subscription Service: $1295 per year
  • Purchase here

Creo Parametric

Image Source: PTC website

Creo Parametric is good for 3D modeling, specifically with industrial design works. It’s a great program for automotive designers and engineers since it can handle technical surfacing, model assemblies, and 2D and 3D drafting and modeling. It also has one of the most intuitive interfaces in the market.

  • Operating system: Windows
  • Price: Subscription-based: $2,310
  • Purchase here

AutoCAD

Image Source: Wikia.com

AutoCAD is Autodesk’s main modeling software for 2D and 3D CAD-work. It’s great for 2D and 3D technical drawings and is used in the automotive, architectural, and engineering industries. This is a good program for CAD beginners but is also used by veterans and novices alike.

  • Operating system: Windows, Mac
  • Price: Subscription-based:
    • 3-year free trial for students
    • Monthly: €260.15
    • 1 Year: €2.075.15
    • 3 Years: €5,602.90
  • Download here

Inventor

Image Source: LogoLynx

Another Autodesk product on this list, Inventor specializes in mechanical designs. It can handle 3D modeling, mechanical design documentation, and product simulation.

  • Operating system: Windows, Mac
  • Price: Subscription-based:
    • 3-year free trial for students
    • Monthly: €320.65
    • 1 Year: €2,553.10
    • 3 Years: €6,893.37
  • Download here

Catia

Image Source: Wikipedia

Made by Dassault Systems, the same company responsible for 3ds Max, Catia is a software that specializes in product models. It’s especially prolifically used in the aeronautics and aerospace sectors. It’s great for mechanical engineering and for modeling automotive parts.

  • Operating system: Windows
  • Price:
    • $99 for Student Version
    • Variable pricing, contact vendor
  • Purchase here

SketchUp

Image Source: Sketchup 3D Warehouse

Trimble’s Sketchup just might be the most user and beginner friendly modeling software out there. It’s typically used for architectural and engineering purposes but can be used for automotive design just as easily.It has a highly intuitive interface and is great for simple car modeling workflows.

Do note that this program was designed to cater to a wider audience. As such, this might prove to be a little bit too basic for most seasoned 3D modeling professionals. However, with a good set of plug-ins you can really access the full potential of this software. All you really have to do is to get used to using the program and you’ll quickly find it to be a very useful car designing tool. Not to mention, this works great with 3D printing workflows.

  • Operating system: Windows, Mac
  • Price: $695 per license

Rhino

Image Source: Rhino website

Rhino is most commonly used by 3D designers as well as engineers in need of a reliable 3D modeling software. It’s used in the fashion and architecture industries but can also be utilized for car designs and automotive engineering. It specializes in high quality models and parametric design. Like Sketchup, this software works amazingly well with 3D printing workflows.

Additive design workflows and CAD software that cater to that type of design process are standard for automotive design. The listed softwares are all great for car design, but you’ll have to figure out what works best for you. Hopefully, this article has helped a little bit.