How Much Does a CNC Machine Cost?

Mar. 14, 2022

Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional machinist, CNC machines are just plain cool. This is my guide on what to expect when you’re wanting a shiny new machine.


How much does a CNC machine cost?



Hobbyist-grade CNC router$1k-3k
Professional CNC router$5k-100k
Entry-level (or toolroom) 3-axis vertical machining center$60k-100k
Production 3-axis vertical machining center$150k-300k
Entry-level 5-axis mill$200k-500k
Production 5-axis mill$500k+
Entry-level (or toolroom) 2-axis lathe

$30k-60k

Production 2-axis lathe$60k-250k
Multi-axis multi-spindle multi-turret vicious beast of a lathe with robot

$500k+



Ok, so those are obviously rough guidelines. There are a ton of factors that go into coming up with a finalprice.

Most CNC dealers are pretty open to negotiation, and you can end up spending a lot on the options. In this post, I’ll give some examples of machines that might fit your needs, what to expect for hidden costs, and give you some tips on how to keep your expenses down.


Factors that Determine Machine Price

As you probably noticed, those ranges were pretty massive. Here are some of the factors that will influence where you’ll fall within that price range.

  • Size of the machine (most commonly measured in X/Y/Z travel)

  • Weight of the machine (heavier frame = more rigid machine)

  • Speed (RPM, max rapid mode travels, tool change times)

  • Power (size of the servo motors, spindle torque)

  • Country of manufacture (Korea, China, Taiwan vs Japan, Germany)

  • Options (coolant pressure, automatic tool changer, tool/part probing, chip conveyor, pallet pool, robotic part loader, bar feeder, etc)

  • Machine configuration (3 axis mill or 2 axis lathe vs 5 axis mill or 9 axis lathe)

Out of all of those factors, size of the machine, configuration, options, and where it’s made will generally make the most difference to the bottom line.


Hobbyist Machines

At the lowest end of the price spectrum, there’s the hobbyist machines. By far the most common type is the CNC router, which is usually used for things like cutting panels or random whatsitmadoits our of plastic, wood, and nonferrous metals.

If you’re just looking for something to play around with in your basement and don’t want to spend any noticeable kind of money, you can get stupidly cheap miniature CNC routers on Amazon that are pretty much only capable of engraving and other really light-duty projects (here’s an example). Generally the instructions require deciphering, but if you’re just looking for a toy, then these can be fun.


Entry Level CNC Machines

Ok, so let’s say that you’re wanting to do more than tinker in your basement. Entry level CNC machines can do a pretty good job of handling the stuff you’d expect a machine shop to handle. They’re also great for making custom tooling if you’re interested in really pushing your R+D.


Production Machines

This is where things get pricey fast. A production machine is a CNC that is working to shave every second off the cycle time. They’re designed to run 24/7 and be pushed to their max.

If you’re thinking of stepping into this arena, you’d better come prepared. You’re best off spending some time with CNC machinists that will understand your needs. You can also visit some manufacturing trade shows to see what’s offered.

At any rate, make sure that you get in touch with several different CNC dealers and carefully review what’s being offered before making your decision. Don’t rush it. Besides, the longer you take, the more likely they’ll start lowering their prices to close the sale.


Unexpected Costs of CNC Machines

There is waaaay more to the cost of CNC machines than the actual price of the machines. Here are some of the other things to budget for:

  • Tool holders (collets, end mill holders, drill chucks…)

  • Cutting tools (end mills, drills, etc…)

  • Work holding (clamps, vises, etc)

  • Programming software (can be a few hundred a year for a subscription, or a one-time cost of tens of thousands along with annual maintenance fees of a few thousand, or anywhere in between)

  • Measuring tools (calipers, micrometers, surface tables and height gages, etc.

The prices on these will vary wildly based on what you’re needing to do. A common saying is that if you’re wanting to budget for a CNC, then double it to include the tooling. I haven’t always found that to be true, but it does give you an idea of what you might end up with.

If you’re buying an entry or production level machine, here’s what I’d really recommend that you try and do: Get the salesman to throw in some tools.

Usually the machine retailer will also be a distributor for all the tooling as well. To help close a sale, you can generally get them to throw in at least a bit of tooling to help you get started.


Buying Used CNC Equipment

This really deserves to be an article on its own, but there’s a few points worth making.

You can get used CNC equipment significantly cheaper used than new, but you really need to be careful. If a machine has been crashed hard, there might not be a practical way of getting the machine back into its original condition.

Also, production machines often have a life of around 10-15 years, depending on what they’re making and how hard they’re being pushed. Older machines that have been worked hard really can’t keep up with the new machines.

When it comes to determining the condition of a machine, aside from crashes there is one thing that is most important: how well preventative maintenance was done. If you’re buying used, ask to see their preventative maintenance records.

At the end of the day, try and get a good explanation as to why the machine is for sale. If the shop is going out of business, then you might be ok. If it was for a particular job that they no longer have, same deal. If they give you a non-straightforward answer, trust your spidey senses.


As a seasoned and specialist machine shop focused on CNC manufacturing for several years, XYT can provide precision 5 axis CNC machining services and 5 axis milling.


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