PLC price comparison?


Thread Starter


Does anyone have a price comparison between major PLC and RTU manufacturers ? Maybe someone knows an URL with those infos ?
Best regards,

James Ingraham

The short answer is no. This partly because the manufacturers don't like such things to be available, and partly because while list prices are attainable the list prices are completely meaningless. No one has ever paid list price for a PLC in the history of man. Multipliers can be semi-reasonable (say, .80) to down-right ridiculus (0.35).

Having said that, Siemens publishes their list prices in many of their manuals. Rockwell Automation publishes a Master Price List for control and information products (publication CIG-3.0, but I don't think it's available for download). I've never seen list price data on Modicon parts, but I don't work with them much. has prices on their website and in their catalog.

I don't who else counts as "major."

A lot of these comparisons are apples to oranges. You can't compare the pricing of an A-B picoLogix to a Modicon Quantum to a Siemens S7-200. Plus, all the data changes rapidly.

I would be very surprised to see that someone had done the legwork you're talking about.

-James Ingraham
Sage Automation, Inc.
Most vendors will run out a chart that shows how much less their stuff costs. The real question in determining a controller though, should not be
a price based decision. If you get a $500 processor that takes 200 hours to get it to do what you want, when you could have spent $1000 to get a processor that would be setup and programmed in 100 hours, which is the better deal?

Determine what features you need first, then compare the prices on the processors that meet that need. It will also save you from looking at
systems that are either completely inadequate, or far beyond the scope of your prlject.

As far as a real price comparison, I don't think you will find an unbiased one out there....

--Joe Jansen

Steve Myres, PE

I think you'll find "": has about the lowest prices, so if hardware cost is a strong driver for you, and they have equipment that will serve your needs, you probably don't need to do a comparison. I work with many different brands of hardware and find that they all (AutomationDirect included) have strong points that become important for different jobs, and can more than pay for the cost difference. Don't expect the cost savings to be what you read in their ads, though, because they're comparing their list prices (at which they actually sell) with other manufacturers' list prices (which may be deeply discounted).

Hakan Ozevin

At the retain level, equivalent PLC systems have similar prices, +-10%. This is not a coincidence, minor PLC producers (with some
exceptions) follow the majors by 5-10% lower prices. The majors have *believe it or not* gentlemen agreement to keep the prices at a certain level.
If you are talking about bulk quantities or big projects, the prices are dicreasing enormously, but you have to bargain with each PLC
company to get the "real" price.

Bob Peterson

Price comparisons are very difficult. Manufacturers have a list price that is rarely paid by anyone. Then there is a series of multipliers given to certain customers. The multiplier is frequently different for different
products, and there are even quantity discounts available - ask AB what kind of discount they will give you if you buy I/O cards by the skid load :).

There are also cases where a manufacturer really wants the business and will give you one heck of a deal, or maybe they will give you something else, like free programming software, to entice you. Sometimes they will meet a competitors price, although this is not all that common anymore.

BTW - they generally don't talk about, or even admit, the really good deals, unless they have already identified you as someone they want to deal with.

Bob Peterson
I'm from Singapore (Asia) working in Automation Line for >15 years. After reading some of the replies, it's interesting that the brands you have here (in N. America?) is somewhat different in Asia. Anyone care to provide some?

I used to compare prices of PLCs that can fulfill the project's requirements. So different brand fits into different projects. Some brands are cheaper for lower end projects, some brands are cheaper for it's higher end PLCs.
And it's true that prices kept changing; especially when some lower their prices to break into the market.

Dixon Neo
one thing i would like to highlight are the intangible advantages and savings that might occur when a certain controller is used.

Do not just compare only the hardware pricing. There are others that is also very important, e.g. easy programming, single tool concept, faster time to market, easy maintainence...etc These points are often overlook because it is very difficult to justify to the asian management.

I spent many hours compiling PLC pricing and feature information of the big PLC manufacturers, and posted it at I hope it helps.

James Ingraham

@DustinS: I find your info very interesting. Some of it doesn't quite add up with my own experience; I expect this is at least partly due to manufacturer's having wildly different pricing schemes based on who they're talking to. Thanks for the info.

-James Ingraham
Sage Automation, Inc.
I don't know enough about some of the features and pricing of all the brands mentioned but you have missed the boat almost entirely on the AB stuff.

The thing is that each family of processors has different levels of features and different pricing. There are micrologix units (1100 and 1400) that have built in Ethernet for one thing.

And some of the compactlogix units don't have built in Ethernet as your chart seems to show.

You have also misstated the cost of the programming software for the low end processors. IIRC, there is a package available for the micrologix units that is less than $500.

As for advanced features, all of the micrologix units have built in PID. adding a ramp function is almost trivial, so I don't consider having that function something that has to be programed to be all that important. In fact in many ways, it is actually easier to create the ramping function yourself than to use the built in ramp function that is included in some processors.

I am not sure what your definition of motor control includes. It is so vague as to be meaningless. Some of the low end processors have native support for steppers built in. As far as I know, none of them include any built in support for servos. You have to either buy a card or an external piece (usually both) for that in all cases. I am not all that impressed with having motion control integrated into PLCs. IMO, it is quite adequate to have good communications capability and let an actual motion controller handle the motion. Not saying there is anything wrong with the PLC solutions, they also work pretty well for the most part. just that depending on what you actually need to do, it is far more important to be able to communicate with an outside device than it is to be able to do it in the PLC itself.

It might be a noble effort, but there is such wide divergence in features and pricing that I think the simplistic approach you have taken just muddies the waters.

As another person mentioned, most of the manufacturers have a wide range of pricing plans. I am not in a position to discuss the specifics of them, but the name brand controllers are no where near as crazily priced as your chart might suggest. It is not unusual for the total system price of a name brand controller to be not far off from what a generic controller ends up costing.

Incidentally, Siemens now has free programming software available for the S7 line. there are some limitations, but for most generic standalone applications it will probably work OK. I have heard AB is going to do the same thing for some of their line as well.

I don't know where you got the pricing for the Siemens S7-200 line, but it far exceeds (by maybe 5X) what we paid for it. Its pretty much obsolete anyway, being replaced by the 1200 line.

That is a very interesting set of data. Something that you might wish to consider adding is communications options (including protocols) as that is one of the big distinguishing features between PLCs.
In reply to Bob Peterson: I can't speak for "DustinS", but he does explain how he calculated the prices. It's a price for a complete system, not just a CPU. He even provides reference links to show you where he got his prices. And if some vendors want to play games with opaque pricing, well then they can't really complain if people compare their list prices.

As for some Rockwell CPUs having Ethernet, well that's why he called it optional. If it's not in the model that met the criteria for inclusion in the system comparison (see the above paragraph), then it's optional, isn't it?

Personally, I think it's a great web site. I haven't check everything, but for the items that I did look at, it appears to be very well researched and he provides original references for everything. This looks like it took a lot of work to put together and we frequently get questions here that can be answered by looking at this web site.
Hey guys, Thanks for the responses.

James, Pricing was one of the most difficult parts of this project. As with all aspects of the site I try to provide sources for my data (just click on the prices inside the individual product's page). The rule I decided on was, I would provide the best price I could source to an online distributor, and I only used manufacturers price lists when they were the best prices available. The Internets awesome, and with work I was able to find what appear to be reputable distributors of each product line listed. That said, if you run across a better deal than I list, give me a heads up, I'd love to replace my number. The only rules are the product must be new, in original packaging, and available for sale online.

Bob, thanks for the input. I made the correction to the Compactlogix line's Ethernet feature that you pointed out. As M Griffin pointed out, I think the MicroLogix Ethernet merit is correct.
The programming cost for Micrologix software that you reference I believe is for the Starter Edition. You'll find the site mentions that many editions exist for this product, I gave pricing for single user Standard Edition as my base line. I think this is fair and is what I tried to do for all software lines.

I'm not sure what you talking about regarding 'advanced features' and ramp functions. I don't think I list either of these features on my grids, buy maybe you could restate your concern and I'll better understand.

Motor control, Yep I state in the "Chart Key Explained" page (you can click on the key, or it's one of the main tabs at the top of the page), that I'm generous with this merit. It is better at ruling out candidates than it is at selecting one that works for you. But I think ruling out candidates is still useful.

Muddying the waters: I'm a User Interface guy, and I understand how to present data in a digestible fashion. This site isn't intended to be the end-all-be-all info center. I try to give people bite size chunks of data and offer links to do more of their own research.

Pricing: I'm afraid I must disagree with this one. I'm providing the best pricing available, and providing references to my source. Can you get a better price from you're local distributor? Maybe, but I'm working with the best info I can get my hands on. Even if it isn't perfect, I think it gives a clearer picture than any other source I've run across.

S7 software, is likely same issue as Micrologix software, but I'll give it a second look.

S7-200 I've heard the complaint about it being obsolete from another person and have removed it.

M Griffin, thanks for the kind works. In regards to the communication options, I do plan to expanding features listed at some point, and this will include more communication options(beyond the Ethernet and USB). I'll be sure to keep you posted when I get around to it (It will probably be a long time though) For now, I want to focus on cleaning up what I already have.

Thanks again guys, and know that I am happy to make corrections when I screw something up. Just if you could source any information you provide, It would make my life easier. Thanks
I am not trying to dis your work. It is just that as is it does not really provide a good basis for making a decision about the various products listed, largely because it is too simple. A table like this just can't represent the actual breadth of a product family like the AB SLCs or Compactlogix. Or give someone a reason why a pricey product like contrologix might make a lot more sense in a particular application over a less expensive product.

If someone's needs are met well by an AB1100 with its built-in ethernet port and free software, the table does not give you any hint of that. It lumps that solution into a bunch of other stuff that is almost unrelated capability and price wise.

The free S7 software is free. it works well, but does not support a few cards mostly communications cards. For the most common standalone apps it is fine.

I won't argue with your methodology much since I don't really get what you were trying to do or whether you accomplished that goal.

I can't say much about the pricing policies of other vendors but it appears to me from their pricing policies that both AB and Siemens are not as interested in the end user and small OEM market as other vendors like AD might be.

AB and Siemens (and GE for that matter) have created pricing for programming and configuration software for the OEM, integrator, and large user market that makes it quite attractive for those customers. Not far off from the model that Microsoft uses. The cost of software for those groups of customers is just not an issue.

"perform complex functions including Ramping and PID." is in your description of what you refer to as PACs, which is what AB has started calling their higher end PLCs these days. My point was that PIDs are available in virtually every PLC these days, and ramping a SP is a very simple thing to add, even if it is not directly available. It just seemed like a poor choice of examples to illustrate the difference between what you refer to as PACs and PLCs. To me the biggest differences between them are the tag structure in lieu of a more traditional data table and the ability to create one's own reusable function blocks. That and the ability to act as a high speed data concentrator, especially for multiple networks and protocols.


Patrick Beckett


I think there is an inherent problem with trying to compare PLCs. I think Dustin has made a fair stab at it, but the nature of the beast will cause problems, especially these days with the far greater range of power available at lower price brackets.

As an example, I would disagree about placing the Mitsubishi Q-series in the PLC group only. It is capable of running as a PAC, having the same power and programming capabilities as the ControlLogix. The broad range of CPUs in the range precludes categorisation. A Q00CPU is a small fraction of the price, runs slower and has less IO but runs the same software and instruction set as the Q25PHCPU which is a dedicated Process Control CPU. Yet they are in the same product line.

I am using the Mitsubishi as an example only. There are no doubt other examples as well, depending on the manufacturers branding and marketing people.

The PLC Manufacturers are trying to capture the greatest share of the market and so they are making their CPUs fit the greatest range of applications possible. Which makes the comparison of PLC brands even more difficult. Most PLC's will do most jobs and it has come down to the engineer to make a personal choice and stick to it.

Given a free choice I would probably pick for one of three brands which I am most familiar with, and if then, I would have a favourite. This is down to experience and in some cases a good working relationship with the technical support team.

What I am trying to say is that the facts are only part of the decision making process and subjective items do also play a part in the choice of PLC to use. Technical Support, User Experience, Client requirements can play a big part in the process and this is much harder to quantify.

Good Luck in expanding the website. I could see it growing more authoritative if we, as engineers, help you increase the amount, clarity and accuracy of the information.

Patrick Beckett