3 Top-Rated Affordable GIS Software

By: Shephalii Kapoor on January 24, 2024

Geospatial professionals, such as city planners, environmental scientists, and GIS analysts, often find themselves amidst confusing maps and data overloads, trying to make sense of coordinates and hidden patterns. But with geographic information system (GIS) software, users can create, manage, and analyze location information with ease.

Though several GIS tools are available on the market, an affordable GIS system can offer users a cost-effective entry point, especially if they are new to the GIS functionality and are looking to experiment with the solution without a significant upfront investment.

To help you find the right tool, we have highlighted the three top-rated affordable GIS software based on their pricing, as found on vendor websites and verified software reviews. Based on our research, we've considered products priced less than $33 per month as affordable software and have arranged them in ascending order. Read more.

The tools listed in this article are either web mapping platforms or drone deployment and data management solutions with GIS capabilities. Nonetheless, they all offer data visualization and map creation as common features.

1. Google Maps

Google Maps is an online web mapping platform that offers detailed information about geographic regions and sites worldwide. The tool leverages GIS technology to provide real-time updates on traffic jams, accidents, road closures, and speed traps so that users can find the best route when driving. With a live view in place, the software lets users explore new places and navigate their way with the help of arrows and directions on the map.

Product features of interest:*

  • Cloud-based map styling: Customize the look and feel of your maps by changing colors, styling options, and more. This feature helps users create maps that match their brand, project, or business needs. 

  • Map tiles: Build and customize immersive digital maps with 2D, 3D, and street view experiences. The software offers 3D map tiles in over 49 countries and 2D tiles in over 250 countries and territories. 

  • Vector maps: Zoom on vector maps to look for 3D buildings and other detailed features of a location. These maps also offer smoother tilting and rotation options to help users navigate maps at multiple angles.

Starting price: $7 per month for 1,000 dynamic maps requests

Billing cycle: Monthly

Customer support options: Email, chat, and online FAQs

Who should consider Google Maps?

Transportation and logistics businesses looking to optimize routes for drivers and improve on-time delivery rates can consider Google Maps for their GIS needs. The software, with real-time traffic updates, helps businesses monitor traffic flow and adjust routes to minimize disruptions and improve client experience. The tool can also benefit urban planners who wish to analyze population density and resource distribution using data overlays on map tiles or visualize detailed infrastructure projects with the help of vector maps.

Analysis performed January 2024**

Google Maps

Google Maps

4.72 out of 5 stars

1562 reviews

Pro tip

Shortlist a GIS platform that supports various file formats, such as GeoJSON (.json), GML (.gml), JPEG 2000 (.jp2), Shapefile (.shp), and GeoTIFF (.tif). This will enable seamless data exchange and collaboration across diverse software environments.

2. Scribble Maps

Scribble Maps is a GIS mapping application that allows users to create and share custom maps. Users can use this tool to merge their spreadsheet data with an interactive map for visualization purposes. The software supports various spreadsheet formats, including CSV, XLS, and KML. It also offers different options to import data from spreadsheets. These include dragging and dropping files directly onto the Scribble Maps workspace and copying data directly from the spreadsheet to the platform.

Product features of interest:*

  • Map annotation: Use annotation tools, including markers, shapes, and images, to highlight important information for users. These annotations are helpful in highlighting important information, such as areas of interest, addresses, and delivery routes.

  • Multi-user management: Manage collaboration permissions while collaborating on a single map. The feature helps map creators specify users who can access and edit the map. In case of conflicting permissions, the user obtains permissions that have more privileges. 

  • Data filtering: Apply filters while creating maps to help viewers easily find the data they are looking for. Map creators can use these filters to segment which overlays are displayed on the map. They can also set multiple conditions in a single filter. 

Starting price: $14 per month

Billing cycle: Annual

Customer support options: Phone, chat, and email

Who should consider Scribble Maps?

Data analysts and business intelligence experts looking to transform complex spreadsheet data into interactive maps can opt for Scribble Maps. The software allows users to import spreadsheets in various formats, convert addresses into map coordinates using automatic geocoding, and create markers on maps to highlight important information from the spreadsheet. This further helps users understand how data points relate to each other.

Analysis performed January 2024**

Scribble Maps

Scribble Maps

4.78 out of 5 stars

46 reviews

3. Measure Ground Control

Measure Ground Control is a drone deployment and data management solution with GIS capabilities for managing drone programs, including fleet management and flight planning. The software enables ground control point (GCP) management [1] by letting users import GCP data, including the latitude, longitude, and elevation of each GCP point, from various formats, including CSV and KML. Users can also add GCP to their projects for increased map accuracy. It centralizes all your mission information, from flight logs to incident flagging and image data in one place.

Product features of interest:*

  • Equipment management: Create equipment kits and track the usage of equipment and maintenance scheduling. Equipment in Measure Ground Control includes both drone models and accessories used with them.

  • Data processing and analysis: Improve mapping accuracy with real time kinematic (RTK) processing [2] and generate high-resolution contour maps for data analysis. These maps offer a visually intuitive representation of spatial variations in data.

  • Flight planning and monitoring: Create custom flight plans, assign them to users, and access them on mobile. The feature also helps users conduct utility inspections using intelligent active modes that automate drone flight and global positioning system (GPS) data capture. 

Starting price: $29 per month

Billing cycle: Monthly

Customer support options: Chat, FAQs, and online support form

Who should consider Measure Ground Control?

Surveyors and mapping professionals looking for a tool with GIS features to create high-resolution terrain models or researchers looking to build detailed maps for visualization of research findings can consider Measure Ground Control. The software enables the integration of GCPs for precise georeferencing [3], ensuring that the models reflect real-time features. Moreover, it extracts detailed elevation data from drone imagery to capture subtle changes in the landscape.

Analysis performed January 2024**

Measure Ground Control

Measure Ground Control

4.08 out of 5 stars

40 reviews

Pro tip

Opt for a GIS tool that offers a range of security features, such as activity logging, password encryption, location masking [4], and public access controls to secure geospatial data.

How much does GIS software cost?

A GIS tool can cost as low as $7 per month or all the way up to $450+ per month, depending on various factors—features, user types and licensing, deployment model, integrations, and more. Most GIS solutions typically include the following pricing plans:

  • Free trial: No-cost trial plans of up to 30 days, giving users access to either all or limited features of the software. These are ideal for businesses that wish to try out a GIS application before purchasing it.

  • Free version: Free software plans offer basic features and limited premium feature access. These are ideal for small business owners with a limited budget.

  • Entry-level: Starts at $7 per month and offers limited features, such as map creation and data visualization. These are ideal for small businesses with basic GIS needs.

  • Mid-tier: Ranges from $16 to $150 per month and offers advanced features such as 3D data visualization, spatial data analysis, and real-time data integration. These are ideal for businesses that have outgrown basic GIS solutions but don’t require the full range of functionality offered by enterprise-level tools.

  • High-end: Advanced plans going up to $450 per month usually offer advanced geospatial modeling, risk assessment, priority support, and more. These are ideal for large enterprises.

Hidden costs associated with affordable GIS software

Besides the software license itself, there may be additional costs associated with affordable GIS software, including:

  • Training cost: Feature-rich GIS tools often necessitate training to unlock their full potential. These might significantly escalate the original cost of the software. 

  • Integration costs: Integrating your GIS with multiple existing platforms might involve additional configurations, which can increase the software price.

  • Data migration costs: Migrating large datasets from old systems to the new GIS platform requires additional resources and tools that can add up to the software cost.

Frequently asked questions when selecting affordable GIS software

Here are some questions to ask GIS software providers before making a final purchase:

  • Does the software facilitate map sharing?

Before finalizing an affordable geographic information system for your business, make sure that the software allows you to export maps in various formats, including images, PDFs, and web map files for quick sharing, allowing recipients to visualize and explore spatial data. The best GIS software also helps you embed maps directly into websites, reports, and presentations.

  • What are the available data visualization options?

Data visualization options in a GIS application allows you to communicate complex spatial patterns to your audience effectively. While evaluating the best GIS software on the market, consider mapping options, thematic mapping [5], 3D maps, interactive charts, and dashboards that facilitate communication and engagement with your viewers. 

  • Does the software enable geocoding?

While considering potential GIS software solutions, ensure that the system supports geocoding, enabling the conversion of addresses into geographic coordinates. This will help you accurately visualize data on maps and perform spatial analysis while simultaneously improving efficiency by reducing manual effort in locating addresses on maps.


Methodology

To be considered for this list, products had to:

  • Have at least 20 unique product reviews published on Software Advice within the past two years, with an average rating of 3.0 or higher (as of Jan. 11, 2024). 

  • Include the core features of GIS software: data visualization, map creation, and spatial analysis.

  • Meet our market definition for GIS software: “GIS software, also known as Geographic Information System, helps businesses create, store and retrieve, analyze, and display geographic data on digital maps. GIS software provides various capabilities including spatial analysis, map creation, and graphic visualization of geographical data.”

  • For products that met the first three criteria, we assessed the monthly subscription price and found the average price to be $33—we considered only products with publicly available pricing information. Based on our assessment, we then shortlisted products with a monthly subscription price lower than $33 for this article.

*Our research team identified these features from vendor websites (as of Jan. 11, 2024) based on their analysis of what users find valuable in or expect from GIS software. This list is not exhaustive. For additional features, refer to the vendor's website.

**We selected products for this article based on their average ratings as of January 2024; however, the article displays each product’s current average rating, which may differ if more reviews have been left since our analysis.

Editorial Independence: We select and rank products based on an objective methodology developed by our research team. While some vendors may pay us when they receive web traffic or leads, this has no influence on our methodology.

Note: Products evaluated for the pricing calculation were taken from Software Advice’s GIS software directory. The pricing ranges exclude freemium versions of the products. The features highlighted were identified based on their relevance and the percentage of products in the Software Advice directory that offer them.

Definitions:

  1. Ground control point management is the process of establishing and maintaining strategically placed points with known locations on the Earth’s surface. 

  2. Real time kinematic processing is a GPS correction technology that offers real-time GPS location when survey drones are capturing photos of a surveying site.

  3. Georeferencing refers to attaching GPS coordinates to a digital map or image. 

  4. Location masking refers to a range of techniques that are used to manipulate your online location.

  5. Thematic maps are special-purpose maps that focus on the spatial variability of a specific geographical distribution.