From my experience looking at a whole lot of design job postings the last few years, things have been changing.
The recession seems to have forced alot of designers to take on additional roles. A few years ago, it was rare that I saw an ad for anything other than Alias and Rhino. Today, it seems 50% ask for Solidworks and ProE. In other words, as budgets were cut, designers took over some jobs that engineers were doing.
If you are in position to choose your software, first of all, lucky you!
For some advice, I would ask what is expected of you at this company. Do they have alot of engineers that keep asking you for surface modeling files so they can design the part interiors?
What materials does your company manufacture in? Plastics give you more possibilities to use complex surface modeling. Also, complex surfacing may be harder for you to make the interior part design…
As for cost, I’ve found costs to be very similar between solid and surface modelers, and the solid modelers are getting very good at surfacing. I can’t recall how much SolidWorks is (it has many optional plug-ins that effect the price), but a basic version was around $2k Canadian (maybe much less), Rhino w/ Flamingo is $1300 Canadian.
Call around to the software distributers in your area to get a better idea. Also, if you want a deal, haggle. I know SolidWorks will often discount their product in the last three months before the new version will be released (yearly).
Also, be aware of some trade-offs. If you are able to hand off finished solid models in nearly the same time as surface data, you will be able to cut weeks off of your product development time. That’s a big advantage!
Lastly, if you need to create presentation renders, be prepared to pay for a seperate renderer no matter what program you get. I’ve used SW, Rhino, Alias Studio and Maya over the last few years. Maya, by far, renders the best, but deletes many design tools present in the other software. I would expect it to be the same with 3D Studio Max (which I’ve never understood the interface of).