If you’re thinking of buying a Cricut machine, this handy guide and quiz will help you choose the right machine for the things you want to do. Includes the new Cricut Maker 3 and Cricut Explore 3, as well as Cricut Joy and the original Cricut Maker and Cricut Explore machines!
With two new Cricut machines and several other Cricut machines currently on the market, you may be hemming and hawing about which machine is right for you. This post breaks down the different Cricut machines, their capabilities, and the type of crafter that might get the most benefit from each machine.
Bookmark this page—I update it any time a new machine is released or discontinued. You’ll have all the information you need to make an informed decision!
Current Cricut Cutting Machines
There are five current Cricut cutting machines. (The base prices for the machines are in the outline below, but click these links to Cricut.com—you can often save yourself quite a bit!)
Legacy machines that aren’t being sold anymore include Cricut Gypsy, Cricut Cake, Cricut Personal, Cricut Expression, and the Cricut Expression 2. These machines are no longer supported by Cricut.
The original Cricut Explore, Cricut Explore One, and Cricut Explore Air were discontinued as well. These three Explore machines are still supported by Cricut and work with the current version of Cricut Design Space.
Note that there is also Cricut Cuttlebug, which is a different type of machine altogether, and is mainly for die cutting and embossing. It was discontinued as of spring 2019.
Cricut Machine Comparison Chart
Before we go into detail on each machine, open a PDF of this handy comparison chart by clicking on it! Then see below for in-depth discussions of each machine. An updated PDF is coming soon to include the new Cricut Maker 3 and Cricut Explore 3.
On February 12, 2020, Cricut announced their newest cutting machine, Cricut Joy. I was lucky enough to take a trip out to Salt Lake City to learn about the machine before it was announced. I wasn’t sure at first if I would use a smaller machine, but it quickly won me over.
Cricut Joy is a compact little cutting machine, less than half the size of Cricut Explore and Cricut Maker. It’s pared down a bit from the other Cricut machines, with a single blade and pen holder. The cut width is 4.5″.
But don’t let its size fool you—it has some fun new features! Two big ones are mat-free cutting, which means you can cut up to 20′ (yes, twenty feet) of “Smart vinyl” in a single go. Cricut Joy also has a Card Mat, making it super simple to make cards for all sorts of occasions.
The price point of $179 might still be a little high for some crafters, particularly since some of the capabilities are a bit limited. But Cricut Joy is perfect for almost all of your basic Cricut crafts, including iron on vinyl, adhesive vinyl, writable labels, and cardstock.
I wrote an extensive post introducing Cricut Joy. Check it out!
BEST FOR: people without a dedicated craft space, new users intimidated by the larger Cricut machines, or as a companion machine to your Explore or Maker.
Cricut Maker 3
Cricut Maker 3 is Cricut’s new top-of-the-line cutting machine announced in May 2021. It’s similar to the Cricut Maker, but has a few added capabilities.
The biggest differences between Cricut Maker 3 and Cricut Maker (see details below) is that Cricut Maker 3 can cut “matless” Cricut Smart Materials, meaning you are not limited to the length of a cutting mat. You can cut up to 12′ of material in a single go. It also cuts these materials up to 2x faster than materials on a mat. Find out more in my Ultimate Guide to Cricut Maker 3.
The rest of Cricut Maker 3’s features are the same as Cricut Maker and are detailed below.
The price point is the highest in the Cricut line—$399. But if you’re a serious crafter who likes to use a variety of materials, cut big projects, or if you are a sewing enthusiast, an avid papercrafter, or perhaps even a woodworker, this machine is for you.
BEST FOR: Crafters who want it all, including the ability to cut big projects using Smart Materials, as well as other materials like fabric, felt, basswood, chipboard, and more.
Cricut Maker was first announced in 2017. It looks similar to the Explore line of machines, but it has been re-designed from the bottom up. It does everything Cricut Explore will do (see details below), but with added features.
Cricut Maker cuts unbonded fabric (so you don’t need a stabilizer like you do with the Cricut Explore line) using the tiny Rotary Blade. It also cuts felt beautifully, so if you’re looking to do felt crafts, this is your machine.
Cricut Maker also cuts thicker materials (up to 3/32″) like balsa wood and thick leather using the Knife Blade. It can score all sorts of materials using the Scoring Wheel (a step up from the Scoring Stylus).
In July 2019, four new tools were announced. You can see how to use each of these tools in these posts:
Cricut Maker’s adaptive tool system is built with expansion in mind—meaning it was built to use tools that Cricut hasn’t even thought up yet.
This machine recently dropped in price due to the launch of Cricut Maker 3, making it generally somewhere between $329 and $349. If you’re buying a new machine and can afford it, I do recommend the Cricut Maker 3 because it has more capabilities and it’s quieter. But if you’re already pushing your budget, Cricut Maker is a good option.
I wrote up a lengthy post about Cricut Maker—I attended the big release event and talked with many people on the Cricut team about it.
BEST FOR: Crafters who want it all but can’t shell out the bigger bucks for the Cricut Maker 3.
Cricut Explore 3
Cricut Explore 3 is Cricut’s new mid-grade machine announced in May 2021. It’s similar to the Cricut Explore Air 2, but has a few added capabilities.
The biggest differences between Cricut Explore 3 and Cricut Explore Air 2 (see details below) is that Cricut Explore 3 can cut “matless” Cricut Smart Materials, meaning you are not limited to the length of a cutting mat. You can cut up to 12′ of material in a single go. It also cuts these materials up to 2x faster than materials on a mat. Learn more in my Ultimate Guide to Cricut Explore 3.
It also doesn’t have a dial—all of your material settings are done within Cricut Design Space. And they’ve added a larger tool cup and a device ledge inside the lid (like the Maker) so you can set your phone or tablet on the machine if you’re using the mobile app for Cricut Design Space.
The rest of Cricut Explore 3’s features are the same as Cricut Explore Air 2 and are detailed below.
The price point for this machine is $299, which is a little steep for an Explore, but my guess is it’ll go on sale pretty soon after the launch—most machines do. If you’re buying a new machine and can afford it, I do recommend the Cricut Explore 3 because it has more capabilities and it’s quieter. But if you’re already pushing your budget, Cricut Explore Air 2 is a good option.
BEST FOR: Most users who want to cut bigger projects more quickly out of popular materials like iron on, vinyl, and cardstock.
Cricut Explore Air 2
The Cricut Explore Air 2 has been the most popular Cricut machine for years. Because of the launch of the Cricut Explore 3, you can now find the Cricut Explore Air 2 even cheaper—sometimes as low as $179.
This is an amazing workhorse machine—it can cut vinyl, iron on, cardstock, faux leather/suede, Cricut felt, and more than 100 other materials. It can’t cut the wider range of materials that the Maker can, but for most crafters the Cricut Explore machines are a great option. The Cricut Explore Air 2 also comes in a variety of colors to match any craft room!
BEST FOR: Crafters looking for a bargain machine to get started and who want to cut popular materials like iron on, vinyl, and cardstock.
Cricut Explore Air
This machine is no longer available from Cricut, but can be found used. Cricut Explore Air is a step down from the Air 2, but offers you the two things that the Cricut Explore One below does not—it is Bluetooth-enabled so you don’t have to plug it into your device, and it has the secondary tool holder, so you can write and cut or score and cut at the same time.
Cricut Explore One
This machine is no longer available from Cricut, but can be found used. Cricut Explore One is the most basic and economical machine that Cricut currently offers. It has all of the precise cutting, writing, and scoring capabilities of the Explore Air machines, and you can cut all the same materials (there are more than 100!). It is not Bluetooth-enabled (meaning you need to run a cord to it from your desktop computer) and there is not a double tool cartridge, so you can’t write and cut (or score and cut) in the same pass.
I hope you found this little breakdown helpful! Let me know which Cricut you have in the comments!
Learn More About Your Cricut:
Get a Cricut Today
- Thanksgiving and Fall Glowforge Projects and Files - September 21, 2021
- The Best Sublimation Blanks and Substrates for Crafters - September 20, 2021
- Brother SVGs for Cricut and Silhouette - September 17, 2021