Last updated on March 11th, 2020 at 09:35 am
If you’re thinking of buying a Cricut machine, this handy guide will help you choose the right machine for the things you want to do. Includes the Cricut Explore line of machines, Cricut Maker, and now Cricut Joy!
With five 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!
UPDATE: this post now includes details for Cricut Joy, which launches 3/1/2020!
No matter which Cricut you choose, if you’re struggling to use it or want to make even more, check out Cricut Academy, my HUGE online learning platform!
Current Cricut Cutting Machines
There are five Cricut cutting machines. (The base prices for the machines are in the outline below, but click these links to Amazon—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, Cricut Expression 2, and the original Cricut Explore.
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.
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: makers without a dedicated craft space, new Cricut users intimidated by the larger Cricut machines, or as a companion machine to your Explore or Maker.
Cricut Maker is Cricut’s top-of-the-line cutting machine. 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, 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 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! They have a dozen additional tools in testing—so this machine will do more and more as new tools are released.
The price point is the highest in the Cricut line—$399, sometimes on sale for $349. But if you’re a serious crafter who likes to use a variety of materials, or if you are a sewing enthusiast, an avid papercrafter, or perhaps even a woodworker, this machine is for you.
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—especially those who cut fabric or cut thicker materials.
Cricut Explore Air 2
This is the Cricut Explore that I have (in addition to my Maker), and I must say that I love it. At $299, though, I know it might be out of the price range of some users.
There are two differences between the Cricut Explore Air 2 and the Cricut Explore Air. One is big, and one is small. The big one is that the Air 2 will cut and write up to 2 times faster than the Air. It’s not all materials, but it works well for most materials that you’d want to cut. This is a game changer if you use your Cricut a lot—you know what it’s like to wait for a long cut or write job to finish!
The small difference is that the Air 2 comes in a huge variety of colors to match your craft room For some, it’s totally not worth spending the extra $50, but it might be if you just LOVE one of the many colors on the market today.
BEST FOR: Users who own a crafting business will really notice the speed difference, and it will make a difference with how quickly they can produce items for clients.
Cricut Explore Air
Cricut Explore Air is a step down, butoffers 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. At $249, I think it’s worth the upgrade to get these two extra features, but you may decide that they aren’t worth it for what you want to do with your Cricut.
BEST FOR: Most users will find this to be a capable machine for everything they need to do.
Cricut Explore One
Cricut Explore One is the most basic and economical machine that Cricut offers, and at $199 the price can’t be beat. 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!). None of the three machines require cartridges, though you can use your legacy cartridges in all of them.
BUT, it has two notable differences.
The first is that it is not Bluetooth-enabled, which means that you need to run a cord from your device to your Cricut to connect the two. Not a big deal, but it can be a bit of a pain depending on how your crafting space is set up. My original Cricut Explore (which is no longer available) wasn’t wireless and it wasn’t the end of the world (that being said, I now really love having my Cricut on one side of the room and me on the other at my desk!).
The second is that there is not a double tool cartridge, so you can’t write and cut (or score and cut) in the same pass. You can still write and score, you just have to do it separately. Again, not a huge pain unless you’re writing and cutting or scoring and cutting a lot. If you’re just cutting, this won’t make that much of a difference.
BEST FOR: Users who mainly want to cut using their Cricuts, and those who have a crafting space where their device is set up near their Cricut machine.
I hope you found this little breakdown helpful. If you have any questions about your personal needs, please leave me a comment and I’ll make a recommendation!