Which Cricut is Best for Me? A Buyer’s Guide to Cricut Maker, Explore & Joy Machines

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Are you ready to buy a Cricut but unsure which cutting machine is best for you? This handy Buyer’s Guide has all the information you need to buy the right Cricut for your projects.

Which Cricut is the Best for Me?

Over the years, I have built a pretty big community of crafters, and along the way, I’ve received a lot of frequently asked questions for my crafts. By far, one of the most common questions I get is, what is the best Cricut machine? And a slew of other similar questions like:

  • What is the best Cricut machine to buy?
  • Is buying a Cricut worth it?
  • What are the Cricut features?
  • What is the difference between Cricut Maker vs. Cricut Explore Air 2?
  • What can a Cricut cut? 
  • And what about the new machines? Maker 3 and Explore 3?

With the new addition of Maker 3 and Explore 3, crafters new to Cricut are overwhelmed with choices and questions. Maybe you are a hobbyist looking to join the world of Cricut crafts or someone thinking of starting a craft business, and you need to know which machine is better for your needs.

Today, I will be giving you a list of everything you need to know before committing to a Cricut machine. Think of this post as a buyer’s guide to discovering which Cricut is best for you! 

I’ll be comparing the Cricut Maker and Cricut Maker 3 to the Explore machines, as well as the Cricut Joy machine. I will also explain the differences between the new Cricut Maker 3 and the Explore Air 3.

Any Cricut machine can create many crafting projects, so deciding which Cricut is best for you comes down to specific features.

Is Buying a Cricut Machine Worth it?

Let’s first address the nagging question so many crafters have before buying a Cricut…

Can I justify the money I will spend on a Cricut machine? 

I have owned more than six Cricut machines for over eight years. Plus, I operate a craft blog and two craft template websites, so my answer is heck-to-the-yes!

But if you are unsure if you can come to terms with spending this kind of money on a craft machine, I would advise you to ask the following questions:

Do you:

  • Have kids, grandkids, or family members that you love to craft for? 
  • Craft at least 1-2x a week already? Or would you if you had the proper tools?
  • Have frequent life events you could decorate for, such as weddings, showers, graduations, parties, etc.? 
  • Plan to start or already have a craft business
  • Want to create custom home decor
  • Make personalized t-shirts, totes, hats, etc.? 
  • Love to make handmade gifts for birthdays and Christmas?

Although each individual needs to consider what is truly right for them, if you answered yes to two or more of the questions above, I strongly suggest strongly considering a Cricut machine.

Which Cricut is best for you depends on the materials you want to use.

What is the Difference Between the Explore and Maker Machines?

The fastest way to sum up the difference between a Maker and an Explore is this: the Explore machines and Maker cut over 100+ of the same materials, but the Cricut Maker cuts an additional 200 material options because of the more powerful motor. 

Cricut Explore Air 2 and Explore Air 3

The biggest difference between Explore models and Maker models is in the force of the cut. Maker models have 10x the cut force as an Explore Air model—but don’t let that be the only factor when deciding which Cricut is best for you. Explore Air models are still top of the line and offer almost the same features as a Maker but for much less money.

The Cricut Explore Air 2

When it comes to comparing the list of Cricut machines, let’s start with the oldest model first (Cricut Explore Air 2) and work our way up. The Cricut Explore Air 2 undoubtedly offers a wide range of functionality for a variety of projects. If you are looking to get the best price and do NOT plan to do much with advanced materials like crepe paper, tissue paper, wood, or engravings, then the Cricut Explore Air 2 may be best for you. 

The Cricut Explore Air offers many different capabilities, including the ability to work with thinner materials.

Cricut Explore Air 2 Functions to Consider

  • Cuts over 100 materials
  • Print then Cut function
  • Works with Design Space
  • Use with iOs, desktop or Android device
  • Bluetooth enabled
  • Cuts, writes & scores
  • Double tool holder

Cricut Explore Air 2: What’s Included?

  • Cricut Explore Air™ 2 machine 
  • Premium Fine-Point Blade + Housing 
  • Fine Point Pen, Black 
  • LightGrip Mat, 12″ x 12″ 
  • USB cable 
  • Power adapter 
  • Test materials for a practice project

The Cricut Explore Air 3

The Cricut Explorer 3 capabilities include additional features not available with the Explorer Air 2.

Cricut Explore Air 3 Functions to Consider

The Cricut Explore Air 3 does everything the Explore Air 2 does, plus:

  • Can cut 12 feet in length
  • Compatible with vinyl trimmer
  • Compatible with Smart Materials
  • Cuts 2x faster

Cricut Explore Air 3: What’s Included?

  • Cricut Explore 3 machine
  • USB cable
  • a Premium Fine-Point blade
  • Power adapter 
  • Test materials for a practice project
  • Unlike the other machines, there is no mat or pen

Cricut Maker Models

Cricut Maker and Cricut Maker 3 are the two types of Maker machines currently available. The Maker and Maker 3 models provide many more creative options like cutting over 300+ materials of varying thickness. When considering which Cricut is best for you, consider what materials you want to use.

Cricut Maker

The Cricut Maker is the original serious crafter cutting machine. I’d like to mention that there is no Maker 2. When they released the Maker 3 and Explore Air 3, Cricut wanted to model numbers to match so as not to mislead people to think the Explore Air 3 was a newer machine than the Maker 3.

The Cricut Maker capabilities include a variety of colors and all the current tools.

Cricut Maker Functions to Consider

  • Cuts over 300 materials
  • Print then Cut function
  • Compatible with QuickSwap tools (engraving, deboss, perforation, and scoring wheel)
  • Works with Design Space
  • Use with iOS, desktop, or Android device
  • Bluetooth enabled
  • Cuts, writes & scores
  • Double tool holder
  • Compatible with the knife blade for deep cutting
  • More powerful than the Explore

Cricut Maker: What’s Included?

  • Cricut Maker® machine 
  • Rotary Blade + Drive Housing 
  • Premium Fine-Point Blade + Housing 
  • Fine Point Pen, Black 
  • FabricGrip™ Mat, 12″ x 12″ 
  • LightGrip Mat, 12″ x 12″ 
  • USB cable 
  • Power adapter 
  • Test materials for a practice project

The Cricut Maker 3

The Cricut Maker 3 capabilities are up-to-date, making it the best machine available.

Cricut Maker 3 Functions to Consider

The Cricut Maker 3 does everything the original Maker does, plus:

  • Can cut 12 feet in length
  • Compatible with vinyl trimmer
  • Compatible with Smart Materials
  • Cuts 2x faster
  • Newest, fastest, best current Cricut machine

Cricut Maker 3: What’s Included?

  • Cricut Maker 3 machine
  • Premium Fine-Point Blade + Housing 
  • USB cable 
  • Power adapter 
  • Test materials for practice projects
  • No Rotary Blade + Drive Housing 
  • No mat or pen

Cricut Joy Machine

The Cricut Joy might be best for you if cost and space are a concern, if you don’t plan on using your Cricut Joy very often, or plan on making smaller crafts with minimal materials.

The Cricut Joy machine’s capabilities aren’t as robust as other types, but Cricut Joy does offer a lower price, and it’s smaller size means it is the most portable.

Cricut Joy Machine Functions to Consider

  • Can cut 12 feet in length
  • Small and compact
  • Cuts 50+ materials
  • Works with Smart Materials

Cricut Joy: What’s Included?

  • Cricut Joy machine
  • Blade + Housing**
  • Fine Point Pen, Black (0.4 mm)**
  • StandardGrip Mat, 4.5″ x 6.5″ (11.4 cm x 16.5 cm)**
  • Welcome card
  • Power adapter
  • Materials for a practice cut

Cricut Machine Comparison Chart

Take a look at my comparison chart to get a quick visual of each machine’s capabilities. You can download the full buyers guide below too!

A handy comparison chart compares the features of each Cricut model to help you decide which Cricut machine to buy.

In Conclusion…Which Cricut Machine is Best for You?

So, after all that info, which Cricut is best? While the price is higher, no doubt, the long-term value of the Maker 3 far outweighs it. The Maker 3 is my top pick.

At this point, you need to be really honest with yourself about what you plan to craft. And if you are not entirely sure, then the theory of “go big or go home” applies here.

You might be thinking, “I don’t care about engraving, cutting wood, or 12 ft long projects, so I think the Explore Air 2 will be fine.” And that may be the case, now, but ask yourself this, are you 100% positive that after you get an Explore and learn all that it can do, you will NEVER EVER want to try other material options?

If the answer is no, then go with the Explore but if the answer is maybe or I don’t know, then the best Cricut cutting machine is the Maker.

The bottom line is this: The Maker may cost a little more initially, but you will have complete freedom with all the materials and tools the Cricut can offer. My advice would be when in doubt, to go with the Maker. Take a look at what’s inside the Maker box via Cricut’s YouTube channel here!

With all these Cricut machines you can find Cricut bundles that include extra mats, vinyl, weeding tools, etc. If you are still deciding on a machine, be sure to check out all the bundles they offer as well!

Download the Buyer’s Guide to Cricut Machines

Join my community and get the full buyers guide inside my Freebie Vault!

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Which Cricut Machines Should I Buy? Get the Complete Buyer's Guide To Cricut Machines.

Home Station & Proper Storage

Before you open your Cricut machine’s box, I want you to decide where to place your machine. This is important because you will need a suitable workstation for the machine, projects, mats, etc. 

Ideally, opt for a designated craft space or room out of the way of any other activity. NEVER place your machine anywhere near water. 

At a minimum, a 3 ft x 3 ft solid surface space will be required (such as a desk or craft table). Your machine needs at least 12 clear inches in front of it and 12 clear inches behind it, so when cutting, the mat can slide freely in and out of the roller at the center of the machine. 

If you opt for the 24-inch mat, you will need to spare double the space in front and behind the machine. 

When your machine is not in use, always be sure to have the cover closed completely, so the cut blade and internal housing/mechanics are protected from dust, dirt, or that pesky glitter that followed you from 3 moves ago. 🙂 

Here are a few suggested storage units/desks that I would recommend if you are currently searching. By no means do you have to have these to craft, but I want to provide as many resources as possible to help you get started!

Craft Desk

A crafting table large enough for your Cricut machine is important because it keeps your materials and machine safe.

Like I said above, you do not have to have a fancy craft desk like this option BUT you do need to have a home station for your Cricut!

Craft Caddy Cart

A blue rolling craft caddy keeps materials organized.

The rolling cart is great if you own more than one machine or want to have a printer located nearby for the print then cut feature.

Machine Tote

A carrying bag is needed whenever you travel with your Cricut cutting machine.

If you ever decide to travel with your machine, you will need proper travel storage to protect it!

So after reading the comparison list between the Cricut Maker vs. the Cricut Explore Air 2 and the Joy machine, which Cricut is best for you? I’d love to know in the comments!

Still not sure? Ask the advice of well-seasoned crafters inside my Crafters and Cricut Lovers Facebook group!

Want Some Free SVG Files to Use with Your Cricut?

Get access to my Craft Freebie Vault here!

New to Cricut?

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This masterclass is for you if you…

  • …own a Cricut machine but feel like you have no clue what you are doing!
  • …wish you could design your own project files.
  • …are tired of searching Pinterest and Google for answers
  • …craft several times a week, and want to personalize your crafts, home or event decor or maybe even want to sell your crafts!

Join me here right now!

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About Abbi Kirsten

My mission is to inspire you to nurture the creative magic inside your soul – bringing you fun, easy-to-learn DIY projects, and quality template designs. I share a variety of projects, such as printables, SVG cut files, and craft tutorials, but specifically love paper crafting and paper flowers. Interested in paper flowers?! I’ve created dozens of signature designs for you to enjoy – starting with my bestseller, The Art of Giant Paper Flowers, the Giant Flower Library, and my shop of endless paper designs and flower templates.

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14 Comments

  1. Thank you Abbi! I’m planning on getting a Cricut, hopefully sooner rather than later. I do so much paper crafting and was torn between the Explore Air 2 and the Maker. I no nothing about using either but know enough about me to know that I’ll be want to expand my Cricut horizons to the max as I learn and do more. I mostly do a lot of party decorations. I’m currently working on wedding decor for a family member. Making flowers in large quantities by hand cutting is so slow. I’ve also done numerous retirement party decorations. Each project starts out being fun but halfway through it becomes more like a job due to doing by hand what the Cricut was designed for. There’s so much more that I can do for this upcoming wedding if I had a Cricut. Unfortunately I just had surgery and unable to work at the minute. As soon as I get up and running again I’m getting a Cricut maker. I had high hopes I’d have it by my birthday which is why I offered to decorate for my cousin’s wedding. My birthday was June 8th and it didn’t happen but it will soon. At least I know which one to get and I thank you for that information Abbi. I hope the tutorials are still available once I have my Maker in my hands. I’ll be desperately needing them to finish the wedding decorations. I have high hopes and an even bigger imagination. Should be a great creative combo. Have a wonderful day Abbi!

  2. I am new to Cricut and thoroughly enjoy your workshops. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I have
    The Explorer Air 2. I am anxious to supplement my crafting business. Facebook page Suzy’s Sensations-Tipton. Thank you!

  3. I had won the Joy at a fundraiser for the animal rescue I volunteer with, Rescue Dogs Rock NYC. Shamless plug lol) I was always interested in the circuits…well now I’m hooked. I find myself limited with the Joy, and was asking Santa for a new machine. I didnt know which one I wanted, what was better for me and is cost worth it! I read you article and it helped me decide..I had read other articles and was confused and got no clear help….. after reading your comparison, I got knew! Thank you so much…… I am a new fan…..

    oh yeah…. going with the Maker lolol

  4. So do you have a sku number for the circuit machine that you are suggesting to purchase? Like CROOO1, CROOO2. That is what I am asking.

    I purchase one on eBay, and it was just a circuit explorer, MY BAD. What goes in the web site ling below, Yes I do not know it its mine or your?

    help

    YVONNE

    1. I would recommend either the Cricut Explore or Maker, with the Maker giving the greatest flexibility with tools and materials.

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