Wondering which Cricut to buy? Let’s break down the differences between the Cricut Explore line, Cricut Joy, and Cricut Maker so you know which Cricut is best for you!
Are you thinking about getting a Cricut or wondering which Cricut to buy for a friend or family member? Today I am going to explain the differences between the three Cricut machines to help you narrow down which Cricut is best for your needs.
I have owned three different Cricut cutting machines and I definitely think they are one of the best tools for crafters. I started with the Cricut Expression over 8 years ago, then moved up to the Cricut Explore Air and last year made the leap to the Cricut Maker and Cricut Joy!
So, I know all about the different Cricut machines and what they can do. Because I love and use my Cricut all the time, Cricut asked me to write a post explaining the differences between them to help you find the right Cricut machine.
Let’s talk about what each of these amazing vinyl cutting machines can do before you decide which Cricut to buy!
All of the Cricut machines use Cricut Design Space software and Cricut Access, so you will need a computer, laptop, tablet, iPad, or smartphone to use any of them. And the majority of the Cricut tools you can use with any machine.
If you are new to CDS, make sure to check out my series of Cricut Design Space 101 tutorials to get started.
What’s the Cricut Explore Air Family?
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links from Cricut.com and Amazon. I receive a small commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase using my links (purple text).
When Cricut first released the Explore line, the Cricut Explore was the first one out. Then a few years later, the Cricut Explore Air and Cricut Explore Air 2 were released.
There are three different machines in the Cricut Explore family:
- Cricut Explore One – This is the first release of this family and the most affordable. The main difference is that you can not use Wi-Fi to connect your laptop/tablet to the Cricut. You’ll need to connect the two via a USB cord.
- Cricut Explore Air – This machine has a built-in Bluetooth connectivity so you can make cuts wirelessly.
- Cricut Explore Air 2 – This is a great machine. It also offers Bluetooth connectivity, but cuts and writes up to 2X faster than the Air.
- Cricut Explore 3 – The new Cricut machine in the Explore line which is much more expensive. This machine is built for speed and for more cutting options. The Circut Explore Air 3 can cut without a cutting mat with the new Smart materials, which means much longer material, and is twice as fast as the Explore 2.
As of updating this, the Cricut Explore and Cricut Explore Air are no longer being made. You can probably still find people selling them on Facebook or local sites though.
These machines can cut up to 100 different materials including vinyl, iron-on vinyl, paper, cardstock, bonded fabric, cork, and much more! This family of vinyl cutting machines can use the fine point blade, deep cut blade, scoring stylus, and pens/markers.
The Cricut Explore Air 2 is a great starting machine. It is definitely more affordable than the new Explore 3 and Maker line.
What is the difference between the Explore 2 and Explore 3?
When you are comparing the Explore Air 2 and the new Explore 3, the first thing you’ll notice is that the look of the machine has changed.
The Explore 2 has a smart set dial and a cartridge port.
While the new Cricut Explore 3 looks more like the Cricut Maker in that there is no dial or cartridge part (for adding old cartridges into CDS). All the material settings are controlled in the software itself.
How is the Cricut Maker different?
The Cricut Maker line are the newest Cricut machines on the market and offers much more extensive cutting abilities.
It is the most expensive of the Cricut machines, usually costing between $349-399 because it’s the newest technology that can use different blades.
There are two machines in the Cricut Maker line. I have a full post just on the differences between the Cricut Maker and the Maker 3 here.
- Cricut Maker – learn all about this machine on my review here.
- Cricut Maker 3 – a new machine that was released in 2021 along with the Explore 3. The Cricut Maker 3 is faster than the original Maker and can use the new Smart Materials including Smart Iron-on, Smart Vinyl, and Smart Paper.
The Maker does all the same things as the Cricut Explore Family, plus a bunch more. The biggest difference is that it cuts over 300 different materials including thicker materials such as tons of different fabrics, chipboard, balsa wood, and leather.
The Maker contains a technology that can steer the blades so it can use a bunch of different blades and tips. This opens the door to endless crafting potential with different types of materials.
The Cricut Maker tools consist of an adaptive tool system, where you only need the blades or tips and you can switch them with just one housing (save money!).
The Cricut Maker blades now available are the fine point tip, double scoring wheel, knife blade, rotary blade, debossing tip, engraving tip, perforation blade, and wavy blade. Plus more blades and Maker accessories to come!
The Baby Cricut Joy
Let’s move on to talking about the Cricut Joy. The Cricut Joy is a small compact machine, but it’s still a great cutting machine.
I have a full review on the Cricut Joy and what it can do here, but here are the main points.
- Cricut Joy is perfect for making cards! With the card mat and card inserts, card making is easy peasy!
- The Cricut Joy can use the writing function, has a foil kit, can cut Infusible Ink and has its own line of Joy materials.
- The best thing about the Cricut Joy is that it’s so much smaller than the larger machines and does not take up much room.
- With the Joy materials, you can cut very long material but only 5.5 inches wide.
- I think it makes a great companion to the bigger Cricut machines. I love to pull it out to make a quick project or card.
- The Joy is not able to use the print then cut function so you won’t be able to make stickers with your own images.
You can check out a bunch of my favorite Cricut Joy items to gift here.
So Which Cricut Should I Buy?
When deciding between the machines, think about the following things to find the right choice for you:
1. What are you wanting to cut?
- Mainly vinyl, iron-on vinyl, and cardstock = Explore or Joy
- A ton of different materials including very fine paper, fabric to thicker materials = Maker
2. Are you wanting a machine for fabric cutting?
- Not really. Maybe just bonded fabric = Explore
- Yes!! I want to be able to cut patterns out of hundreds of different types of fabric = Maker
- The Joy can not cut fabric.
3. Are you wanting a huge variety of blades and tips to use?
- No, I just need the standard cutting blade, a deep cut blade, and a scoring stylus = Explore
- No, I just the standard blade and to be able to use pens to write = Joy
- Yes, I want to be able to engrave, cut thick material like chipboard and balsa wood, deboss, and so much more = Maker
4. What are you wanting to make the most?
- Custom cards, personalized tshirts, mugs, tumblers, labels, small projects, anything with vinyl or iron-on on it.
- Personalized Tshirts, signs, mugs, tumblers, tiles, cards, stencils, totes, anything will vinyl on it, anything with iron-on vinyl, print and cut projects, draw projects, Infusible Ink projects. Everything in my Ultimate Guide of Cricut Ideas list was made with an Explore = Explore
- All of the above plus sewing projects, 3D projects, engraved acrylic, chipboard decor, balsa wood projects, debossed cards, leather projects (wide variety of materials!). Make sure to check out all of these amazing Cricut Maker projects to get an idea = Maker
5. Is cost or space a factor?
- If you are limited on space to make craft projects and on money = Cricut Joy
- If you are on a limited budget and just need a great vinyl cutting machine to start a side business or to craft your little heart out = Explore Family
- If you can afford the extra cost and want the latest in cutting machine technology and the best Cricut machine = Cricut Maker or Cricut Maker 3
I hope that now you know the main differences between the Cricut Explore family and the Cricut Maker, that you have a better understanding of which Cricut to buy and which Cricut would suit your needs best.
If you are a better visual learner, hop on over to my YouTube channel to watch a video on the differences between the three Cricut machines.
If you have any questions about these amazing cutting machines and which is the right machine for you, please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember there is a learning curve with any new machine, so give yourself grace!
Thanks so much for stopping by and have a creative day!