Which Cricut Machine Is Right for You? Here’s a Side-by-Side Comparison

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Maybe you’ve seen the YouTube videos about people launching six-figure businesses with their Cricut machine. Maybe you’re fed up of every souvenir shop never having your name on their “I

We’ve graded them on our PureWow100 scale, based on five categories: value (not just the cost, but what are you getting for that price?), functionality (how well does it live up to its claims?), ease of use, aesthetics and the overall quality of the final project created with it. Here’s how they compare.

The Cricut Mug Press Lets You Design Custom Mugs in Minutes

cricut joy review purewow100

1. the Cricut Joy

Best for Newbies

  • Value: 16/20
  • Functionality: 19/20
  • Ease of Use: 18/20
  • Aesthetics: 20/20
  • Quality of Final Project: 20/20

TOTAL: 93/100

As Cricut’s most affordable, compact and basic machine, the Joy is the brand’s equivalent of Apple+ giving away seven-day trials so people can stream Ted Lasso: After a week, they know you’ll be hooked. And while it’s far from free—the device retails for $180, though it’s often on sale—it’s by far the most affordable in the Cricut fam. The Joy’s straightforward design makes it very easy to use (I’ve designed everything from cards to water bottle labels with just a few swipes of my cell phone). Plus, at less than 9 inches long and 5.4 inches wide, it takes up less space than a single shoe in your closet. What I loved most, though, was its reliability: After a year’s use, I haven’t had any issues with projects not cutting or printing properly.

Specs at a Glance:

  • Cuts 50+ materials (like vinyl, sticker paper and cardstock)
  • Prints/cuts projects up to 5.5 inches wide, 20 feet long
  • Connects via Bluetooth
  • Works with Cricut Joy app (iOS and Android), Design Space app (iOS, Android, PC & Mac)

The Bottom Line: It’s ideal for small, simple projects, like making cards, labels for kids’ clothes, t-shirt and bag iron-ons and custom mugs. If your ideal craft project takes an hour or less, this is the machine for you.

2. the Cricut Explore Air 2

Best for Casual Crafters

  • Value: 15/20
  • Functionality: 19/20
  • Ease of Use: 16/20
  • Aesthetics: 19/20
  • Quality of Final Project: 20/20

TOTAL: 89/100

Right in the middle of the pack is Cricut’s Explore series. It can cut twice as many different types of materials as the Joy (including bonded fabric and glitter paper) and in a larger size (up to a foot wide, though only 2 feet long). That also means you’re one step closer to craft room territory: At 24 inches by 10 inches, it takes up an entire shelf—or half of your table—on its own. It’s bulkier, for sure, but if you want to create full t-shirt designs or create custom stickers or buttons, it gets the job done. Oh, and it’s available in 13 colors, so if you do keep it on display, at least you can choose a hue that fits your aesthetic. (Note: While Cricut has released a newer, faster-cutting model—the Explore 3—we tested its predecessor, the Explore Air 2.)

Specs at a Glance:

  • Cuts 100+ materials (like bonded fabric, foamboard and chipboard)
  • Cuts projects up to 1 foot wide, 2 feet long
  • Connects via Bluetooth and USB
  • Works with Design Space app (iOS, Android, PC & Mac)

The Bottom Line: While there’s a bit of a learning curve to this one, thanks to the increased number of projects it can tackle, it produces consistent, even results—once you get the hang of it.

cricut maker 3 pw100

3. the Cricut Maker 3

Best for Hardcore Crafters

  • Value: 13/20
  • Functionality: 14/20
  • Ease of Use: 15/20
  • Aesthetics: 17/20
  • Quality of Final Project: 15/20

TOTAL: 74/100

If you’ve been dreaming of opening an Etsy shop—or you’re the type who likes to dabble in a new DIY project every week—the latest model in the Maker series is designed for you. The Maker 3 cuts the widest range of materials, from paper to balsa wood, and its cutting power is 10 times more powerful than the Explore. It works with 13 different tools—compared to three with the Joy and six with the Explore—so you can delve way beyond cutting and machine-produced calligraphy. We’re talking engraving, debossing, creating intricate perforations for, well, who knows what. It’s so powerful and all-encompassing, though, that it can be a little overwhelming. And I found that it was so beastly it often shook my dining room table as it sped through projects, occasionally jostling the vinyl I was cutting…and warping the overall design. (Even after checking the roller, recalibrating the machine twice and resetting it, I still found the vinyl cuts could be inconsistent. I haven’t found any other complaints about this issue online, so I’m hoping it’s just an issue with my machine.)

Specs at a Glance:

  • Cuts 300+ materials (including leather and balsa wood)
  • Cuts projects up to 13 inches wide, 75 feet long
  • Connects via Bluetooth and USB
  • Works with Design Space app (iOS, Android, PC & Mac)

The bottom line: If you love to stroll JOANN Fabrics in your downtime and are well-versed in working with Cricut machines, it could be time to upgrade to the Maker series. However, it’s worth considering what you’d make with it to justify the investment.

The PureWow100 is a scale our editors use to vet new products and services, so you know what’s worth the spend—and what’s total hype. Learn more about our process here.

candace davison bio

VP of editorial, recipe developer, cookbook author

Candace Davison oversees PureWow's food and home content, as well as its franchises, like the PureWow100 review series and the Happy Kid Awards. She’s covered all things lifestyle...