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Should I buy a Cricut Maker, Explore Air 2 or a Joy? A Cricut machine comparison guide to help determine which Cricut to buy. 

You may be asking yourself which Cricut Machine should I buy? or Which Cricut is best? I am going to help you answer those questions right now! Let’s talk through each machine and their capabilities to help you make an informed decision on which Cricut is best for you. 

This post contains affiliate links. 

What is a Cricut machine?

A Cricut is a die-cutting machine that allows you to cut custom designs on paper, vinyl, fabric, felt and much much more. It’s the perfect machine for any crafter.  Think of it as a printer but instead of ink it uses a fine blade to cut what would normally print. And it doesn’t only cut you can also use a pen to write or the scorer tool to score.

The three most popular machines are the Cricut Maker, Cricut Explore Air 2 and Cricut Joy. I own all three and have used them extensively. 

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What can you make with a Cricut?

A Cricut allows you to not only cut materials but also write with pens. So what can you make with your Cricut? The options are pretty endless from cut paper for scrapbooking, paper or felt flowers, stencils, vinyl decals, iron-on t-shirts and tote bags, 3D projects and labels. Almost anything you can think of to create your Cricut can do it.

So now that we now what a Cricut is and what kind of projects you can create let’s figure out which machine is best for you. 

Cricut Comparison Guide

Let’s talk about each machine so you can make an informed decision on which Cricut is best for you. Cricut has put together this informative guide that is a quick reference to compare each machine’s capabilities. 

comparison chart

What Is The Cricut  Joy?

Cricut Joy is a smaller die cutting machine that’s new to the Cricut family coming in less than half the size of Cricut Explore and Cricut Maker. The Joy is the newest Cricut machine. It’s the perfect crafting machine for small living, home organization and creating cards! Don’t let the size fool you it’s small but mighty. No craft room required. This is the easiest Cricut machine to use. 

The Cricut Joy retails for $179. I have yet to see it on sale since it is a new machine. 

Cricut Joy

What materials can I cut with my Cricut Joy?

The Cricut Joy can cut over 50 materials. See the full list here. What’s cool about the Joy is you can cut most lighter weight materials like cardstock, vinyl or iron-on. You just have to cut them down to size to fit your Cricut Joy mat.

But my favorite thing about the Joy is it’s ability to cut matless with smart vinyl.  

Cricut Smart Vinyl

No mat required. Cricut has created a new material called Smart Vinyl that no longer requires a cutting mat. The smart vinyl has a border that allows the Cricut Joy to grab onto the vinyl load into the machine. The joy measures the amount of vinyl inserted to check that it’s enough for the project at hand. New Smart vinyl comes in extended sizes, with up to 20’ repeated cut capability, and no need to switch out multiple mats.   

Types Of Cricut Smart Vinyl. 

Cricut Joy Accessories.

Type Of Cricut Joy Mats

Cricut Joy

Pros And Cons Of Cricut Joy

Now as with anything there are pros and cons. So let’s talk about my favorite aspects of the Joy and some of the limitations of the machine. 


  • Compact Size
  • Portability
  • Mat-less Cutting
  • A great first digital die-cutting machine
  • Great addition to your Cricut Family
  • Budget friendly
  • Cuts up to 20 ft in length


Overall I love the portability and size of the machine. It’s able to sit on my kitchen counter or stored away in my coffee table without being in the way. I have used it for small vinyl projects and a quick card. I really enjoy how easy it is to use at the kitchen table or island without having to go down into my craft studio. I think this is a great machine for beginners or in addition to your other Cricut machines. It is also really easy to travel with whether to a friends/clients house or for a weekend getaway crafting and scrapbooking.  

Explore Air 2

Cricut Explore Air 2

The Cricut Explore Air 2 will always be my first love. It was my first machine and my introduction to Cricut. The Explore Air 2 cuts 2x faster than the original explore and cuts over 100 materials. It holds 2 tools which allows it to cut, write or score at the same time. 

The Cricut Explore Air 2 retails for $249 I have seen it as low as $179 on Black Friday. You can typically find it between $199-229. 

Cricut Explore Air 2 blades

While the Explore Air 2 doesn’t have as many blades or the adaptive tool system like the Cricut Maker the deep point blade does allow you to cut some thicker materials. 

What materials can I cut with my Cricut Explore Air 2?

Here is a great article to reference 100 materials you can cut with you Cricut Explore Air 2. The reference also tells you which pressure and blade to use.  Here are some of my favorite materials to cut below.

  • Vinyl
  • Iron-on
  • Cardstock
  • Poster Board
  • Glitter Cardstock
  • Bonded fabric
  • Stencil Vinyl
  • Sticker Paper
  • Felt
  • Window Cling
  • Leather
  • Cork

Explore Air 2

Pros And Cons Of Cricut Explore Air 2

Now as with anything there are pros and cons. So let’s talk about my favorite aspects of the Explore Air 2 and some of the limitations of the machine. 


  • A great first digital die-cutting machine
  • Budget friendly
  • Cuts over 100 materials
  • Cost of blades
  • Perfect machine for creating items to sell


  • Versatility to cut thicker materials
  • Blade variety
  • Only cuts up to 2 feet in length

Cricut Maker

Let’s talk about the Cricut Maker. Now this is the fanciest and most versatile of all the machines. 

What makes the Maker different from other Cricut machines?

Now I have tried a lot of the cutting machines on the market and what makes it different is its ability to cut thicker materials such as chipboard, leather, balsa wood and some fabric without backing. The extra-deep Knife Blade cuts through dense materials up to 2.4 mm (3/32″) thick. The Cricut Maker can cut out sewing pattern and comes with a larger variety of tools. Cutting over 300 hundred materials, from the most delicate paper and fabric to the tough stuff like mat board, leather, and basswood. 

The Cricut Maker retails for $399 but you can regularly find it on sale for $349. 

Cricut Maker Quick Swap Tools

What Are The Cricut Maker Adaptive Tools?

These tools can be used only with Maker. This system brings together three major technologies that give Maker professional class cutting versatility and performance. Delivering 10 times more cutting force than the Explore line.Using a sophisticated steering system to actively control the direction of the blade at all times. Tests to be sure you are using the correct blade before it starts cutting, and tells you to change it, if not.

  • Perforation BladeCreate perfect tear-offs and easy peel-always using paper, cardstock, acetate, poster board, and more.
  • Wavy Blade: Quickly create a fun wavy edge on a variety of popular materials.
  • Engraving Tip: allows you to customize acrylic or other materials by cutting grooves into a hard flat surface.
  • Fine Debossing Tip: Customize projects with crisp, detailed debossed designs – no folders necessary!
  • Scoring Wheel Tip: Creates extra-deep score lines for perfect folds and a flawless finish.

Please note the rotary and knife blade are not quickswap housing but require the drive housing. The rotary tool is for cutting fabric and the knife tool cuts thicker materials such as chipboard and basswood. 

Want to check out some project you can make with the adaptive tools? Check it out here

Cricut Machine Tool Organizer

What is the QuickSwap Housing System

Allows you to interchange tips on to a housing system. The Cricut Maker can detect which tip or tool is placed into the machine. Once you have one QuickSwap Housing System you can just buy the tips. Making the QuickSwap tools more affordable.

What materials can I cut with my Cricut Maker?

One of the main reason Cricut Maker is my main die-cutting machine is it’s versatility to cut a large range of materials. The Cricut Maker can cut anything less than 3/23 of and inch or 2.4mm thick. The knife blade allows you to cut thicker materials such as basswood or chipboard. 

For different materials you will use different cutting mats. Theres a standard grip, light grip, strong grip and fabric mat. There are also different blades and tools called the adaptive quick swap tools and you can learn all about them here

Cricut Maker Tools

Pros and Cons of the Cricut Maker

Now as with anything there are pros and cons. So let’s talk about my favorite aspects of the Maker and some of the limitations of the machine. 


  • Versatility to 300+ materials
  • Over 12 different tools
  • Ability to not only cut and write but also engrave, deboss, score and perforate. 
  • Cut unbonded fabric
  • Machine Speed
  • Professional cutting quality
  • Perfect machine for creating items to sell


  • Price of machine
  • Portability
  • Cost of additional tools
  • Only cuts up to 2 feet in length

Have questions about the Cricut Maker? Check out this post about questions to ask before buying your Cricut Maker.

Cricut Machines

Which Cricut is right for you? Which Cricut should I buy?

In conclusion they are all great machines in different ways. Let’s recap and break it down to crafter type. 

Cricut Joy
A crafter that maybe doesn’t have a dedicated craft room. Perfect for small living, card making, budget conscious or exclusively making long DIY signs. Also great for a beginner crafter this is the easiest to learn and operated of all the Cricut machines.

Cricut Explore Air 2
A crafter looking to cut lighter weigh materials. Scrapbookers, beginner crafter or budget conscious crafters. Cricut Explore Air 2 is also great for sticker makers and personalization. 

Cricut Maker
Is for the serious crafter that isn’t afraid to cut and work with thicker materials. This is also a great machine for a sewer who wants to do small scale sewing projects or quilts. 

For me if you are a serious crafter and have the budget the Cricut Maker will always be my first choice. Back in college when I was living in a dorm or tiny apartment the Cricut Joy would have been an easy decision. That being said I love all three machines and think you would be happy with any of them.

Savings Tip for when buying a Cricut

Purchase Cricut Access before buying your machine. Cricut access members get an extra 10% off on You will also get access to 100,000+ images, hundreds of fonts and ready‑to‑make projects. Even if you cancel after just one month it will be worth the savings!

Didn’t answer your question or have more questions on which Cricut is right for you? Drop it in the comments and I’ll make sure to answer it. 

Cricut Machines

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About Michelle Beaton

Welcome to Weekend Craft. Life is busy so I am all about getting projects done on the weekend, whether it be crafts, DIY, home decor, or crafting with your Cricut.

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