Which Cricut Should I Buy?

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***Updated May 2020 to include the Cricut Maker!
I have not added the new Cricut Joy Machine to this post yet. Also, some links have been removed because the machines are no longer available for purchase.***

So, you want to buy a Cricut. But, you’re looking online and there are so many options! They all look the same, but they have different names like Air, One, Air 2 and Maker. What’s the difference between all these machines, and which machine is the best option?

Cricut Explore Machines comparison

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. For more information, see my disclosures here.

One of the first questions that people ask me about the Cricut is – “Which Cricut Explore should I buy?”

There are a few factors to consider when you are choosing which Cricut Explore machine to buy. And now, there’s even a new type of machine that’s one step above the “Explore” family — the Cricut Maker. The Cricut Maker isn’t technically a Cricut Explore machine, but I consider it very similar so I’ll be grouping them all together in the question “which Cricut should I buy?”

Today I wanted to go over the similarities and differences between each of the machines and hopefully help answer this very popular question.


Get the Free Guide: Which Cricut Should I Buy?

Similarities

Let’s first talk about the features of the Cricut Explore and Cricut Maker that ALL of the machines have in common. No matter which machine you decide on, they all have the ability to do the following:

Cut, Write, and Score

All machines have the ability to Cut, Write, and Score. The difference is that some machines do this all in one step, while others do this in two steps. We will get into that later. The main idea is that all Cricut Explores and the Cricut Maker allow you to Cut out projects and Write on them or Score them.

Easy Calligraphy using the Cricut Explore pen adapter! Step by step instructions here! I Love how this looks!!!

>> How to Make Modern Calligraphy Art <<

Cut Many Different Materials

All machines allow you to cut a variety of different materials. On the Cricut Explore machines, there is a Smart Dial where you can select the material that you want to cut. There is also a custom setting, which allows you to choose from a variety of different materials on your computer to cut.

The Cricut Maker doesn’t have a Smart Dial. Instead, you select all materials for cutting from your computer.

How to make a cozy fall pillow using the Cricut Explore. Full tutorial for making a pillow using Craftables heat transfer vinyl and a FREE downloadable cut file!

>> How to Make a Cozy Fall Pillow using the Cricut Explore <<

Design Software

All machines work with Cricut Design Space.

Cricut Design Space is an online software tool that allows you to design projects to cut out using your Cricut Explore.

Recently, Cricut has updated their Cricut Design Space software to version 3. The new version is a lot faster and I think it’s more intuitive than before.

She shows you step by step how to make a banner using the Cricut Explore! Such an easy tutorial with great information!

Above: Cricut Design Space Version 2

>> How to Make Gorgeous Banners <<

Below: Cricut Design Space Version 3

How to make a cozy fall pillow using the Cricut Explore. Full tutorial for making a pillow using Craftables heat transfer vinyl and a FREE downloadable cut file!

Upload Your own Images for Free

All machines allow you to upload your own images into Cricut Design Space and cut them out for free!

Print then Cut

All machines have the ability to create Print then Cut designs.

These are designs that can be printed out using your home printer and then cut out using the Cricut Explore or Cricut Maker.

She shows you step by step how to make pretty labels using the Cricut Explore! Such an easy tutorial with great information!

>> How to Make Pretty Organizing Labels <<

Differences

Now let’s talk about what makes these machines different and what that means for you when deciding which one to purchase.

Wireless cutting using Bluetooth

Some of the machines have the ability to connect to Cricut Design Space on your computer or iPad wirelessly using Bluetooth.

The Cricut Explore Air, Cricut Explore Air 2, and the Cricut Maker all have this ability. The Cricut Explore Original and the Cricut Explore One do not have this ability built into the machine. However, you can buy a separate Bluetooth Adapter for these two machines that will give them the wireless cutting ability.

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This isn’t as much of an issue anymore since the original machines are hard to find. They are not manufactured anymore, and you can only find them used.

Dual Adapters

One feature of some machines is the dual adapter that allows for both a blade housing and an accessory housing to be attached at the same time.

With this dual adapter, the machine is able to both Cut and Write or Score in the same step with no intervention from you.

The Cricut Explore Original, the Cricut Explore Air, the Cricut Explore Air 2, and the Cricut Maker all have dual adapters and allow for one-step cutting and writing or scoring.

The Cricut Explore One is the only machine without a dual adapter – it has a single adapter.

The Cricut Explore One does not come with the accessory adapter, so if you want to use that you will need to purchase it separately.

When you’re using the Cricut Explore One for cutting and writing or scoring, when it’s finished cutting and moves on to either writing or scoring, it will stop and prompt you to change out the blade housing for the accessory housing.

Fast Mode

Fast Mode is a new feature and is only available with the Cricut Explore Air 2 and the Cricut Maker. It allows for up to 2x faster cutting and writing when you are using certain materials.

Fast Mode only works with cardstock, vinyl, and iron-on vinyl, but it allows you to finish your projects in almost half the time when you are using those materials. When you are using other materials, the cutting time is the same as the other Cricut Explore models.

Adaptive Tool System

With the addition of the newest Cricut machine, the Cricut Maker, a new housing was introduced for machine accessories. It’s called the Adaptive Tool System!

This system has the ability to lift and turn the blade during the cutting process. It does this based on the type of material you are cutting and the type of blade you are using. This system is only available with the Cricut Maker machine.

That means that the Adaptive Tool System has the ability to control the exact pressure and speed needed to accurately cut even the trickiest materials. From thin tissue paper to thick fabrics like wool and leather – the Cricut Maker can handle them all!

This is different from the Cricut Explore machines, where the blade drags along the material as the mat moves through the machine.

The Cricut Maker blades move on their own using a gear system instead of just being dragged through materials.

There are two new blades that only work with the Cricut Maker – the Rotary Blade and the Knife Blade. Cricut is planning on expanding the tools that work with the Adaptive Tool System.

Update – they have added more tools. You can see those here!

So, as new tools come out, you won’t need to update your machine. Instead, your machine capabilities will grow as you add more tools that all work with the Adaptive Tool System.

The newest tools for the adaptive tools system are the Scoring Wheel and the Double Scoring Wheel.

Colors

Note: I keep trying to update this post to add more colors as they become available. But they keep adding so many colors in all the different stores. It’s hard to keep up. But I’m doing my best to keep the list below updated. 🙂 Thanks for understanding.

This is not really a functional feature of the machine, but sometimes the color of the machine is something people have strong opinions on. Each machine has a different range of colors that it comes in.

There are standard colors for each machine model and then they are also alternate and special exclusive colors that have been released. The exclusive colors can only be found at certain retailers.

Here are all the different colors that you can find for each machine model:

  • Cricut Explore Original – It’s difficult to find this machine for sale anymore but you may be able to buy it on eBay or another resale site
    • Green 
    • Wild Orchid – exclusive to HSN (limited edition)
  • Cricut Explore Air
    • Blue
    • Teal
    • Gold
    • Wild Orchid
  • Cricut Explore One
    • Grey
    • Coral
    • Navy Bloom
    • Pink Poppy
  • Cricut Explore Air 2
    • Mint
    • Rose – exclusive to JOANN
    • Blue – exclusive to Michaels
    • Pearl — exclusive to Michaels (Martha Stewart edition)
    • Ivory and Gold – exclusive to HSN
    • Sky
    • Matte Black
    • Raspberry
    • Flamingo Pearl 
    • Peacock – exclusive to Michaels
    • Sunflower – exclusive to Michaels
    • Boysenberry – exclusive to Michaels
    • Periwinkle – exclusive to Michaels
    • Coral – exclusive to Michaels
    • Cobalt – exclusive to JOANN
    • Wisteria – exclusive to JOANN
  • Cricut Maker
    • Dark Gray & Champagne 
    • Blue
    • Rose

Price

There is a slight pricing difference between all of the machines because of their different features. The top of the line machines are the Cricut Maker and the Cricut Explore Air 2. These machines offer the most feature and capabilities. Since the Cricut Maker is new, it is priced the highest.

The Cricut Explore Original model is no longer sold by Cricut. You can find it on Amazon occasionally and some other places, but usually, it will be around the same price as a Cricut Explore Air. It’s better the get the Cricut Explore Air and have the Bluetooth wireless built into the machine.

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The budget-friendly option out of all the machines is the Cricut Explore One. It will normally run around $40-$50 less than the other machines because it only has the single adapter.

This model is also no longer available for purchase directly from Cricut. 

This is a great option if you want a Cricut but don’t necessarily have the budget for the top of the line model. Or, if you are a casual crafter and don’t see yourself using the Cricut a ton, and maybe just want to have it as a tool for special crafting occasions. The Cricut Explore One is a great option for a lower-priced model.

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If you think that you would be cutting out lots of details designs or things like multiple sheets of stickers, you may want to consider getting the Cricut Explore Air 2 because it has the ability to cut in fast mode.

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In all the time that I have been using my Cricut Explore Original, I’ve never really been bothered by how long it takes the machine to cut out my project. Most of the time, it’s finished in a very short amount of time. I am not normally cutting projects with intricate details or tons of tiny cuts, so I don’t notice the speed being an issue.

The only project that I can think of that I make that would benefit from a faster cutting time is creating printable stickers. I try to pack as many stickers onto one sheet as possible, so there are lots of cuts and shapes for the Cricut Explore to trace.

Cutting a full sheet of stickers can take a lot of time and if I was going to be cutting sheet after sheet constantly, I would think of investing in the Cricut Explore Air 2.

You can use the Cricut Explore to create and cut out your own stickers! Click for the full tutorial.

The Fast Mode allows for 2x faster cutting when you have the smart dial set to cardstock, vinyl, or iron-on vinyl. It would definitely speed up the time it takes to cut out a full sheet of stickers.

>> How to Make Your Own Stickers <<

If you want to use your Cricut to cut fabric or to help you with your sewing projects in general, you are going to want to invest in the Cricut Maker. The Cricut Maker is much better for cutting fabric than the Cricut Explore machines.

With the Cricut Explore machines, if you wanted to cut fabrics you needed to attach fusible web to the back of the fabrics to provide stability. Now with the Cricut Maker, the rotary blade will glide over the fabric and cut it without bunching or ripping! No backing needed.

The Cricut Maker can cut out all of your fabric and sewing designs. And, there are also tons of sewing patterns in Cricut Design Space to choose from so you can create just about any fabric project.

Which Machine Would I Buy?

If I was going to buy a machine today, I would choose either the Cricut Explore Air or the Cricut Maker.

The Cricut Explore Air is still an incredible machine, even though there are newer machines on the market. It is a great machine for someone just starting out with the Cricut and would make a great gift! And because there are now two newer machines, the price for this machine has become much more affordable. The Cricut Explore Air has all the bells and whistles to be the ultimate crafting and DIY tool.

Because I’m a huge Cricut fan, the Cricut Maker is definitely on my wish list. The Cricut Maker is a powerful machine and is the flagship of all the Cricut products. It can cut just about any material from tiny delicate papers to leather and even wood! And now with the Adaptive Tool System, the possibilities for materials are endless. Cricut will continue to add new tools that will all work with the Cricut Maker machine. It’s a DIYer’s dream tool!

I would love to upgrade my Cricut Explore Original to the Cricut Maker. Since I use my Cricut for tons of projects, I know I will love the new machine!

While the Cricut Maker is definitely impressive, it is the most expensive of any machines Cricut has ever released. And I don’t want to tell you to go out and buy the most expensive thing just because it’s expensive. I want you to buy the machine that’s right for you and your needs.

I think that the price for the Cricut Maker is only worth it if you are planning on using all the capabilities of this incredible machine. If you are already a Cricut Explore user and you are looking to upgrade to the next best thing — this machine is for you! Or if you are new to Cricut but you know you’ll be using this machine ALL the time for DIY projects, sewing projects, and tons more, than this is definitely the machine for you! Or if you love to sew and want a machine that will help you with cutting patterns and designs, the Cricut Maker is your best bet – hands down. It’s much better when it comes to cutting fabric than the Cricut Explore machines.

But, if you just want a Cricut because you are looking for an incredible cutting machine, I would stick with the Cricut Explore Air. If you are only planning on cutting out basic materials like paper, vinyl, iron-on, and other everyday project materials, you will be totally fine with the Cricut Explore Air. Or, if you know that you’ll never use your Cricut for cutting fabrics, the Cricut Explore Air is perfect for you!

The Cricut Maker would be overkill for you and you’d end up spending a ton of money on a machine that you aren’t using to its full capabilities. Basically, you’d be paying for a Cricut Maker but using it like a Cricut Explore Air. So why not just save money and buy the Cricut Explore Air?

Whichever model you decide to go with, they are all going to impress you! I know that I was going on and on about how amazing the new Cricut Maker is, but that doesn’t mean the other machines are ancient junky things. They are still incredible and high-quality cutting machines. All of the Cricut machines really are the best cutting machines on the market, in my opinion.

I hope that this helps you choose the best machine for your creative needs. Let me know in the comments which Cricut machine you have – or which one is on your wish list.

Which Cricut Explore should I buy? This post is so informative! It explains all the different Cricut Explore machines and the features of each one!

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43 Comments

    1. Christene Holder says:

      Charlene – you should totally put the Cricut on your Christmas list this year!!! 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by the blog.

      >> Christene

      1. I got mine for Christmas last year I absolutely love it and I’m learning and making new things!

    2. Kelly Diaz says:

      THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR WISDOM.

  1. Ashley arriola says:

    Do u need a printer to use this or does the image automatically go to the cricut

    1. Christene Holder says:

      Hi Ashley!

      If you want to cut out an image from paper, you don’t need a printer. The outline of the image will be sent to the Cricut and it will trace out the image when it cuts.

      If you want to use the Print Then Cut feature, you will need a printer. This feature lets you print out an image with different layers or colors on blank paper. Then you can have the Cricut trace that printed image when it cuts.

      Check out some of my project tutorials for examples of this. The banners tutorial is done without a printer. I use the Cricut to cut out an image on colored cardstock. The printable meal planning stickers tutorial is done with a printer. I use my home printer to create the stickers and the Cricut to cut them out.

      Hope this helps
      >> Christene

      1. Thank You for your suggestions and reasons for what Cricut to purchase. Very helpful!

  2. Are cartridges completely necessary. I am interested in buy the cricut explore Air and. I am unfamiliar with the essentials to start your blog post was extremely helpful. I have loaded my cart with basically everything you suggested getting but I have not seen anything about cartridges. They seem so pricey and are honestly what is holding me back from making the purchase. HELP! ????

    1. Christene Holder says:

      Hi Sam!

      For the Cricut Explores, the cartridges are not necessary. They are definitely expensive. The nice thing about the Explore and the software that you use with it is that you can buy single images from the image library. So instead of buying a whole cartridge for $30 you can buy the one image you want for $1. It’s so much nicer than having to buy physical cartridges. The cartridges are leftover from the previous Cricut machines that didn’t interface with the computer software.

      >> Christene

      1. That is such a relief bc I have been so skeptical about buying for that reason. You have been so helpful. Yours is the first place I have found what is necessary to buy for starting out. All the other sites are speaking to senior cricut users. I’m a freshman haha! I am going to subscribe to your site and keep you in mind for future questions if you don’t mind

  3. im interested. may i know how much the circuit explore air plotter?

  4. Rebecca Smith says:

    Where can I purchase a Bluetooth adapter for my explore one???

  5. Trixie Tan says:

    Hi guys!
    I have an upcoming wedding and want to buy cricut for addressing my wedding invitations and do some laser cut favors for my entourage. Which CRICUT should I purchase to do both?

    1. Christene Holder says:

      Hi Trixie! That’s a great idea! I would recommend a Cricut Explore Air or a Cricut Maker. Depending on the type of material you want to use for the favors, that might help you narrow it down. The Cricut Maker can cut things like chipboard or even thinner wood. It can also cut fabric. The Cricut Explore Air cannot. But, if you don’t plan on cutting materials like leather, fabric, wood, or chipboard, I would stick with the Cricut Explore Air. It’s much more affordable and will allow you to write and cut and score etc. It’s a great machine! I have both the Air and the Maker.

      >> Christene

  6. Thank you. I have been trying to decide one a brand and machine!! Most helpful ????????????

  7. Andrea LaCaze says:

    Aloha, could you let me know if any of the Cricut machines cut thin gauge metal? I make jewelry and I would like to cut shapes into metal I know you said it cuts would but wondering if metal is a possibility?
    Mahalo
    Andrea

    1. Christene Holder says:

      Hi Andrea,

      I think your best bet would be the Cricut Maker. If you look on their website, there’s a whole list of all the materials it can cut. The Maker can cut SO MUCH more than the regular machines.

      >> Christene

  8. Andrea LaCaze says:

    Thank you for your reply. Much success!

  9. Theresa Tanis says:

    Hi Christine, I’m trying to decide between a cricket and a scan n cut. Was thinking of getting my daughter one for Christmas but don’t know which one. Your blog really helped me know about the cricket and just wondered if you know how they compared. My daughter is very crafty and wants to make a lot of Disney things.

  10. Hi, I have a Cricut cake machine and have never used it, I know it’s been discontinued and I am wondering if there is a software I can use with it

    Also, can I use the Cricut maker for cake decorating, using fondant/gum paste etc?

    I look forward to your reply, thank you!

    1. Christene Holder says:

      Hi Maria,

      Unfortunately, the new design software isn’t compatible with the machines before the Explore series. There’s not any other computer software that will work with that machine.

      I am not sure if the new machines are “made” for cutting icing and fondant like the old Cricut cake machine could. I did find this video on Youtube that shows an Explore being used with an icing mat. It looks like a product that you would need to buy somewhere else because I don’t think it’s made by Cricut. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7GWobwOcS4

      Hope this helps!

      >> Christene

  11. Good morning Christene,
    We bought my granddaughter the Cricut Maker for Christmas and I was wondering what else to purchase along with the machine for her. She is very crafty and will be a teacher after she graduates from College in May. Is there pacific items for her to start with that is a must have? She will be making lots of things for her classroom. Thank you

  12. Hi Christene,
    Just recently I have developed arthritis in my right thumb. It is making it rather painful to use a rotary cutter for cutting out quilting squares. I am wondering which cricut would be best for me to use for cutting fabric. I also want to know how large of quilting square sizes I can cut. Which accessories would I need to purchase? I know nothing about using a cricut. Thank you!

    1. Hi Wanda,

      For sewing the Maker is going to be the machine you’ll want. It’s specifically designed to cut fabric. You will want to get the rotary blade which I believe comes with the maker machine. Also the pink cutting mats which are for fabric. You can cut up to 11.5” wide and 24.5” long I believe. The mats are 12×12 or 12×24.

      I hope this helps. You can also email me at christene@keystoinspiration.com and I can give you specifics there if you want.

      >> Christene

  13. Bruce Perrin says:

    i am interested in doing engraving on soft metals and plexiglass any recommendations which unit to buy?

    1. Hi! I would recommend the Maker for engraving. They have a specific tool for that machine for engraving

      >> Christene

  14. Dawida Aracena says:

    Hi Christine I need some help I haven’t choose yet a machine I wanna do some hair bows and other things what machine do you recommend to me it been so hard because I don’t know what to pick?

    1. Hi! If you want to make hair bows with fabric I would recommend the Cricut Maker. It’s made for cutting fabric and also other materials but it’s really good for fabric. I think that’s your best bet

      >> Christene

  15. Hi Christene, I’m looking into purchasing a cricut machine for my daughter. She does party decorations and makes a lot of name signs by hand out of cardboard. The signs are fairly large like a foot tall by two to 5 feet wide depending on the name.
    Do you know if the explore air would cut out a card board in that way?

    1. Hi Stacy,

      It depends on how thick the cardboard is. You would have to check on their website to determine what thickness the air could cut. It can cut some cardboards, but if it’s thicker I would recommend the Maker. As far as size, all machines can only cut designs that are 12” wide max, so larger designs have to be cut in separate parts and then pieced together. People use that technique a lot for wall decals that are very large and I’m sure she could do the same for signs.

      >> Christene

  16. Good evening Christine, would like to know which machine will cut wafer paper. Thanks Patricia

    1. I would use the Maker for that and I think the rotary wheel is best for really fine material like that

  17. Janet Dupler says:

    I’m a beginner. I love crafts and would like to try a Cricut! I do sew, not much time anymore though. Would the Cricut maker be too advanced for a beginner? Should I start with a less expensive explorer model perhaps?
    I used to sew all the time. So I’m not intimidated by learning how to use it. We have a wedding coming up and we think we could use it for many things wedding! And I’d like to try making quilts too! So I’m leaning toward the maker. Thoughts?

    1. I think the Maker would be the best machine for you and would allow you to do more crafts in the future as you get more comfortable with the machine.

      >> Christene

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