Skip to main content
Blank LabelsCustom Labels
Home Articles Sticker Making Should I Upgrade My Cricut Cutting Machine?

Should I Upgrade My Cricut Cutting Machine?

Updated 06/30/2022
Should I upgrade my cricut cutting machine

It seems like there’s always some new and improved version of a product you already have coming out — and this goes for cutting machines too. In 2021, Cricut released TWO new machines: the Cricut Explore 3 and the Cricut Maker 3. Our goal in this article is to help you figure out if it’s actually worth it to upgrade to a new Cricut Machine, whether that be one of these newer machines, or an older version of them.

We’ll go through the similarities of all the Cricut machines, breakdown the features, and give you our opinion on whether each one is worth upgrading to.

Note: This guide would also be helpful for those who need help choosing their very first Cricut machine!

Let’s get into it! We recommend using the table below to jump to whichever Cricut Machine you're interested in. If you're not sure, just read through each one!

Similarities

There are more differences than similarities between all the machines, but knowing what they all have in common will give us the foundation we need to dive into the differences.

Cutting: Every cricut model can cut 50+ materials, including cardstock, sticker paper, iron-on, and vinyl.

Writing: They’re all capable of writing with a Cricut pen or marker on paper, cardstock, and other materials.

Design: Each model is compatible with Cricut Design Space, a design software that allows users to design, upload, and share their projects.

Connectivity: All have bluetooth connectivity — no need for a USB cord!

Accessories: There are tons of compatible accessories available in the Cricut shop for each machine, including mats, pens, tools and more.

It’s no secret that Cricut makes excellent machines that are acclaimed by crafters far and wide. All of these machines are powerful and work great, so choosing the right one for you will depend almost entirely on what you’re crafting. That’s why we broke down the features and capabilities of each one.

Cricut Joy

Overview

The Joy is the smallest of the Cricut machines, and therefore, what you can do with it is limited. It’s essentially a miniature version of the Explore series. It’s a great starter machine that's easy to set up and use. It’s good for making mini sticker sheets, labels, cards, and other small-scale, fun projects. It has three tools: Cricut Joy Blade, Cricut Joy Foil Transfer Tool, and Cricut Joy Pens & Markers.

Features

Materials: The Joy features only the Fine Point Blade, which limits the types of materials you can cut (but it’s still 50+ materials!). It’s capable of cutting thin materials like cardstock, vinyl, iron-on, sticker paper, some faux leathers, and more. View the full list of compatible materials.

Cut size: Because the machine is so small, the max cut width for the Joy is 4.5 inches. If using Cricut Smart Materials like the Cricut Smart Vinyl, or Cricut Smart Iron-On, your cuts can be up to 4 feet in length since Smart Materials allow you to cut without using a mat.

Pen Tool: While all the Cricut machines have the pen tool that allows you to write and draw, it’s important to note that the Cricut Joy requires a different pen size and type than the other machines.

Print Then Cut: Does not have the Print Then Cut feature.

Card making: The Joy makes card-making easier than any other Cricut machine, thanks to the Cricut Joy Card Mat. The Joy is too small to cut cards that are laid out. Cricut solved this problem by creating this card mat, exclusive to the joy, which cuts pre-folded cards. Because of this feature alone, many card-makers opt for the Joy.

Foil Transfer Tool: Cricut Joy does have a Foil Transfer Tool that allows you to add foiling lines.

Machine size: 8" x 5.4" x 4.3" and approximately 4 pounds

Price:$179.99

Cons

  • Maximum cut width of 4.5"
  • Limited tools and features
  • Limited compatible materials
  • Not compatible with Print Then Cut projects

Is the Cricut Joy for you?

This machine is a great option if you…

  • Only do cardmaking
  • Only do quick and easy projects using thin materials
  • Are new to crafting and intimidated by other machines
  • Are learning the basics
  • Need a portable cut machine with simple features
  • Have limited desk space
  • Are looking for a machine under $200

Cricut Explore Air 2

Overview

The Explore Air 2 does everything the Joy can do and more (with the exception of the Card Mat), and is the only machine that comes in different colors. It’s a full-size machine that is super popular among both beginners and experienced crafters, and has a more powerful cutting force. This machine has six tools that make it great for a wide variety of DIY projects: Fine-Point Blade, Deep-Point Blade, Pens & Markers, Scoring Stylus, Foil Transfer Tool, and Bonded Fabric Tool.

Features

Materials: The Explore Air 2 features the Fine-Point Blade, Deep Point Blade, and Bonded Fabric Blade, which together allow you to cut 100+ materials. With the deep point blade, you’ll be able to cut thicker materials like magnet sheets, cork, some felts, craft foam, and more. Cricut Smart Materials are not compatible with this machine. View the full list of compatible materials.

Cut size: This machine can make cuts up to 12 inches wide, and 23.5 inches long (when you use the long mat). There are two different mat sizes for this machine, a long rectangle one and a square one.

Smart Set Dial: The dial has cutting presets for the most commonly used materials: paper, vinyl, iron-on, light cardstock, cardstock, bonded fabric, and poster board. You can also set the dial to custom, and choose from an entire library of materials in Cricut Design Space.

Fast Mode: This feature can be enabled in Cricut Design Space and allows you to cut and write up to 2x faster.

Print Then Cut: It can only do Print Then Cut on white paper.

Scoring Stylus: This tool allows you to score paper and make fold lines easily and accurately. The Cricut Explore 2 can utilize the Scoring Stylus and a cutting blade at the same time, so you’re able to do your cutting and scoring in one step.

Foil effects: The Foil Transfer System can add foiling to your paper projects.

Machine size: 22" x 7" x 5.9" and approximately 11 pounds

Price:$249.99

Cons

  • Not compatible with Cricut Smart Materials, so no mat-free cutting ability
  • Cannot cut thicker fabrics
  • Max cutting length of 23.5"
  • Not portable

Is the Cricut Explore Air 2 for you?

The Cricut machines in the Explore Series are powerful machines that are great for a wide range of DIY crafts and hobbies, but we have to say that if you want to upgrade to one of these from the Joy, Explore One, or Explore Air (or want one as your first Cricut), the Explore Air 3 is more worthwhile.

The Explore Air 3 does everything the Explore Air 2 does, plus it’s faster and it's compatible with Cricut Smart Materials, which opens up the max cut length. The only caveat is the price difference; about $70. With that in mind, the Explore Air 2 is still a great option for crafters of all levels who need a machine under $300.

Cricut Explore Air 3

Overview

The Explore Air 3 is the same machine as the Explore Air 2 with all the same features, but has a few upgrades and differences.

Differences From the Explore Air 2

Smart Materials: The Explore Air 3 has the ability to cut Cricut Smart Materials such as Smart Iron-On and Smart Vinyl. This opens up the maximum cut length to 12 feet, since you aren’t limited to the length of a cutting mat.

Machine colors: This machine doesn’t come in different colors like the Explore Air 2.

Cutting speed: The Explore Air 3 is already optimized to cut and write at Fast Mode speed, so you won’t find an option for Fast Mode with this machine. On another note, it cuts even faster (another 2x) when using Smart Materials.

No Smart Set Dial: Unlike the Explore Air 2, it doesn’t have the Smart Set Dial. All of your material settings are adjusted in Cricut Design Space.

Print Then Cut: With a more powerful sensor, the Explore Air 3 can do Print Then Cut on colored paper.

Price:$319.99

Cons

  • Cannot cut thicker fabrics
  • Not portable
  • Doesn’t come in different colors

Is the Cricut Explore Air 3 for you?

The Explore Air 3 is a solid machine and in our opinion, is absolutely worth upgrading from the Joy if you want to do more than just quick, small-scale projects. Like mentioned previously, it’s basically a full-size version of the Joy, and it’s a super popular choice among crafters who don’t do much work with fabrics (it’s actually Cricut’s best-selling machine).

It’s not quite as simple to set up as the Cricut Joy, but the Explore Air 3 is still beginner friendly and is easy to get the hang of. It’s our top choice for Cricut newbies and crafters who only do full-size projects using paper, vinyl, and/or iron-on.

If you want to upgrade from the Explore Air 2, you might as well just pay $30 more for the Cricut Maker, unless you strictly do projects involving paper, vinyl and/or iron-on and don’t see yourself branching out in the future (although beware, you can’t use Smart Materials with the Cricut Maker). In that case, upgrading to the Explore Air 3 is a great idea if you are interested in matless cutting using Smart Materials, and want a faster machine.

Looking to upgrade from your Explore Air or Explore One? The main differences between those machines and this one, is faster and more precise cutting, and matless cutting. If these things are important to you, then you should upgrade to the Explore Air 3. If you find that your current machine is sufficient, then there is no need to upgrade.

Cricut Maker

Overview

The Cricut Maker does everything the Explore Series can do and more. The Maker series models are the Cricut’s most powerful cutting machines, and are popular among pro crafters and those who need versatility. With 13 unique tools (listed below), the Cricut Maker is capable of creating virtually any craft project you can think of.

Features

Materials: With all the capabilities, and the unmatched cutting force (10x that of the Explore Series) of the Cricut Maker, you’re able to cut 300+ materials! You can cut everything the Explore Air 2 can cut, plus an abundance of other, even thicker materials such as fabric, genuine leather, balsa wood, chipboard, and so much more. Cricut Smart Materials are not compatible with this machine. View the full list of compatible materials.

Cut size: This machine can make cuts up to 12 inches wide, and 23.5 inches long (when you use the long mat). There are two different mat sizes for this machine, a long rectangle one and a square one.

Fast Mode: This feature can be enabled in Cricut Design Space and allows you to cut and write up to 2x faster.

Print Then Cut: The Cricut Maker can do Print Then Cut on white and colored paper.

Adaptive Tool System: One of the things that makes the Cricut Maker series so unique is the Adaptive Tool System which allows you to swap out ever-expanding blades and tools. So when Cricut comes out with new ones, you can purchase and add them to your machine. Because of this adaptability, you may never need to upgrade to a new cutting machine again (or at least not for a long time)!

Machine size: 22" x 7" x 6" and approximately 15 pounds

Price:$349.99

Tools

The Cricut Maker features the same six tools as the Explore Series (Fine-Point Blade, Deep-Point Blade, Pens & Markers, Scoring Stylus, Foil Transfer Tool, Bonded-Fabric Tool) as well as seven additional ones!

Rotary Blade: This tool opens up a ton of fabric cutting options — more than 100 types of fabric! It cuts through fabric easily and precisely and is great for cutting shapes and designs. Unlike with previous machines, any fabric you cut won’t need interfacing on the back.

Knife Blade: Think of this like an exacto knife. It allows you to cut wood, chipboard, and other super thick materials. It’s also good for genuine leather.

Scoring Wheels (Single & Double): For folded projects, the Cricut Maker has two scoring wheels. The Single Scoring Wheel creates accurate crease lines and the Double Scoring Wheel is good for coated papers.

Engraving Tool: Engrave metal and other materials like leather, acrylic, and more.

Debossing Tool: Create debossed lines on cardstock and leather.

Wavy Blade: This blade cuts a unique and decorative wavy edge in paper and other thinner materials.

Perforation Blade: The perforation tool is perfect for creating easy-tear elements to projects.

Cons

  • Can be overwhelming for beginners
  • Not compatible with Smart materials, so no mat-free cutting ability
  • Max cutting length of 23.5"
  • Doesn’t come in different colors
  • Not portable

Is the Cricut Maker for you?

Cricut claims that the Maker series machines are beginner-friendly, but these machines can be intimidating to new crafters. If you’re just getting into Cricut, we don’t recommend this one.

If you’re looking to upgrade to a Maker from a different machine, or you’re an adamant beginner who wants to just dive right into a Maker, we think it's worthwhile to go with the Maker 3. It does everything the Maker does, but allows you to use Smart Materials which opens the door to longer cuts and faster speeds.

We also don’t recommend this machine if you only plan on doing projects with paper and other thin materials. If that’s the case, then an Explore series model will be perfectly sufficient.

Cricut Maker 3

Overview

The Cricut Maker 3 is the Cricut Maker with one major upgrade. Everything else is the exact same.

Differences From the Cricut Maker

Smart Materials: The Cricut Maker 3 has the ability to cut Cricut Smart Materials such as Smart Iron-On and Smart Vinyl. This opens up the maximum cut length to 12 feet, since you aren’t limited to the length of a cutting mat. Additionally, while this machine is already optimized to cut and write at Fast Mode speed, it cuts even 2x faster when using Smart Materials.

Price:$429.99

Cons

  • Can be overwhelming for beginners
  • Not compatible with Smart materials, so no mat-free cutting ability
  • Max cutting length of 23.5"
  • Doesn’t come in different colors
  • Not portable
  • Most expensive

Is the Cricut Maker 3 for you?

As mentioned for the Cricut Maker, if you’re just getting into Cricut, or if you only make projects using paper and thin materials, we don’t recommend this one.

With that being said, the Maker 3 is every crafter’s dream, and there’s truly nothing else like it. We recommend this machine for ambitious craft enthusiasts who create all sorts of projects, and crafters who do a lot of fabric projects. Cutting fabric with this machine is a breeze. Investing in this would also be worthwhile if you see yourself branching out to other crafts in the future.

If you’re upgrading from an Explore Machine, getting adjusted to the Maker 3 shouldn’t be too much of a learning curve.

If you’re looking to upgrade from the Cricut Maker, we say "go for it!" But only if you care about being able to make longer cuts using Smart Materials, since you don’t have that ability with the Maker. Everything else about the two machines is the exact same.



Choosing which Cricut machine to go with can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! We hope this guide was helpful to you as you continue (or start) your Cricut crafting journey.

Something we love using cutting matches for is custom stickers! Check out our sticker paper options. Happy crafting!


Share What You Learned