Do I get an Explore Air 2 or a Maker?

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my disclosures here.

If you are just getting starting in the wonderful world of Cricut crafting, your first question may be, “Do I get an Explore Air 2 or a Maker?”

The short answer is get a Maker, and the bundles on the Cricut site are great deals. (If you subscribe to a month or more of Cricut Access, you can use the 10% discount on a machine!) The Cricut Maker is a more powerful and more versatile machine than the Explore Air 2.

What’s so great about the Maker? Keep reading…

Advantages of the Cricut Maker

  • More tools. The Knife Blade, the Rotary Blade, the Engraving Tip, the Perforation Blade, the Scoring Wheels, the Debossing Tip and the Wavy Blade all use the Adaptive Tool System which is exclusive to the Cricut Maker.
  • More materials. The Maker cuts, writes, and scores on over 300 materials.
  • Print then cut on more than just white paper.
  • It’s the latest. You’re more future-proofed when you get the newest and most up-to-date technology. Choosing the Maker means you won’t regret not getting the best machine.
  • It will continue to be expanded. At the time of the Cricut Maker’s release in 2017, Cricut CEO Ashish Arora said that their focus going forward would be to create new tools for the Maker, rather than developing new machines. I’m sure there will be another Cricut machine eventually, but Ashish said that the Maker was in development for three years, and indicated that there would not be a new machine anytime soon.

Obviously, the disadvantage to the Cricut Maker is the higher cost. I do think it is well worth the difference in price. In addition to the added functionality, the increased power means that the Maker is made of heavier and studier materials. I noticed the difference as soon as I took mine out of the box.

However, the Explore Air 2 is a quality machine. If you need something for basic crafting, it’s a great option. It also comes in a variety of bright colors.

Here’s a comparison chart from Cricut’s site:

“But I don’t sew!”

When the Maker was first introduced in August 2017, much of the emphasis was on the capability of cutting fabric without stabilizer. Undoubtedly, this was a huge step forward in functionality, but the Adaptive Tool System that makes it possible is the real star.

That said, there are lots of additional features for paper crafters with the Maker. The Scoring Wheel has been game-changing for me. I used the Scoring Stylus with my Explore, but the score line was too faint, and so I’d have to just use that as a guideline to score again with my (manual) scoring board.

The Fine Debossing Tip, the Wavy Blade, and the Basic Perforation Blade all give paper crafters more possibilities. I particularly like the Fine Debossing Tip that gives me infinitely more options beyond stand-alone embossing folders.

What about the Explore One?

The Explore One is an entry-level machine. It has a single tool holder and doesn’t have built-in Bluetooth connectivity. A separate Bluetooth adapter is available, but the added cost makes the Explore Air 2 the same price or cheaper, depending on where you buy.

However, if you only ever plan to use a computer, and your crafting is limited to a few projects a year, the Explore One can be a good choice. You may also consider it as a second machine to cut while your Explore Air2 or Maker is working on more complex (longer running) projects. For straightforward vinyl and cardstock projects, the Explore One will get the job done at a lower price than the Explore Air 2 or Maker.

A word about used machines

The number one consideration for used machines is that the manufacturer warranty does not transfer.

There are lots of used machines available on BST sites and eBay. In my experience, if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Look for reputable resellers on eBay – brand name stores who are unloading inventory… not just individual sellers.

When buying locally, always request to test the machine before purchasing. If the buyer refuses, you may be better off with a different seller, or just buying new.

The absolute best deal on a used Cricut machine is to buy from a trusted friend who’s upgrading. You’ll know that the machine wasn’t abused, and that they have your best interest in mind. And, your friend benefits because you’ve offset their upgrade cost.

Do not, under any circumstances buy a used Expression, Expression 2, Mini, or the original six-inch Cricut. These machines run on cartridges only now (no legal software available) and while they may be bargains, supplies are sparse, and they won’t get you very far crafting.

The above post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here

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