Cricut Maker vs. Cricut Maker 3: Which is best for you?

Cricut Maker 3 Hero
Cricut Maker 3 Hero (Image credit: Karen S. Freeman / iMore)

When it comes to crafting, Cricut is king. Depending on the type of project you're working on, there's a different model for you. From beginners to serious crafters, Cricut is a good choice when you put your mind to a crafting project. So, when comparing the Cricut Maker, the flagship machine, and the Cricut Maker 3, you really want to do your homework to see which machine will suit you. Let's take a look at what both devices have to offer.

All about Cricut

Cricut makes three different machines: the Maker, the Explore, and the Joy. The Cricut Maker is Cricut's flagship model, with ten times the cutting power of the Explore. The Maker line is for serious hobbyist crafters and professionals who sell what they make. The Cricut Explore is a happy medium model, the same size as the Maker but with some limitations. The Cricut Joy is an easy-to-use "mini-Cricut" that is perfect for beginners, for folks who want a second machine for when they're on the go, or for people who don't have as much space to devote to a larger machine.

All three machines are fabulous for crafters. You can design just about anything you can dream up, upload it into the Design Space app on your Mac, iPad, or iPhone, and create it on your Cricut. Each Cricut machine has interchangeable blades and pens so you can cut, write, draw, and more. There are many Cricut accessories you can use to create a huge variety of items.

Cricut has recently released two new machines: The Cricut Explore 3 and Cricut Maker 3. In case you were wondering, no, there was never a Cricut Maker 2. Cricut just wanted to keep the nomenclature the same as the Explore, which is on its third iteration.

Cricut Maker vs. Cricut Maker 3: Key differences

There are not many differences between the Cricut Maker and Cricut Maker 3, the older and newer versions of Cricut's flagship machine. Both machines cut over 300 materials and are compatible with 13 different tools to allow for a huge variety of potential projects. Both machines utilize Design Space software. In fact, these machines have plenty in common.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Cricut MakerCricut Maker 3
PriceFrom $329$400
Number of materials300+300+
Number of tools1313
SoftwareDesign SpaceDesign Space
ColorMultiple optionsSoft blue
Uses Smart Materials?NoYes
Uses mats?Yes (you must)Yes (you can)
Maximum material cut length24 inches12 feet (144 inches)
Maximum material width12 inches12 inches
Docking slot for iPadYesYes
Cutting speedFastUp to twice as fast as the Maker
Commercial-grade performanceYesYes

Functionally the two machines are almost identical, except that the Cricut Maker 3 gets the Smart Materials ability and speed. There are some minimal cosmetic differences. The metallic stripe around the machine is shiny on the Cricut Maker but matte on the Cricut Maker 3. Plus, the start button on the Maker 3 has a more logical triangular "play" symbol rather than a Cricut logo.

It's important to note that you can make just as many projects with the Cricut Maker 3 as you can make with the Cricut Maker. You would not lose any abilities if you went from the Cricut Maker to the Cricut Maker 3. It's just the Cricut Maker 3 can allow you to make some items a lot faster and more efficiently with Smart Materials.

Cricut Maker vs. Cricut Maker 3: Smarter, longer, and faster

Cricut Maker 3 Smart Vinyl Loading Lifestyle

Cricut Maker 3 Smart Vinyl Loading Lifestyle (Image credit: Cricut)

Smart Materials are slightly wider and have a stiffer backing than regular materials, so they can feed directly into the machine without using a mat. Because you can make one long, continuous cut up to 12 feet in length, your big projects can go a lot faster than they would if you had to load and re-load your mats.

Plus, the Cricut Maker 3's cutting speed is dramatically faster when using the Smart Materials, easily twice as fast. The Cricut Maker 3 has a new power adaptor, which allows for up to 3 amps of output. The power cords are not interchangeable between the Maker and Maker 3.

Cricut Maker vs. Cricut Maker 3: Wider projects

Since Smart Materials are 13 inches wide and regular materials are only 12 inches wide, you may be wondering if you can make projects that are an inch wider with Smart Materials. With regular 12-inch materials on a mat, you can make projects up to 11.5 inches wide since there needs to be a small margin along the edges.

With 13-inch Smart Materials, the machine needs wider margins to grip the materials itself. So, the maximum width of projects made with Smart Materials is just 11.7 inches. So technically, yes, you can do wider projects, but only but 0.2 inches.

Cricut Maker vs. Cricut Maker 3: Different tools and accessories?

Cricut Maker 3 Loading Smart Iron On

Cricut Maker 3 Loading Smart Iron On (Image credit: Cricut)

You can use nearly all of the same tools and accessories with both machines, but there are a couple of exceptions. Cricut introduced two new accessories with the Maker 3: a larger portable trimmer and a roll holder. The new portable trimmer is needed because Since Smart Materials are 13 inches wide, and the original trimmer was only 12 inches. Of course, you can use the larger trimmer to cut smaller materials.

The new roller holder is used to help you feed your Smart Materials into the Cricut Maker 3 and is not compatible (or necessary) with the original Maker. Not only does it keep your Smart Materials neatly in place, but it trims the roll when your project is complete. Neither of these accessories is strictly necessary if you buy a Cricut Maker 3, but they are nice to have.

Cricut Maker vs. Cricut Maker 3: Which should you buy?

If you already own the Cricut Maker, it's worth upgrading to the Cricut Maker 3 if you frequently do large projects. For example; imagine if you were to make a banner, sign, or wall treatment up to 12 feet long with the Cricut Maker. You'd have to make many separate cuts, taking your materials on and off the mat as many as 12 times.

However, the Cricut Maker 3 would let you do a large-scale project like that fast in a single cut, using Smart Materials without a mat. Plus, the Cricut Maker 3 can cut twice as fast when using Smart Materials. This is a major time-saver if you do large projects frequently.

If big projects aren't your cup of tea, I wouldn't bother spending the extra money on the Cricut Maker 3. The point of Smart Materials is to make quick work of big, long projects. If you don't do that kind of thing or only do them occasionally, you might as well save some money and pick up an older Cricut Maker. Plus, the Cricut Maker comes in a bunch of colors to match any decor, whereas the Cricut Maker 3 comes only in a soft blue shade.

Karen S Freeman

Karen is a contributor to as a writer and co-host of the iMore Show. She’s been writing about Apple since 2010 with a year-long break to work at an Apple Store as a product specialist. She's also a contributor at TechRadar and Tom's Guide. Before joining iMore in 2018, Karen wrote for Macworld, CNET, AppAdvice, and WatchAware. She’s an early adopter who used to wait in long lines on release days before pre-ordering made things much easier. Karen is also a part-time teacher and occasional movie extra. She loves to spend time with her family, travel the world, and is always looking for portable tech and accessories so she can work from anywhere.