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You don’t need to splash the cash — a cheap vinyl cutter is a great investment.
If you’ve just entered the world of craft cutting, chances are you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. So many designs! So much software! And — as if you could forget — so damn many electronic cutting machines.
How to choose which one?
If you’re looking for the best budget vinyl cutter, fear not — we’ve got you covered. We’ve compiled this list of the top 9 budget vinyl cutters that are perfect for the entry-level crafter or simply those on a budget.
Prices range from under $100 to around the $300 mark. Hopefully you’ll find something that fits in with your budget here.
Some of them are *so good* we’re shocked that they’re really this cheap.
If you want a really comprehensive rundown of all the best vinyl cutters for both personal and commercial use, check out our guide to the very best vinyl cutting machines in 2018.
Or, if you just need a quick guide to everything you need to know about vinyl cutting, check out Vinyl Cutting 101.
Now, without further ado, here’s a sneak peek at the top 4 results…
|Software||Cricut Design Space||None||Silhouette Studio||Silhouette Studio|
|Max. Cut Width||12"||6"||12"||8.5"|
Best Cheap Vinyl Cutters
Although Cricut have recently released their amazing Maker machine, the Explore Air 2, its predecessor, is still one of the best vinyl cutters on the market.
Here’s a quick look at it in action:
And it’s cheap too — while its list price is somewhere just under $300, it can readily be found for much less than that during sales and discount periods.
Before you buy, make sure to read our full Cricut Explore Air 2 review.
In the meantime, here’s a quick guide to the pros and cons of the machine:
- Cuts, writes and scores twice as fast as the Cricut Explore Air (below)
- Embedded Bluetooth for wireless cutting
- Dual carriage for writing and cutting, or scoring and writing in just one step
- Sharp, accurate blades
- Works with over 100 different materials
- Settings are automatically calibrated with the smart set dial
- You can design on or offline with Cricut Design Space
- Huge artwork library
- Print and Cut sizes are reduced (see the full review for precise details)
- It’s quite loud
It’s particularly popular among crafters who do a lot of print then cut work thanks to the built-in 300 DPI scanner.
Read our full review of the Brother ScanNCut 2 here, or see our summary below.
- Built-in 300 DPI scanner
- 100 applique designs and 7 fonts are preprogrammed
- Works with a variety of materials
- Comes with a bundle of accessories
- Both wireless and USB design transfer available
- High calibre blades built for accuracy
- We find the ScanNCutCanvas software to be basic and not particularly user friendly
The Explore Air is one of Cricut’s older machines nowadays, but it still offers great value for money and is an all-round great contender for the best budget vinyl cutter out there.
We’ve written a full review of it here, but here’s a quick snapshot of what we love (and aren’t so keen on) about the machine.
- It’s Bluetooth enabled so you can just send your designs straight from your iPad/desktop to the cutter without messing around with wires and USB ports
- Despite its low price, it cuts really well — precise, good on small and intricate designs and equipped with long-lasting German carbide blades
- Dual carriage means that it can cut and write, or cut and score, in just one step
- The Smart Set Dial allows you to automatically select automatic settings for the most popular cutting materials, while the software has auto-settings for an even wider range
- It works with over 100 different materials
- It’s super easy to use
- It looks good!
- Inferior to the Explore Air 2 but not significantly cheaper
- You can only use the Cricut Design Space software with the machine. It’s perfectly serviceable and easy to use for newbies, but more experienced crafters may find it a little basic
Silhouette’s Cameo 3 is the major rival to the Cricut Explore Air 2 above, and most crafters have a favorite between the two brands. It’s usually priced around the same price point too.
We really like the Cameo 3 and consider it a cracking upgrade on the Cameo 2 — Silhouette fans will not be disappointed.
We’ve written a full review of the machine here, but here’s a brief look at our pros and cons of the Cameo 3.
- The AutoBlade setting allows you to automatically calibrate your settings depending what material you’re using — great for beginners
- You can now use thicker materials as cutting clearance has been doubled to 2mm
- It comes with a fancy touchscreen, that’s simple to use and even has audio alerts
- Dual carriage allows you to cut and draw, or cut and score, in one step
- It has a roller locking mechanism and guidelines making feeding material super easy
- Lots of storage compartments
- It looks sleek and chic
- The maximum cutting size is 12″ wide and 10 feet long
- We find the cutting force a little weak — the Cricut has a edge on Silhouette here
The Sizzix Big Shot has something of a cult following in the craft cutting world — and with good reason.
It’s a real diamond machine for small projects like stickers and card-making (it can only cut up to 6 inches wide), and is great for both cutting and embossing. Best of all — it is a truly budget vinyl cutter. Check out this price!
What’s kind of quirky about the Sizzix is that it’s not an electronic cutting machine — it’s operated by a crank. Yep, that’s right — a crank. If you like a little manual labor with your craft cutting, you will love the Big Shot.
Check out what we love and what we’re not so keen on with the Sizzix Big Shot.
- Super cheap — under $100, hello!
- Good for both cutting and embossing
- Comes with a 3 year warranty
- Very small and portable — great for desktop use
- Kid-friendly and a great starter kit for small crafts makers
- It can only cut up to 6 inches wide — it’s pretty damn small and you won’t have the accuracy of a more expensive cutter
- Crank operated — you either love it or you hate it
For most people, the Big Shot is the number one cheap vinyl cutter from Sizzix, but we think that the Eclips 2 has a lot to offer as well.
This is the electronic cutting machine that was designed to rival the Silhouette Cameo and Cricut Explore. We’re not convinced that it’s quite as good as those two market leaders, but it’s certainly got a dedicated fan base nonetheless.
We’ve written a full review of the Sizzix Eclips 2 here.
- Excellent precision cutting
- Can combine multiple shapes and letters in one cut
- True scoring
- Easy to use with auto-select settings
- Laser cut preview function
- Scrap cut mode for minimal material wastage
- Included eCal Lite software is super basic
- No Bluetooth connectivity
We’re back with Silhouette again and the Portrait is one of the best budget vinyl cutters on the market right now.
Just like the Sizzix Big Shot, this is another great machine for small crafts makers — card and sticker makers will love it. It’s also great for beginners, thanks to its low price point, easy to use software and general operation.
We’ve written a full review of the Portrait here, but check out our pros and cons of the machine too.
- It’s super compact and great for small cuts
- It’s very easy to set-up and install the machine — great for beginners
- It cuts a large range of materials, including paper, vinyl, cardstock, fabrics, heat transfer materials, vellum and wood paper
- It’s much cheaper than the Cameo 3 and has much of the same functionality
- The Silhouette Studio software is reasonably easy to use
- It can only cut a maximum of 8.5″ wide
- There have been a few issues reported with calibration and alignment
No wonder it’s so popular with children and people on a strict budget!
You can read our full review of the Cuttlebug here, but in the meantime here are our thoughts.
- Small, compact and lightweight
- Very cheap — under $100
- Easy to use and great for kids
- Cuts and embosses numerous materials including tissue paper and thin leather
- Works with lots of other embossing folders and dies
- Beautiful mint design
- Great for scrapbooking and card making
- You’ll need to buy folders and dies
- Doesn’t come with Adapter Plate C — you’ll need to buy separately
Our final entry is yet another offering from the brilliant Silhouette — the Curio.
This budget cutter is more of an ‘add-on’ to other more hardcore vinyl cutters as it actually specializes in a few unique tools that you can’t use with other Silhouette products. Tools like embossing, stippling and etching.
Major bonus, it can be used on a wide variety of materials including stuff like metal, leather and even WOOD.
For crafters who like to do their cutting with a side of embossing, the Curio is really all you need. For hardcore cutting crafters, the Curio is a lovely desktop machine for a bit of experimental side action.
Here’s what we love (and don’t love so much) about the machine.
Great for embossing, debossing, stippling and etching
- Good to experiment with thicker materials — it has a 5mm clearance
- It has 3 different embossing methods: path emboss, score & emboss, and print & emboss
- Good for small, intricate designs
- Works with the Silhouette Studio software which is reasonably good and easy to use
- The dual carriage can create multicolor sketch art
- Comes with a deep cut blade that’s made of tungsten alloy for durable, deep cuts
- Can only produce designs of a maximum 8.5″ x 6″
- The quality of the embossing is not consistent
What’s your favorite cheap vinyl cutter?