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10 Best Cheap Vinyl Cutters Under $300

You don’t need to splash the cash to start crafting — 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 many electronic cutting machines. Plus, a bunch of manually operated cutters, too.

How to choose which one?

Should you go with a big brand? What’s the best Cricut alternative?

Well, we’ve got you covered…

Below we’ve compiled a list of the top budget vinyl cutters that are perfect for the entry-level crafter or simply those with less to spend.

Here’s a quick look at 3 of our favorite vinyl cutters under $200 in 2021:

Vinyl Cutter
Cricut Joy
Silhouette Portrait 3
Sizzix Big Shot Express
Cricut Joy Machine - Compact and Portable DIY Machine For Quick Vinyl, HTV Iron On and Paper Projects | Makes Custom Decals, Custom T Shirt Designs, Personalized Greeting Cards, and Label Maker
Silhouette America Silhouette Portrait 3, White
Sizzix Big Shot Express Electric Die Cutting Machine, 660540, 6" (15.24cm) Opening, 6 in (15.24 cm)
Our View
The usual high quality from Cricut in a compact design; cheaper than the Maker series.
The smaller, cheaper alternative to the Cameo 4. Ideal for stickers and cards.
A cult classic and popular Cricut alternative. Great for both die-cutting and embossing.
Max Width Cut
4.25 inches
8 inches
6 inches
Amazon Prime
-
Beginner Friendly?
Originally Released
March 2020
August 2020
January 2013
VCM Score
4.5/5 [Read Review]
4.4/5 [Read Review]
Price on Amazon
$152.98
$199.99
$218.66
Alternative Stores
Vinyl Cutter
Cricut Joy
Cricut Joy Machine - Compact and Portable DIY Machine For Quick Vinyl, HTV Iron On and Paper Projects | Makes Custom Decals, Custom T Shirt Designs, Personalized Greeting Cards, and Label Maker
Our View
The usual high quality from Cricut in a compact design; cheaper than the Maker series.
Max Width Cut
4.25 inches
Amazon Prime
Beginner Friendly?
Originally Released
March 2020
VCM Score
4.5/5 [Read Review]
Price on Amazon
$152.98
Buy on Amazon
Alternative Stores
Vinyl Cutter
Silhouette Portrait 3
Silhouette America Silhouette Portrait 3, White
Our View
The smaller, cheaper alternative to the Cameo 4. Ideal for stickers and cards.
Max Width Cut
8 inches
Amazon Prime
Beginner Friendly?
Originally Released
August 2020
VCM Score
4.4/5 [Read Review]
Price on Amazon
$199.99
Buy on Amazon
Alternative Stores
Vinyl Cutter
Sizzix Big Shot Express
Sizzix Big Shot Express Electric Die Cutting Machine, 660540, 6" (15.24cm) Opening, 6 in (15.24 cm)
Our View
A cult classic and popular Cricut alternative. Great for both die-cutting and embossing.
Max Width Cut
6 inches
Amazon Prime
-
Beginner Friendly?
Originally Released
January 2013
VCM Score
Price on Amazon
$218.66
Buy on Amazon
Alternative Stores

Included on our full list, we have:

Prices range from under $100 to around the $300 mark. Hopefully you’ll find something that fits in with your budget here.

Many of our readers are looking specifically for machines like Cricutbut cheaper, and we’ve got a handful of great alternatives.

If you want a really comprehensive rundown of all the best vinyl cutters, check out our guide here. It’s updated monthly and contains the very best of the best.

We also have a packed Review section showcasing all of the top machines from brands such as Cricut, Silhouette, Brother, Sizzix and more.

The Best Cheap Vinyl Cutters in 2021

Looking for value for money? The best Cricut alternative?

Let’s get started!

Cricut Joy

cricut joy review

The Cricut Joy is one of the latest cheap vinyl cutting machines on the market and it’s a doozy.

It’s ideal for quick and simple cutting on the go and is the *perfect* machine for card making. Small, under 4 lbs and able to cut wirelessly. What more could you need?!

Its super low price means that this is one of the most attractive craft cutters on the market for people on a budget.

But it’s not only a budget machine — innovations like matless cutting using Smart Materials and Card Mat means that the Joy is really ahead of the curve in its technology.

A really impressive pocket rocket.

Pros
  • Matless cutting with Smart Materials is super easy and convenient
  • You can make quick custom cards with Card Mat
  • Can cut 1 image up to 4″ wide and 4′ long, or repeated images up to 20′ long
  • Can cut over 50 materials
  • Bluetooth connectivity means no stray wires
  • Very easy to use so ideal for beginners
Cons
  • Extras like Card Mat and Smart Materials need to be bought separately
  • Can only cut and write, and can only do these one at a time so it’s not entirely efficient
  • Cricut Design Space software can be a little frustrating to use
Read Our Full Review of Cricut Joy Check Current Price on Cricut See on Amazon
Silhouette Portrait 3

portrait 3 review

The Portrait 3 is Silhouette’s answer to the Cricut Joy, above, and is a smaller, cheaper version of their bestselling Cameo 4.

It’s only 3.5lbs but really packs a punch and is a great option if you’re looking for a cheap vinyl cutting machine.

It offers a little more size and versatility than the Cricut Joy, and is able to cut materials up to 8 inches wide and a whopping 60 foot long.

Matless cutting is available in two different configurations, it can be used with Print & Cut, and it’s got automatic tool detection and the AutoBlade that we love in the Cameo models.

Pros
  • Bluetooth connectivity for painless wireless cutting
  • Two different options for matless cutting
  • Super easy to use thanks to the automatic tool detection and AutoBlade
  • PixScan and Print & Cut compatible
  • Impressive 2mm clearance for thicker materials
  • It’s a mini version of the Cameo 4 – and can even use the same tools!
  • Very lightweight and compact
  • Offers a bigger cutting area than the Cricut Joy
Cons
  • You’ll need to buy adaptors if you plan on using Cameo 4 tools
  • No dual carriage so it’s slower than the big machines
Read Our Full Review of Portrait 3 Check Current Price on Portrait 3
Cricut Explore Air 2

Cricut Explore Air 2

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.

And it’s cheap too — while its list price is just under $300, it can readily be found for much less than that during sales and discount periods.

In the meantime, here’s a quick guide to the pros and cons of the machine:

Pros
  • Can cut one image up to 4″ wide and 4′ long or repeated images up to 20′ long
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Works with 50+ materials
  • Can cut and draw/write
  • Works with Smart Materials for matless cutting
  • Works with Card Mat for making quick, custom cards
Cons
  • Print and Cut sizes are reduced (see the full review for precise details)
  • It’s quite loud
Read Our Full Review of Cricut Explore Air 2 Check Current Price on Cricut See on Amazon
Brother ScanNCut 2

Brother ScanNCut 2

The ScanNCut 2 is one of the more expensive machines on this cheap vinyl cutter list, but it’s well loved by many as a desktop machine and still offers great value for money.

It’s particularly popular among crafters who do a lot of print then cut work thanks to the built-in 300 DPI scanner.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • We find the ScanNCutCanvas software to be basic and not particularly user friendly
Read Our Full Review of Brother ScanNCut 2 Check Current Price on Swing Design See on Amazon
Cricut Explore Air

Cricut Explore Air cheap cutter

The original 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.

If you are stretched for cash, it’s always worth checking eBay for deals on this older model. It can be picked up second-hand for some great prices, although you may have to accept reliability issues as a trade-off.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what we love (and aren’t so keen on) with this classic machine.

Pros
  • 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! 
Cons
  • Inferior to the Explore Air 2 but not significantly cheaper (unless you buy used)
  • 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
Read Our Full Review of Cricut Explore Air See on Amazon
Silhouette Cameo 3

silhouette cameo 3

Silhouette’s Cameo 3 was the major rival to the Cricut Explore Air 2, up until release of the new Cameo 4 which has become Silhouette’s flagship cutter.

We really like the Cameo 3 and consider it a cracking upgrade on the Cameo 2, although not as powerful as the Cameo 4 (and therefore cheaper!) — Silhouette fans will not be disappointed.

This is another machine that is difficult to pick up at the top retailers. Many choose only to stock the newer Cameo 4 model. You still might find a few of them for sale on Amazon, otherwise your best bet is to search eBay.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • We find the cutting force a little weak — the Cricut has a edge on Silhouette here
  • The machine has been surpassed by the latest Cameo 4 model
Read Our Full Review of Silhouette Cameo 3 See on Amazon
Sizzix Big Shot
The Sizzix Big Shot has something of a cult following in the craft cutting world — and with good reason.

Sizzix Big Shot cutter

It’s a real diamond machine for small projects like stickers and card-making (we ranked it one of our top sticker maker machines) as 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.

Pros
  • Super cheap 
  • 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
Cons
  • 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
Check Current Price on Scrapbook.com See on Amazon
Sizzix Eclips 2

Sizzix Eclips

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.

Unfortunately the machine is hard to find these days. We’ve seen several of them in local craft stores, but your best online option is likely to be eBay.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Included eCal Lite software is super basic
  • No Bluetooth connectivity
  • Machine is hard to find online
Read Our Full Review of Sizzix Eclips 2 See on Amazon
Cricut Cuttlebug

Cricut Cuttlebug

The Cricut Cuttlebug is remarkably similar to the Sizzix Big Shot above and is another crank operated die cutter. Best of all, it’s truly very cheap.

This manual cutting machine has a cult-like following. It is incredibly versatile and a popular pick for those who want to get crafting without breaking the bank.

Pros
  • Small, compact and lightweight
  • Very cheap 
  • 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
Cons
  • You’ll need to buy folders and dies
  • Doesn’t come with Adapter Plate C — you’ll need to buy separately
Read Our Full Review of Cricut Cuttlebug See on Amazon
Silhouette Curio

silhouette curio machine

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.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Can only produce designs of a maximum 8.5″ x 6″
  • The quality of the embossing is not consistent
Read Our Full Review of Silhouette Curio Check Current Price on Swing Design See on Amazon

What’s your favorite cheap vinyl cutter?

Still can’t decide which cutter is right for you? Be sure to check out the rest of our detailed machine comparisons, as well as our complete guide to the best vinyl cutters.

1 thought on “10 Best Cheap Vinyl Cutters Under $300”

  1. truly like your honest reviews. My situation is a little more difficult ( I think ). I am a retired sign artist of 52 years experience. I am now looking at making stickers for my grandkids. I have a $ 1500 design program but all I need is a simple shape only cutter that I can scan my own layout (8.5″ x 11″) , send to the machine to only cut the sticker shapes. I don,t want to buy a printer/cutter for $10,000! Can you help me, please?

    Reply

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