Are you trying to find a cheap vinyl cutter machine? We have a handy guide for you on the best vinyl cutter machine for under $300.
Physically, vinyl cutters resemble small printers and plotters. However, instead of printing and drawing, they cut sheets of vinyl from pre-designed patterns.
Some cutters are powerful enough to work with other materials such as PVC, leather, and wood, in addition to easier materials like paper and fabric.
Vinyl cutters are essential tools for those in the sign making business and those interested in starting their own shops. However, they can also come in handy for everyone looking to print their own custom t-shirts, greeting cards, and home decorations.
Keep reading for reviews of the best budget vinyl cutters costing under $300 and a comprehensive buyer’s guide.
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Cheap Vinyl Cutter Machine Reviews
So what is the best vinyl cutter for under $300? Here are some reviews to help you decide.
I will outline the top features, the pros and cons of each in detailed reviews, which should help you choose the best cheap vinyl cutter 2020 has on offer.
The Sizzix Big Shot Plus is the beefed-up version of the Big Shot, Sizzix’s wildly popular small vinyl cutter.
It can do everything the standard Bigshot (which comes in multiple sizes) can, only that it has a bigger 3” opening. It is for cutting and embossing projects and Sizzix markets it as a hobby and small business model.
The Sizzix Big Shot Plus is based on… take a guess, the Sizzix Big Shot. The two look very much alike and they come in multiple sizes. This particular Big Shot Plus has a 9” opening.
Despite the larger size than the standard 6” model, the Big Shot Plus can easily fit any desktop. It is compact and portable, perfect for those who work in more than one location. This cutter measures 15-3/4” (W) x 11-3/4” (D) x 7-1/2” (H) and around 16 lbs.
The Big Shot Plus is a manual vinyl cutter, which you might expect at this price. It has an ergonomic handle wrapped in a comfortable rubber grip. The improved design is more ergonomic, which puts less stress on your hands and wrists.
This cutter can work with the entire Sizzix library, including Thinlits, Bigz, Textured Impressions, Framelits, Impresslits Embossing Folders, and Texture Fades. Only the Bigz Pro dies are out of its reach. You can also cut and emboss multiple small dies simultaneously.
The machine is made up of ABS plastic housing, solid steel gears, unibody cast roller housing, and solid-core steel rollers. The package includes the machine, adapter A, adapter B, platform, and two cutting pads.
The standard warranty on this model is 1 year, though you can extend it to 3 years if you register your cutter on the manufacturer’s official site (assuming you bought from an authorized dealer).
- 9” opening
- Cuts and embosses
- Lightweight and portable
- Can get tiring in extended use
2. Silhouette CAMEO 3 Review
The Cameo 3 is perhaps Silhouette’s most popular die cutting machines.
This dual-carriage machine is Silhouette’s top die cutter yet it’s affordable if you can find it at generous discounts online. It can work with a range of materials and connect with the most popular operating systems. If you need a potent DIY machine, this might be it.
The Silhouette Cameo 3 is a desktop vinyl cutter made for serious enthusiasts. You can use it in commercial settings though perhaps not for churning out products that fly off the shelf. It’d be perfect for design purposes.
In addition, the Cameo 3 is also a great option for hobbyists who have outgrown their first cutters. There are countless users who swear by it, which you might have heard.
It offers a wide range of possibilities. Compatible materials include cardstock, fabric, vinyl, and most types of paper. The maximum supported sizes are up to 12” wide and 10 feet long.
The Cameo 3 features high-quality cutting blades with auto speed and depth. The maximum cutting depth is 2mm, which is standard at this price range. This a dual-carriage cutter which means it can perform two different operations in parallel.
You can connect the Cameo 3 to all currently supported versions of Windows and Mac OS. Additionally, you can use Bluetooth to hook it up to your smartphone or tablet. It also has support for Silhouette Cloud, which can be great collaborative teams. Other supported technologies include PixScan and Print & Scan.
- PC and Mac compatible
- Bluetooth connectivity
- 2mm cutting depth
- This thing can get loud
The Cricut Explore Air 2 is arguably the world’s most popular vinyl cutter.
It offers standard connectivity options, dual-carriage construction, adjustable blades, and a highly competent design software. The secret has long been out about the Cricut Explore Air 2. It’s a safe choice that you can’t go wrong with. Here are some of the reasons why.
The Cricut Explore Air 2 is an easy-to-use vinyl cutter. While vinyl is the primary material, the Explore Air 2 can work with faux-leather, specialty paper, adhesive foils, cardstock, iron-on vinyl, specialty vinyl colors, and poster board.
In terms of size, this cutter has a 12 x 12” StandardGrip cutting mat, which is on par with the majority of similar models. You can use this cutter for vinyl stickers, greeting cards, custom home décor, as well as custom-printed t-shirts and baseball caps.
The Explore Air 2 is a dual-carriage model and it can perform two actions simultaneously.
You can combine between cutting, writing, and scoring any way you like.
The cutting blades are made of German carbide and you can adjust the depth and pressure via the onboard Smart Set dial.
In the compatibility and connectivity section, the Explorer Air 2 lets you connect to Windows and Mac computers. Bluetooth allows it to hook up with iOS and Android devices.
The Design Space design software lets you create your own designs.
- Works with various materials
- Win, Mac, iOS, and Android compatible
- 12 x 12” cutting mat
- No automatic pressure and speed adjustment
The Mophorn Laser Plotter is both a cutter and a plotter. One thing is for sure. You are bound to be taken by or not care for the bold modern design with loud transparent blue endpieces. You can use it with a wide range of materials and it’s fairly fast.
The Mophorn Laser Plotter is an affordable cutter/plotter for the hobby and DIY crowd.
It offers decent power and speed, though perhaps not enough for heavy duty production use. But you’ll have no problem using it in a typical design agency or other small businesses.
In terms of material compatibility, this plotter can work with Kent paper, postcards, drawing paper, scrapbooking paper, inkjet photo paper, and other types of paper. It can also work with soft polyester and PVC films of up to 0.1mm thick.
This plotter can accommodate the A4 and letter papers with its maximum supported width of 8.25”. The maximum supported length is 78.74”.
The Mophorn also has adjustable speed and pressure. The speed range is 0.4 to 11 inches per second and there are seven preset speeds. The pressure goes from 60 and 700 grams, and against with 7 presets. The controls include “Forward,” “Back,” “Align,” “Test,” “Cancel,” “Start/Pause,” and “Power.”
In terms of compatibility, this plotter can only work with Windows. Mac and Linux systems are not supported and there’s no plan for future support.
You can use SignCut X2, FlexiSIGN-PRO, WinPCSIGN, Artcut, EuroCut, Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, and Auto CAD to prepare your projects.
The recommended uses include making stickers, jigsaw puzzles, scrapbooks, cards, 3D cards, paper crafts, and gift boxes.
- Doubles as a plotter
- Easy to use
- Onboard controls
- Excellent design software compatibility
- Can’t engrave or emboss
Plotter and cutter combos are very popular in vinyl cutter circles as they can handle a wider range of projects. And the Vevor Vinyl Cutter and Plotter is as affordable and capable as they come, what with its adjustable pressure and speed and comprehensive onboard controls.
The Vevor Vinyl Cutter and Plotter is a compact desktop machine with a maximum material handling width of 13.8” (but note that the maximum cutting and plotting width is 11.2”).
When it comes to speed and pressure, the Vevor model is second to none in its price class. It allows you to adjust the speed from 10 to 800 millimeters per second and the cutting pressure from 10 to 500 grams.
When it comes to materials, the Vevor Cutter and Plotter can work with various types of paper in addition to vinyl. You can use this plotter cutter to make stickers, prints for T-shirts, greeting cards, labels, home decorations, and other stuff.
Perhaps the Achilles’ heel of this plotter cutter is that it is only compatible with Windows PC. Even if that’s not a problem, people might get the impression that it’s not cool enough for Mac!
Luckily, it is very easy to operate. It has a backlit LCD display and the controls include an emergency start/stop button. The installed pinch rollers are compatible with affordable Roland blades.
- Compatible with Roland blades
- Easy to operate
- Wide range of applications
- Adjustable speed and pressure
- Doesn’t work with Mac
The Brother CM350 is a budget cutting machine that perhaps outside of its price range. With this cutter, you’ll also be able to scan and edit your designs. What’s more, it can work in standalone mode if need be.
First of all, this electronic cutting machine is jam-packed with modern features. The high-resolution 4.85” touch LCD display is the centerpiece, not the least because you can’t miss it. You can use the LCD to create and edit your design with the help of the built-in ScanNCut 2 application. This is especially handy if you don’t have your computer around.
The Brother CM350 can also double as a scanner – and a good one at that, which is near impossible to find at this price range.
The maximum width is 12” and the included cutting mat is 12 x 12”, which you can upgrade to a 12 x 24” cutting mat if needed.
This cutter is compatible with Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 10. It is also wireless-ready for use with the ScanNCut Online app and ScanNCutCanvas. The former is an online transfer app while the latter is a cloud-based storage app. There is no support for Mac or Linux.
- Doubles as a scanner
- 85” touch LCD display
- ScanNCut onboard, online, and cloud apps
- Wireless ready
- Works in standalone mode
- The app isn’t the easiest to use on the machine itself and doesn’t support Apple devices
Crater’s Companion makes two versions of the well-known Gemini die cut machine – the Gemini and the Gemini Junior. The standard Gemini is the topic of this discussion. It is a die cut machine so it can both cut and emboss.
The Gemini by Crafter’s Companion is ideal for hobbyist cutting and embossing projects.
It is compact and lightweight and not intended for heavy-duty commercial use. The Gemini weighs around 15 lbs., which gives it just enough heft to not move around when it’s working hard.
Make no mistake about it. This machine works fast at a 16-second pass-through at A4 or letter size.
This is impressive considering the fact that it is a made for casual and light commercial use. Needless to say, the much smaller Gemini Junior is going to be much faster, i.e. 10 seconds for a pass-through.
This cutting and embossing machine is compatible with the majority of embossing folders out there. Also, it can work with a wide range of materials, including vinyl, fabric, foil, cardstock, and paper. It works with thin metal dies and has a decent pressure for a hobby machine.
The highly responsive control buttons are one of the highlights of this model. They include start/stop, pause, and reverse. With them, you won’t have to do things manually anymore.
The cutting mat is 8.5 x 11” and can cut edge to edge A4 and letter-size formats.
The package also includes two clear cutting platforms, a metal cutting platform, plastic and magnetic shims, rubber embossing mat, several Gemini dies, multimedia die, 3D folder, user guide, and power cable.
- Auto feed
- Physical control buttons
- Plenty of accessories
- Not wireless
The Sizzix Eclips 2 is a compact DIY vinyl cutter that can cut and draw on a range of materials. Operations like engraving and embossing are out of its reach. Thanks to its cartridge-free construction, it has more versatility despite the fact that you have to use it with a computer.
The Sizzix Eclips 2 is aimed at vinyl cutting enthusiasts and DIYers. It is a relatively compact desktop machine at 26 (W) x 6-1/2 (D) x 7” (H) and solidly built at over 18 lbs. The cutting mat is 12 x 12”.
The original Eclips was limited in terms of design that you could create with it, a common complaint about the otherwise very popular machine. To overcome this obstacle, Sizzix designed the Eclips 2 to be completely cartridge-free. The downside of this approach is that you have to have a computer or a laptop with you to work this machine.
Compared to the original Eclips, it is quieter, more efficient, and faster. It is also more precise and has the ability to automatically adjust the cutting speed.
In terms of compatibility, the Eclips 2 can work with all major versions of Windows and Mac OS. It is not wireless, so you can’t pair it with your iOS and Android phones and tablets. Sizzix equips the Eclips 2 with the eCAL lite software, a stripped-down version of the popular Sure Cuts A Lot.
The Eclips 2 has auto-adjusting cutting blades that wield the proper amount of pressure for particular projects. The maximum pressure is 600 grams. The cutter can show you the laser cut preview. Also, you can replace the blades with pens if you want to draw instead of cut.
- Improved cutting speed and efficiency
- Cartridge-free construction
- Automatic adjustable cutting blades
- Larger 12 x 12” cutting mat
- Doesn’t emboss or engrave
The Silhouette Portrait 2, the long-awaited update to the very popular original Portrait, came out in November 2017. If you are after a cheap Cricut machine, then this is it.
It is a compact and lightweight machine with excellent connectivity and multitasking abilities.
If you’re looking for a cheap vinyl cutting machine that can hold its own against expensive heavy-duty machines, you may not have to look any further.
The relatively compact and highly portable Portrait 2 measures 18 (W) x 8 (D) x 9” (H) and weighs 3.5 lbs. This cutter can work with 8” wide dies and 2mm media with its deep cutting blades.
This cutter has closed the gap with the top-of-the-line Silhouette Cameo 3, with which it shares a number of features. It has the same automatically adjustable blade that adapts to the thickness of the material. It can cut up to 2mm thick materials, just to name a couple.
The Portrait 2 excels in connectivity options. It can work with all the currently supported versions of Windows and Mac OS. Additionally, you can connect it to iOS and Android devices via Bluetooth and control the cutting process remotely. You can also connect it to your Silhouette Cloud account as one of your 5 devices.
In terms of materials, Portrait 2 can work with paper, transparencies, vellum, cardstock, vinyl, fabric, magnet paper, and heat transfer material. This is why it’s often marketed as a die cut machine rather than a vinyl cutter.
The Portrait 2 can handle materials of up to 10 feet long. However, it doesn’t have the power and build quality to withstand heavy commercial use. Instead, it is best used as a hobby device or for small workshops with moderate daily output.
The package contains the cutter, 8 x 12” cutting mat, autoblade, A/C adapter, power cable, USB cable, and Bluetooth removal tool.
- Relatively affordable
- Wireless connection
- PC and Mac compatible
- Not a production quality machine
The Curio by Silhouette is a versatile and small vinyl cutter machine. It is among the cheapest options on the market and a great option for hobbyists. Aside from cutting vinyl, this cheap vinyl cutter machine can do many other things.
The Silhouette Curio is a compact machine made for desktop use. It is lightweight and has a small footprint. This modern cutter can cut thicker materials than its predecessors up to a maximum media thickness of 2mm. It also has an 8.5 x 6” base. However, you can buy the 8.5 x 12” mat separately if you have bigger projects. The deep cut tungsten alloy blade is one of the highlights.
This highly popular little cutter can also perform stippling, sketching, etching, printing, and embossing duties, making it one of the most versatile affordable cutters. As you might suspect, don’t expect commercial-grade quality from the Curio as it is made strictly as a hobby machine.
The Curio uses a dual head carriage, meaning it can do two things at once. For example, you can cut and score at the same time. Additionally, its cutting force of 210g is significantly lower than the other Silhouette vinyl cutters.
In terms of compatibility, you can connect this cutter to both PC and Mac via the included USB port. It uses Silhouette’s proprietary Silhouette Studio program and pulls resources from Silhouette’s own Design Store. It is easy to control and operate and equally easy to maintain.
Additionally, you can count on Silhouette’s excellent customer support and the large tight-knit community of Silhouette users whenever a problem arises. The package contains the cutting mat, embossing tips, USB cable, AC adapter, and installation CD with the app.
- Very affordable
- Strong cutting blade
- Windows and Mac OS compatible
- Strictly for hobby use
Buyer’s Guide on How to Find the Best Vinyl Cutter Machines Under $300
When shopping for a cheap vinyl machine, you should take some things into consideration.
First, consider the type of motor the cutter’s equipped with. After that, you should look into compatibility and connectivity options.
Besides that, the compatible materials are a given – everyone knows how important that is.You should also consider other features, such as tracking precision, material size, speed and pressure adjustability, and noise levels.
Finally, you might as well look into the warranty and customer support quality.
Just because you are chasing cheap vinyl cutters, doesn't mean that you need to buy 'crap'. So here are some guidelines for you to follow.
1. Type of Driver Motor
There are two main types of driver motors used in vinyl cutter machines – stepper and servo motors. Let’s take a closer look at each option.
Stepper motors are affordable. They’re less sophisticated and precise than servo motors. Instead of smooth gliding, they move in small steps – thus the name.
If you’re working on small designs, a stepper driver might not be able to cut with perfectly smooth edges. They’re mechanical in nature and quite a bit noisier. Think of the dot matrix printer – about the same kind of noise.
If you can only afford to purchase a cheap vinyl cutter, then you will most likely have to settle for a stepper driver - and then just expect to have a bit of noise as it cuts.
Servo motors are driven by digital encoders that translate the commands sent by software. They offer smooth and relatively quiet operation.
Also, they’re far more precise than stepper motors, allowing you to create complex shapes and work with fine details. However, they can be significantly more expensive so you might not find them in cheap machines. If you can raise your budget a bit and prefer to get a machine with a servo motor, you should hop over to our vinyl cutter reviews here.
2. Compatibility and Connectivity
Digital cutters can work with a wide range of devices, and some of the more expensive models can also work on their own.
If you’re shopping for a budget cutter, you can assume that they all support the latest Windows operating systems. Think of it this way. If you’re a manufacturer, you can’t sell a lot of products if you don’t support Windows, though many of them support Mac OS X as well.
Decide if you want to go wireless or strictly wired. Bluetooth receivers are the most common option. They’re mostly used to connect the cutter to online design apps, cloud-based storages, and or design stores.
You can connect Bluetooth-enable machines to iOS and Android devices. This is helpful for whenever you can’t access your computer.
3. Type of Material
While all models can cut vinyl, they can work with other materials as well, including various types of paper, such as drawing paper, cardstock, postcards, Kent paper, scrap paper, and inkjet photo.
In addition, a large number of cutters are also able to handle fabric and clothing. Some models can work with faux leather, genuine leather, and even wood. So think about what other materials you’d like to work with.
4. Tracking Precision
If you plan on working on highly detailed projects, you’ll need a cutter with high tracking precision. Those with digitally driven servo drivers can have up to 10 times better tracking than those with standard stepper drivers (but again will probably cost you more than $300).
The quality of the built-in software also plays a role in tracking precision. The more comprehensive apps will let you iron out minor imperfections in your design for superior tracking precision over uneven surfaces.
5. Project Size
Vinyl cutters vary in size and capacity. Desktop models typically feature 6 to 12” opening and 12” cutters are most often equipped with cutting mats of 12 x 12” to 12 x 24”. They are great for smaller projects and light workloads.
On the other hand, commercial use cutters can go over 100”. With them, you can take on the biggest and the most demanding tasks. By commercial use, we mean production quality. That’s if you’re producing products for sale.
You may not need a commercial cutter for other business uses. If you run a design agency or print shop, for example, any of our recommended machines may serve your needs.
6. Adjustable Pressure and Speed
The pressure determines the type the thickness of compatible media. You may find 500 to 800 grams of pressure to be enough as found in most budget machines. The more sophisticated models can adjust the pressure on their own to fit various materials and thicknesses.
You might have to take the cutting speed into account as well. Commercial machines are swift and have variable speeds. Almost all models can adjust speed automatically, but some of them may also let you set your own speed.
Vinyl cutters are not quiet machines by any stretch. However, there are significant differences in noise levels. The mechanical gear on those with stepper drivers tends to be pretty loud.
On the other hand, those with digital servo motors are considerably quieter. They also tend to be more expensive and harder to operate due to the installed software.
8. Warranty and Customer Support
Finally, you may want to take the warranty and customer support into consideration before making the final decision. You might find US companies to offer the best customer support overall.
The warranty is a bit more subjective. If you’re like many Americans, you might look at a machine breaking down as an excuse to buy a new one. In any event, the standard warranty is 12 months. These are mechanical devices so most manufacturers are not going to offer very long warranties.
Some may extend the warranty if you register your cutter on their official site. That alone is controversial as well and many people don’t bother. It might seem free but it’s not. You’re going to have to provide your personal data and guess what they’re going to do with it? Facebook anybody?
So, is there such a thing as the very best vinyl cutter machines under $300? Not really. It’s better to break them down.
For one, the Sizzix Big Shot Plus is the best option if you’re looking for a manual cutter. It’s sturdy, portable, and capable of cutting and embossing. It is also the cheapest vinyl cutter on our list.
But if you need a quality digital cutter with good compatibility, the Silhouette Cameo 3 is perhaps your best bet. It is a dual-carriage model with PC and Mac compatibility. It is way more than just a vinyl cutter, so it is brilliant for those who enjoy a wide range of DIY projects.
On another front, if you are looking for a dedicated vinyl cutter and plotter combo, the Vevor Vinyl Cutter and Plotter. You can expect intuitive onboard controls, adjustable speed and pressure, and excellent reliability.
Now that you have found a new budget cutting machine for your home, why not hop over to our craft blog section. We have loads of tutorials, project examples as well as step-by-step posts to help you get started.