I am in the same boat as you! Between recommendations and research here is what I have it narrowed down to:
Cameo - Supposedly much easier, it is nearly ready to just plug in and use. You CAN learn to do more but you don't have to in the beginning. There are lots of cut files through their website and the monthly subscription makes them super affordable. Great for intricate cuts and print and cut The cons? It doesn't do anything heavy at all including thin chipboard or multiple sheets or cardstock. It takes a third party attachment to emboss.
Bosskut Gazelle - Highly rated by most reviewers. Cuts up to 12" wide paper. Does well with intricate cuts. They just upgraded the print and cut system (so don't buy used). Will do chipboard and even balsa wood. Does emboss and you can easily replace the blade with a pen. The cons? It has a higher learning curve. All these capabilities mean lots of options which means lots of things you need to set/adjust. It tends to be noisy. It is pink if that bugs you.
The KNK Zing - made to work with MTC software. Good support in their forum. Cuts up to 14" and has more pressure so in theory it does even better with heavier materials. It does engraving and "distressing" whatever that means. Cons? It seems to be less reviewed by objective sources (ie not the MTC forum), I haven't heard much about the print and cut capability, it seems to need more attachments for everything you want to do (pen, emboss, engrave, etc).
They all allow you to design your own images.
I am leaning toward the Gazelle because I want to design my own and I want I be able to cut a wide range of materials. The Zing is also still on my list. On paper it seems like a better choice but I am having a hard time finding reviews which makes me a little nervous. I plan to download free versions of the two software programs to try.
Good luck and let us know what you decide!
Also I am posting from my phone so I apologize for any typos I didn't catch!