Best telescopes under $500: Image shows man using telescope at night with blurred city lights in background



(Image credit: Getty images)

We’ve scoped out all the best telescopes under $500 in the universe and put them into this handy guide, so you know what’s out there. You don’t have to break the bank to get the stargazing experience you want whether you’re looking for a refractor, reflector or catadioptric telescope, there’s a range of quality telescopes under $500.

With retailers pushing their Summer sales, you can find a healthy number of top telescope deals out there right now, and a good number of telescopes under $500. We’ve decided to split this guide up into categories, to make navigation a bit easier so you can find the right deal for you. We have today’s best deals as well as telescopes under $500 as well as those under $300, $200 and $100. 

You’ll find that some of the best beginner telescopes fall into this price range, because of this, most of the telescopes here are easy to set-up and use, making them excellent value for money. If you’re looking for a serious upgrade on your stargazing equipment then it’s worth checking out our best telescopes round-up.

As well as beginner telescopes, you’ll also see that when you look at telescopes under $500, you’ll find the best telescopes for kids fall in that price range, which is ideal if you’re wanting to occupy a budding astronomer. While it’s unlikely you’ll find something worth thousands reduced down to just hundreds, you can bag a bargain. So, if you want to check out the best budget telescopes under $500, read the round-up below. 


Today’s best deals on budget telescopes under $500

Budget telescopes under $500

StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ deals

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ

(Image credit: Celestron)

StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ

The light-gathering aperture on this reflector telescope makes it a great choice for viewing galaxies, nebulas and star clusters.

Optical design: Newtonian reflector | Mount type: Alt-azimuth | Aperture: 5.11″ (130 mm) | Focal length: 25.59″ (650 mm) | Highest useful magnification: 307x | Lowest useful magnification: 19x | Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 25 mm | Weight: 18 lbs. (8.16 kg)

Easy to assemble and align

Suggests targets to observe

Good intro to astrophotography

No motor drive

The wide 130mm aperture on this Newtonian reflector unit makes it a great option for viewing lots of different night sky targets, including galaxies, nebulae, planets and star clusters. It’s one of our favorite telescopes for beginners, as it works in conjunction with the StarSense app on your mobile phone. Simply download the app and mount your phone onto the scope, and you’ll be able to quickly identify night sky targets and navigate the stars.

The StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ comes on a alt-azimuth mount which is quite simple to use, move around and assemble – which is ideal for newbies. It has a sturdy build and high quality optics too and when you factor in that it only weighs 18lbs, it’s relatively lightweight so transporting it isn’t a problem. For this price, you’ll do well to find a better option out there.

StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ 

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ tube

(Image credit: Celestron)

StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ

This easy-to-use refractor telescope links up with smartphone technology, making it a breeze to navigate the night sky.

Optical design: Achromatic refractor | Aperture: 4” (102 mm) | Focal length: 25” (660 mm) | Focal ratio: f/6.5 | Highest useful magnification: 240x | Lowest useful magnification: 16x | Total kit weight: 14.2 lbs. (6.44 kg) | Mount type: Alt-azimuth

Very easy and quick to find objects

Intuitive push-to method of homing in

Alignment procedure depends on a mirror, which collects dew

Instrument is stiff to move without slow motions

With a slightly smaller aperture than the 130AZ, this telescope won’t offer images that are quite as bright and sharp – and you might find it more difficult to get impressive images of faint deep sky objects. However, as this telescope is an achromatic reflector — rather than a Newtonian reflector — you won’t have to worry about collimating the mirrors. This can be a fiddly process and ruin your evening’s viewing if you get it wrong, which is why the 102AZ might be preferable for absolute beginners.

The use of the StarSense app is a huge bonus of using this telescope as it points out various night sky targets, so you know what you’re looking at and where to find it. This telescope really does give you a great stargazing experience as the app makes navigating the night sky easier, but the scope itself is also lighter than the 130AZ model, meaning transporting it around is even less of an issue.

Telescopes under $300

Orion StarMax 90 Tabletop

Orion StarMax 90 Tabletop

(Image credit: Orion)

Orion StarMax 90 Tabletop

This grab-and-go telescope is great for views of the solar system and features decent optics for the price.

Optical design: Maksutov-Cassegrain | Mount type: Dobsonian (desktop version) | Aperture: 3.54″ (90 mm) | Focal length: 49.21″ (1250 mm) | Highest useful magnification: 180x | Lowest useful magnification: 13x | Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 25 mm | Weight: 6.61 lbs. (3.0 kg) (desktop version)

Compact and easy to use

Sharp solar system views

Assembled out of the box

Lacks slow-motion controls

You’ll be hard pressed to find a model that’s easier to set-up than this one, which makes it ideal for those that want to be stargazing straight away. It’s a tabletop telescope, which as the name suggests, means it sits on top of a table (or any flat surface) and is good to go whenever you are. There’s no tripod to set-up or use either. 

You get a decent-sized aperture and good quality optics for the price, if you take that and combine it with the fact that it comes ready to use out of the box, it becomes a fantastic choice for anyone without much astronomy experience, particularly older kids. There’s no color-fringing present, thanks to the Maksutov-Cassegrain design, and we were very impressed with the views that we achieved of objects like the lunar surface and Saturn’s rings.

Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ 

Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ

(Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ

Impressively lightweight and easy to assemble

Optical design: Refractor | Mount type: Alt-azimuth | Aperture: 4.02″ (102 mm) | Focal length: 2.98″ (660 mm) | Highest useful magnification: 204x | Lowest useful magnification: 14x | Supplied eyepiece: 10 mm & 20 mm | Weight: 14.1 lbs. (6.4 kg)

Adjustable tripod

Easy to assemble

Very portable

Color fringing around bright targets

This no-frills refractor telescope has a decent-sized aperture and a lightweight, portable design. We did find when testing it that it suffers from color-fringing around bright targets like Jupiter and Saturn, but this is perhaps to be expected when you’re using a refractor, especially at this price point. It also offered stunning views of the atmospheric bands and the Cassini Division in Saturn’s rings, so we quickly forgave the telescope’s viewing faults.

If you’re someone who would prefer not to have any technological assistance but find and view everything yourself, this is a great choice for you. It has an easy-to-operate panning handle so you can track your night sky targets and at 14.1lbs, it’s easy to move around different locations.

Orion StarBlast II 4.5 EQ 

Orion StarBlast II 4.5 telescope

(Image credit: Orion)

Orion StarBlast II 4.5 EQ

Solidly built, this telescope offers some clear and crisp wide-angle views.

Optical design: Reflector | Mount type: Equatorial | Aperture: 4.5″ (114.3 mm) | Focal length: 17.72″ (450 mm) | Highest useful magnification: 228x | Lowest useful magnification: 16x | Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 25 mm & 2x Barlow lens | Weight: 20.72 lbs. (9.4 kg)

Very good overall build

Handy add-ons included

Good optics

Mount could be a struggle for some beginners

Tripod needs an upgrade

This telescope has an impressively solid build. It comes with an equatorial mount, which can be tricky to master at first – we recommend playing around in the daytime before you try out nighttime viewing. Apart from this, though, it’s quick and easy to set up. It also comes with an impressively long list of accessories: two eyepieces — a 10 mm and 25 mm, which offer magnifications of 18x and 45x — a 2x Barlow lens, Orion’s Star Target Planisphere and Telescope Observer’s Guide for planning your observations, a moon map, a red LED light to preserve your night vision and a red-dot finder. 

A focal ratio of f/4 means this telescope offers a large field of view as opposed to a long focal length. We have actually tested this model in the past and achieved stunning views of the Pleiades star cluster (Messier 45) and sharp, clear sightings of stars with only the faintest amount of coma.

Sky-Watcher Heritage-130P FlexTube Parabolic Dobsonian Telescope 

Sky-Watcher FlexTube 130

(Image credit: Sky-Watcher)

Sky-Watcher Heritage-130P FlexTube Parabolic Dobsonian Telescope

Optical Design: Newtonian | Aperture: 130mm | Focal Length: 650mm

Easy to use and set up

Large aperture delivers clear views

Good portability

Seasoned stargazers might want something with higher specs

The Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P FlexTube Parabolic Dobsonian telescope is a tabletop model and great for astronomers to use at their own leisure. Because of it’s tabletop design and size, it’s great for carrying around wherever you’re on the move to and it’s easy to use and set up too, so you don’t need an in-depth knowledge of how telescopes work to be able to use this model. 

While there are other tabletop telescopes out there for a lower price than you’ll normally find this model, it does deliver some specs that others may not. These specs are reason enough to include this scope on this list as a great budget telescope under $500.

For your money you’re getting a telescope that offers a sizable 130mm aperture, meaning plenty of light passes through the lens, allowing you to clearly see the night sky targets you’re looking at. You also get a 650mm focal length which is great for a wide-field of view. So if you’re looking for star clusters this is great and you can still view the moon and some planets in our solar system, just not in as much detail as a scope with a larger focal point. It also has a collapsible tube for easier storage and rubber feet for increased stability. 

Celestron Inspire 100AZ  

Celestron Inspire 100AZ refractor

(Image credit: Celestron )

Celestron Inspire 100AZ

This telescopes offers good views of planets, stars, galaxies and nebulas for a very reasonable price.

Optical design: Refractor | Mount type: Alt-azimuth | Aperture: 3.94″ (100 mm) | Focal length: 25.98″ (660 mm) | Highest useful magnification: 241x | Lowest useful magnification: 15x | Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 25 mm | Weight: 20 lbs. (9.07 kg)

Great range of accessories

Easy to assemble

Good intro to astrophotography

Slight false color in optics

This refractor telescope comes with plenty of accessories, including a smartphone adapter that will allow you to take images of the night sky. However, given that the refractor boasts a focal ratio of f6.5, you’re limited to short-exposure photography here. But it is a nice introduction to astrophotography, all the same.

We would recommend this telescope to adult beginners. Tracking targets can be a little tricky without computerized help which might hinder the experience of younger users. When we tested it, we did experience some false color but that could be resolved with carefully selected eyepieces. 

Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ

Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ

(Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ

A good pick for those starting out in astronomy and astrophotography.

Type: Reflector | Mount type: Alt-azimuth | Aperture: 4.49″ (114 mm) | Focal length: 39.37″ (1,000 mm) | Highest useful magnification: 269x | Lowest useful magnification: 16x | Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 25 mm | Weight: 10.41 lbs. (4.72 kg)

Simple to set up and align

Good intro to astrophotography

Suggests targets to observe

Lacks computerized mount

This reflector telescope boasts a fair-sized aperture and good quality optics, which is why we rank it as one of the best budget telescopes under $200. It works with the StarSense app, which you can download onto your phone to make navigating the night sky even easier. We also found that it took less than 20 minutes to set up, which is relatively quick for a telescope.

When we made use of the 10mm eyepiece, which comes with the telescope, we achieved pleasingly clear views of the moon, Venus and the Beehive Cluster (Messier 44). Moving between targets is easy – but you will have to do this manually, as no kind of computerized mount is provided. An excellent option for both beginners and intermediate stargazers who want a fuss-free bit of kit.

Telescopes under $200

Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ 

Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ

(Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ

The best telescope for enthusiasts and beginners who want to upgrade

Optical design: Reflector | Mount type: Equatorial | Aperture: 5″ (127 mm) | Focal length: 39.37″ (1,000 mm) | Highest useful magnification: 300x | Lowest useful magnification: 18x | Supplied eyepieces: 4 mm, 20 mm, 3x Barlow | Weight: 22 lbs. (9.98 kg)

Excellent value package

Decent optics, with collimation

Very good overall build

Accessories not best quality

An excellent entry-level telescope, this reflector model boasts a powerful 127mm aperture and comes with an equatorial mount. As mentioned above, these mounts take a bit of getting used to, so we’d advise testing it out in the daytime before using it in the dark. That aperture should make it easier to spot deep-sky targets.

This telescope is designed to be portable but at 22lbs it might not be something you want to lug around everywhere you go. Instead, this is a great telescope to put in the back of a car and use if you want to set up in a remote, dark sky location. 

Orion Observer 80ST 

Orion Observer 80ST

(Image credit: Orion )

Orion Observer 80ST

Impressive planetary views on a budget

Optical design: Refractor | Mount type: Equatorial | Aperture: 3.15″ (80 mm) | Focal length: 15.75″ (400 mm) | Highest useful magnification: 160x | Lowest useful magnification: 11x | Eyepieces supplied: 10 mm, 25 mm | Weight: 9.9 lbs. (4.5 kg)

Good value for the money

Lightweight design

Clear solar system views  

Slight false color in optics

Tripod could be better

We were impressed with the views we could achieve with the refractor telescope. We were able to view Jupiter with its belts and moons, Saturn with its rings and, with the right eyepieces, even the tiny blue-turquoise disks of faraway Uranus and Neptune. At this price point, we were unsurprised to discover a degree of false color, but this didn’t ruin the viewing experience. We could even spot craters on the moon’s surface such as Copernicus and Tycho.

The main drawback with this telescope is that the accessories are of low quality. If you want to improve the false-color issues, you’ll need to buy separate eyepieces. And we’d also recommend a stronger tripod, as the one supplied isn’t particularly sturdy.

Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ 

Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ Telescope

(Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ

A no-frills telescope that makes a good starter instrument for skywatchers aged seven years and up

Optical design: Refractor | Mount type: Alt-azimuth | Aperture: 2.76″ (70 mm) | Focal length: 3.54″ (900 mm) | Highest useful magnification: 165x | Lowest useful magnification: 10x | Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 20 mm | Weight: 11 lbs. (5.0 kg)

Good views of the solar system

Versatile, accepts accessories

Good overall build

Cheaply made star diagonal

Another top pick for young observers, this refractor telescope has an easy-to-use alt-azimuth mount, which we found offered a smooth and pleasant viewing experience. There are quite a few plastic elements on this model, though, making it feel a little fragile; we’d recommend supervising younger kids around this slightly delicate telescope.

Observers will be treated to clear views of the moon, Venus and Jupiter through this telescope. With a bit of tweaking, we actually even managed to bring a hint of Jupiter’s cloud bands into clear view. The model comes with 10 mm and 20 mm eyepieces, an erect star diagonal as well as a battery-operated red dot finderscope. 

Telescopes under $100

Celestron FirstScope 76

Celestron FirstScope 76 Telescope

(Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron FirstScope 76

An easy-to-use option for the very young stargazer.

Optical design: Newtonian reflector | Aperture: 2.99″ (76 mm) | Focal length: 11.81″ (300 mm) | Focal ratio: f/3.95 | Eyepiece 1 focal length: 20 mm (15x) | Eyepiece 2 focal length: 4 mm (75x) | Total kit weight: 4.3 lbs. (1.95 kg) | Mount type: Dobsonian

Portable and robust

Easy to use

Fast focal ratio for easy observations of wide-angle targets

Loose focuser

Some observations lack clarity and detail

A challenge to collimate

Finderscope not supplied

This scope is usually priced at just under $60 – it’s a perfect gift for really young ones, as it’s robust and comes ready to use out of the box. At most, this model will offer views of the lunar surface and slightly deeper views of the broad night sky. It’s tricky to collimate as well, as the primary mirror isn’t adjustable, and it’s difficult to achieve pin-sharp sights through the field of view since the focuser tube is quite loose.

All that aside, this is something that will happily sit on a desktop or table and bring young viewers joy, as they achieve deeper views of the general night sky. If you’re after a little bit more bang for your buck, though, you might want to opt for a pair of the best binoculars for kids

Orion SpaceProbe II 76  

Orion SpaceProbe II telescope

(Image credit: Orion)

Orion SpaceProbe II 76

Often advertised as a first telescope, this model boasts excellent light-gathering abilities for it’s incredibly low price.

Optical design: Reflector | Mount type: Alt-azimuth | Aperture: 2.99″ (76 mm) | Focal length: 27.56″ (700 mm) | Highest useful magnification: 152x | Lowest useful magnification: 11x | Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 25 mm | Weight: 7.05 lbs. (3.2 kg)

Good views for young skywatchers

Good build

Excellent range of accessories

Views are not pin-sharp

Assembly is a little fiddly

A reflector telescope that offers wide-field views but performs well with lunar and planetary observations, this is a good option for young stargazers too. It comes with everything a budding astronomer would need, including 10 mm and 25 mm Kellner eyepieces, a red dot finder and a moon map. That red dot finder is extra helpful, especially when star-hopping under skies with a touch of light pollution.

At this price point, you can’t really expect views to be pin sharp, and we found attaching the tripod to the mount a bit fiddly. But at just over 7lb, this is a really lightweight bit of kit that will brighten up any camping trip with its fair views of planets and lunar craters.

Deals you missed

We keep this page updated all year round and unfortunately, that’s because deals expire. However, we’ve kept this section below so you can check out what went down in the past and perhaps it can be a look into what to expect in the future. It’s always worth checking this section out, regardless of how long or short it is because deals do come back and you might just see a telescope under $500 that you’ll want in the future.

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Ruth Gaukrodger

Ruth has worked across both print and online media for five years, contributing to national newspaper titles and popular tech sites. She has held a number of journalist roles alongside more senior editorial positions, and was formerly acting as a commissioning editor for Space.com until 2022.

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