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Budget telescopes under $500: Picks from Celestron, Meade and Orion

Best telescopes under $500: Image shows man using telescope at night with blurred city lights in background
(Image credit: Getty images)

What's not to like about telescopes under $500? You can get some good quality models, have a top stargazing experience and not break the bank in the process. So, we've come up with a handy guide for all the best budget telescopes under $500 in the known universe. 

There's a host of great telescope deals out there, and although it's unlikely you'll find one of the best telescopes worth thousands reduced to just hundreds, you can still easily bag a bargain. Because of the price point of scopes in this guide, you'll find that you can get some of the best beginner telescopes feature, and naturally they're easy to set-up and use. 

We've decided to split this guide up into categories, to make navigation a little easier. So you'll be able to find the best telescopes under $500 but you'll also be able to find the best telescopes under $300, $200 and $100. Again, because of those price points, you'll also be able to find some of the best telescopes for kids. We've also included a section for deals, so you can bag a bargain.

So, whether you're looking for a new telescope without investing too heavily, or you're looking for something to inspire a budding astronomer, there's something to suit everyone and every budget here. If you want more great skywatching content, then be sure to check out our best binoculars and binoculars deals guides. However, if you're looking for refractor, reflector or catadioptric telescope, you'll be able to find a telescope under $500 in here, perfect for you.


Today's best deals on budget telescopes under $500

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Gskyer 600x90mm AZ Refractor Telescope $319.99 now $267.99 on Amazon (opens in new tab).

Save $52 on the Gskyer 600x90mm AZ refractor telescope when you get it from Amazon. Fully coated optics combined with a 600mm focal length and 90mm aperture mean you get great views of objects like stars, moons and planets. An adjustable tripod and eyepieces mean you're able to have a varied and successful stargazing experience too.

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Celestron 70mm Travel Scope DX - Portable Refractor Telescope:  $119.95 now $89.05 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Save over $30 on this lightweight, portable Celestron telescope which is perfect for beginners. It comes with a large 70mm objective lens as well as a bonus bag, tripod, moon filter, Bluetooth shutter release and a smartphone adaptor.

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Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ | Was $159.95 | Now $117 on Amazon (opens in new tab)
There’s 27% off this refractor scope from Celestron, which features a simple alt-azimuth mount. It comes with two eyepieces, offering 45x and 90x magnifications, along with a red dot finder. As it’s a refractor, it’s best suited to high magnification targets like the moon and planets - users report getting clear views of the Galilean moons and Saturn’s rings. 

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Celestron FirstScope Telescope $71.95 Now $64.95 on Amazon (opens in new tab).

Grab 10% off an ideal budget telescope for any budding astronomer out there. It's a tabletop model with a 76mm reflector optical tube and is very lightweight and portable. Its stylish finish means it's a great little telescope for any young person who wants to grow their passion for astronomy.

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Celestron PowerSeeker 60AZ Now $69.95 (opens in new tab)
B&H has this really cheap Celestron model, which means you can pick it up for less than $70. This is definitely a starter scope, aimed at kids and beginners, with a straightforward alt-azimuth mount and a relatively small 60mm aperture. Still, it offers some good lunar views, and it’s relatively well-powered for its very low price.  

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Celestron 70mm Travel Scope |  $109.95 Now $86.65 On Amazon (opens in new tab)
Save 21% on this travel refractor scope, which has portability as its main selling feature. It comes with a handy backpack, which will carry both your scope and accessories when you’re out and about. Pair with a smartphone adapter, so you can snap pictures on your cell when you find something worth capturing in the night sky.  

Note: You can save an additional $10 when you apply the coupon at check out. 

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Celestron Travel Scope 50 $74.95 Now: $69.95 on Amazon (opens in new tab).
With its fully coated optics, the Celestron Travel Scope 50 is suitable for observers on the move. The 50 mm aperture provides crystal clear views of a selection of night sky targets, such as the rugged lunar surface as well as terrestrial daytime sights, like wildlife and terrain.

Budget telescopes under $500

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ deals

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ

(Image credit: Celestron)

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.

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ 

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ tube

(Image credit: Celestron)

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.

This telescope has an added advantage to it and that's the StarSense app, which points out night sky targets to you so you know what you're looking at. While the app makes navigation a lot easier and a lot more fun, this telescope itself is also lighter than the one above, making transporting it far 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

There aren't many (if any) telescopes out there that are easier to set up than this Orion StarMax. The tabletop design means (as the name suggests) that it simply sits upon a tabletop or flat surface and is ready to use. It's perfect for those who want to get on with stargazing straightaway and not waste time with the set-up. It's important to remember that this scope doesn't use or need a tripod.

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.

This is a top choice for anyone that prefers searching for everything manually and without having to rely on technology. It features an easy-to-use panning handle to track your night sky targets. It's also easy to transport and move to different locations as it only weighs a touch over 14lbs. 

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. 

There's no hiding from the fact that there are other tabletop models out there for a lower price point, but this telescope does feature some specs that others don't. For that reason, some of the specs on offer, make this a worth entry into this guide and a top 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.

This telescope is perfect for beginners, but adult beginners, not children. This is because younger astronomers may find locating and tracking targets a little more challenging without the aid of technology, which can spoil their experience. We tested this model and found that sometimes we experienced 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 $300. 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.

It's worth noting that this telescope is designed to be portable, but you may need a car or prearranged transport to lug this model around. It weighs 22lbs so there's many lighter models in this guide for sure, but it's still a solid choice for setting 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 side profile view

(Image credit: Jamie Carter)

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, when we reviewed the Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ we found 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 which makes it 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. Something we really loved about this telescope is the fast focal ratio that makes for easy observations of wide-angle targets, which you can read more about in our Celestron Firstscope 76 review.

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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Celestron PowerSeeker 80AZ | Was $149.95 | Now $139.79 (opens in new tab)
You can save $10.16 on this refractor telescope, which has a decent 80mm aperture. It’s another model that’s best suited to looking at planets and moons. This telescope comes with two eyepieces and a 3x Barlow lens to triple the power of each eyepiece. It’s relatively easy to set up and fairly portable too, making it a good option for camping trips. 

Note: This telescope is in stock and on sale, just at a higher price than both the asking price and the markdown price above. 

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Celestron PowerSeeker 50AZ | RRP: $54.95 | Now: $44.95
(opens in new tab)Featuring a simple-to-use alt-azimuth mount for quick set up, the PowerSeeker 50AZ boasts slow motion controls for accurate pointing. Save $10 at Amazon and you'll also receive multiple accessories including 3 eyepieces (20 mm, 12 mm, 4 mm and 1.5x image-erecting eyepiece), star diagonal, finderscope and 3x Barlow lens.

How we test budget telescopes for under $500

In order to guarantee you’re getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best telescopes to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every telescope through a rigorous review to fully test each instrument. Each telescope is reviewed based on a multitude of aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as an optical instrument and its performance in the field.

Each telescope is carefully tested by either our expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who know their subject areas in depth. This ensures fair reviewing is backed by personal, hands-on experience with each telescope and is judged based on its price point, class and destined use. For example, comparing a 10-inch Dobsonian to a 2.76-inch refractor wouldn’t be appropriate though each telescope might be the best pick in their own class.

We look at how easy it is to set up, whether computerized or motorized mounts are reliable and quiet, if a telescope comes with appropriate eyepieces and tripods and also make suggestions if a particular telescope would benefit from any additional kit to give you the best experience possible.

With complete editorial independence, Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on telescopes, whether you should purchase an instrument or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Jason Parnell-Brookes
Channel Editor

Jason Parnell-Brookes is an award-winning photographer, educator and writer based in the UK. He won the Gold Prize award in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 beating over 90,000 other entrants and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. Jason is a Masters graduate and has a wealth of academic and real-world experience in a variety of photographic disciplines from astrophotography and wildlife to fashion and portraiture. Now the Channel Editor for Cameras and Skywatching at Space.com his speciality is in low light optics and camera systems.

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