Best budget telescopes under $500 2023: Picks from Celestron, Meade and Orion

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Best Budget Telescopes: Jump Menu

There's plenty of fantastic budget telescopes under $500 on the market, which means you can get quality views of the stars and not have to break the bank in the process. 

Below, you'll discover a range of budget telescopes under $500 and we've even split them up into categories, so navigation is easier. You'll be able to find budget telescopes under $500 as well as telescopes under $300, $200 etc. Naturally, at this price point there's a good chance you'll see some of the best telescopes for kids and best beginner telescopes too.

Unfortunately, it's unlikely you'll find the best telescopes that are worth thousands discounted to mere hundreds but that doesn't mean you can't get top telescope deals on top models. Now is a great time to be searching for discounts though as there's plenty of great offers on telescopes so you can view the stars for less. 

We keep this page updated year-round so when new deals become available, you'll find them here. Equally, when deals expire, we'll remove them from the page. On top of that, you'll only see deals from reputable retailers so you know quality is assured. It could also be worth checking out the best binoculars and best binoculars deals as they can offer quality views of the night sky as a cost-effective alternative to telescopes. However, for the best budget telescopes on the market today, read on below.

Alexander Cox
Alexander Cox

Alex joined in June 2021 as staff writer covering space news, games, tech, toys and deals. Based in London, U.K. Graduating in June 2020, Alex studied Sports Journalism in the North East of England at Sunderland University. During his studies and since his graduation, Alex has been featured in local newspapers and online publications covering a range of sports from university rugby to Premier League soccer. In addition to a background in sports and journalism, Alex has a life-long love of Star Wars which started with watching the prequel trilogy and collecting toy lightsabers, he also grew up spending most Saturday evenings watching Doctor Who. 

Best budget telescopes under $500 we recommend in 2023

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The quick list

What you see above, is a quick overview of what's in the guide below. The links above allow you to check out the detailed review below that's best suited to you, quicker. Hopefully, that means it's easier to view the best budget telescopes under $500.

The best budget telescopes we recommend in 2023

The best overall telescope under 500 dollars

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)

Reasons to buy

Easy to assemble and align
Suggests targets to observe
Good intro to astrophotography

Reasons to avoid

Manual operation — no motor
Limited to basic astrophotography
Buy it if

You want the most quality you can get for under $500: this telescope will come in under the $500 mark but it offers more quality than the other telescopes on this list. That's in terms of optics, reliability and what you're able to view.

You're looking to get into astrophotography: this telescope is a good entry level model for astrophotography. There's a docking station for your phone on this telescope that will allow you to snap shots of what you can see through the scope.

You like the use of technology while stargazing: this telescope really shines when used alongside the StarSense app. The app has a huge database and will point you in the direction of visible night sky targets. Overall, this is the best you can get for under $500.

Don't buy if

You're a purist: by this we mean someone that doesn't want the aid of technology and either likes or really doesn't mind spending time setting up their telescope. 

You're an absolute beginner: this telescope is actually a decent choice for beginners but, if we're being picky, there are cheaper options in this guide that are also good options for those taking their first steps into astronomy. 

You're on a strict budget: similar to the point above, this telescope is the best overall but if you check out the other models below, you'll find you can still get quality at a lower price point. 

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ is genuine quality on a budget. It offers a fun, easy stargazing experience and is suitable for intermediate and novices alike. It also offers a stepping stone for those getting into astrophotography. At this price point, you have to nit-pick to find anything negative about it.

Here, you'll find the reason why we think this is the best overall budget telescope under $500. You can always check out our full review at the bottom of this section, but here, we've highlighted some key specs so you know what makes this telescope the best pick overall. 

We've touched upon why already, it's a top choice for its optics, its aperture, being an entry level choice for astrophotographers but this telescope offers more than just that. So, without further ado, here's what makes the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ the best overall budget telescope under $500.

Aperture: The 130mm aperture means that this telescope has plenty of light gathering ability. That means that images appear brighter and, in this case, clearer. It's a huge part of why this is ideal for viewing galaxies, nebulae, planets and star clusters and not just the moon. 

Optics: This telescope features a five-inch primary mirror with highly reflective coatings, allowing targets to appear clear and bright, given the size of the aperture. 

Technology: The technology on offer here is the use of the StarSense app and it's also where this telescope excels. The app will locate and tell you what targets are visible in the night sky and then point you towards them. This makes for a simple and satisfying experience, ideal for those without much previous experience. 

Accessories: A tripod, a smartphone dock, a finderscope and eyepieces are all accessories that should come with this model. To be picky, we did hope the eyepieces would allow for more powerful viewing but that wasn't to be. However, for this price the quality on offer and those accessories make this a worth while product. 

Quality of build: It's reliable and sturdy enough but also well made enough so that you do get quality views of the night sky and aren't left with a feeling that your telescope is cheaply made. The mount and optical tube are well designed and despite the large aperture, it's lightweight enough to be considered portable. Although, the DX 102AZ model also features in this guide and it's a lighter weight and more transportable. 

Review: Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ review.

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Test Results
DesignNewtonian Reflector
FunctionalityEasy-to-use for navigation
PerformanceLarge aperture and good optics, performs well

The best budget telescope under 500 dollars

The best telescope to utilize smartphone technology that makes 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

Reasons to buy

Very easy and quick to find objects
Intuitive push-to method of homing in

Reasons to avoid

Alignment procedure depends on a mirror, which collects dew
Instrument is stiff to move without slow motions
Buy if

You want to take your telescope with you: the DX 102AZ is lighter and more easily transported than the DX 130AZ so, if you don't just want to view the stars from home, this is a good option.

You like or want the help of technology: this telescope also excels with the use of the StarSense app. That's an app that will locate visible targets in the night sky and point you towards them. 

You're on a budget: yes, that's the point of this guide but this is a very good telescope that often sits comfortably under $500 and not just on the border of it. 

Don't buy if

You're a purist: this will seem awfully similar to the DX 130AZ but these two are similar telescopes. If you like to spend time setting up your scope or you don't want technology, a different telescope might be for you.

You're an absolute beginner: again, we're being picky. This actually wouldn't be a bad choice at all if you were an absolute beginner, but there are other models in this guide that are perfectly suited for beginners that cost less.

You want to view more distant targets: to put it simply, the DX 130AZ has a larger aperture which helps with seeing deeper into space. 

The bottom line

🔎 The Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ is worth getting. It works well for both beginner and intermediate astronomers and offers a satisfying and simple stargazing experience. The aperture isn't as large as the DX 130AZ but it is easier to transport around. 

We've gone over the fact that this is a worth-while telescope but now it's time to go in-depth as to why. Like you've already seen we'll cover different specs and criteria so you get a comprehensive understanding of this telescope. 

Like above, we'll look at the aperture, the optics, the technology, the accessories and the quality of build so you know what you would be getting for your money. It won't come as a surprise that this is a similar telescope to the DX 130AZ that's already been reviewed in this guide. 

Aperture: it features a 102mm aperture, which is still pretty sizable and allows enough light to pass through so that night sky targets both near and far will appear visible. 

Optics: the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ features fully coated glass optics, which means your night sky targets will appear crisp and clear as enough light passes through to make them visible. 

Technology: similar to the DX 130AZ above, this telescope is at it's best when used alongside the StarSense app. The app will tell you which night sky targets are currently visible and then point you in the direction of any that you select. You can also use the telescope without the app. 

Accessories: to partner the optical tube and preassembled tripod and mount, you get two eyepieces, a finderscope, an accessory tray and a dock for your smartphone.

Quality of build: to be picky, we found that at times some of the controls can feel a little stiff, the optics a little delicate and the accessory tray can be a little fiddly, overall it's made well enough. At this price point you know you're not getting the very best instrument that was ever made but equally, this doesn't feel cheaply or poorly put together and you will be happy enough with the quality of build. 

Review: Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ review.

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Test Results
DesignAchromatic refractor
FunctionalityIntuitive push-to system for finding objects
PerformanceGood app and good optics lead to a good experience

The best budget telescope under 300 dollars

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)

Reasons to buy

Compact and easy to use
Sharp solar system views
Assembled out of the box

Reasons to avoid

Lacks slow-motion controls
Narrow field of view
Buy if

You don't want to have to set up the telescope: this telescope is ready to use out-of-the-box and it's simple design means it's easy to use too. 

You're a beginner: the tabletop design means you just need to place it on a flat surface to be able to stargaze. It's easy to setup and use design means it's perfect for beginners as they won't get frustrated with a complicated setup.

You're priority isn't deep space: given it's smaller design and that it carries less power, this telescope is best suited for views within the solar system. 

Don't buy if

You're priority is outdoor viewing: this telescope has a tabletop design, so you would need to carry a flat surface around with you, which isn't exactly practical. 

You want or need the use of technology: this is ready-to-use out of the box and you will have to discover night sky targets on your own.

You want to view targets outside our solar system: as already mentioned, it's not the biggest or the most powerful and is designed for views within the solar system. 

The bottom line

🔎 The Orion Starmax 90 Tabletop telescope is a fantastic choice of telescope for those wanting an easy stargazing experience of views within our solar system. It is ready-to-use out of the box and just needs a flat surface. 

Now we're into the moving further and further away from that $500 mark and exploring more of the budget options. Already it's evident that there's less technology on offer but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice quality views, just because you're spending less.

The Orion Starmax 90 features a tabletop design so it's perfect for inspiring budding astronomers as it's compact and lightweight, will fit well on any flat surface around the house and is easy to use, its decent optics helps too.

Aperture: it's a 90mm aperture which is smaller than what we've seen so far in this guide, but is decent enough. It's not just still decent but is pretty good at this price point. It will allow enough light to pass through so the planets in our solar system are visible but you'll struggle with deep space. 

Optics: inside the 1250mm focal length is an internal focuser, which moves the primary lens back and forth. 

Technology: this is where this telescope lacks unfortunately. The Maksutov-Cassegrain design does eliminate color fringing but there's no motorized mount, app or smartphone pairing to do the bulk of the work for you or to get you into astrophotography. 

Accessories: the accessories here make up somewhat for the lack of technology. Eyepieces are included, a reflex sight and a moon map are included. While it's not exactly ground breaking, they do enhance the stargazing experience and it's hard to ask for much more at this price point. 

Quality of build: generally it's good, the aperture and optics combine to give you a surprisingly wide field of view for such a compact. Given the fact that you can get good views of our solar system at this price point and from a telescope of this size means it's a well made model. 

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Test Results
DesignTabletop Maksutov-Cassegrain
FunctionalityReady-to-use with internal focuser
PerformanceNo color fringing, deep space targets will be a struggle

The best budget telescope under 200 dollars

The best telescope for enthusiasts and beginners looking 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)

Reasons to buy

Excellent value package
Decent optics, with collimation
Very good overall build

Reasons to avoid

Accessories not best quality
Supplied 4mm eyepiece isn't practical
Buy if

You're a novice astronomer: this telescope is Celestron's flagship model for entry-level telescopes, so definitely worth considering if you're starting out.

You don't want a complicated setup: while it's not exactly ready to use out-of-the-box, when we tested it, we did find it could be set up in under an hour.

You're on a strict budget: this model comes in under $200, while some components reflect that, it does perform well and especially for its price point. 

Don't buy if

You're looking for quality accessories: the accessories included will enhance your viewing experience, it's just that the accessories included with other telescopes in this guide are of a higher quality.

You're not starting out in astronomy: this is very much a beginner's telescope and other telescopes in this guide offer a little more.

You are willing to spend more on your next telescope: by this we mean more than what this telescope is worth as there are other scopes in this guide that offer more but, they also cost more.

The bottom line

🔎 The Celestron Powerseeker 127EQ is Celestron's starring light for entry-level telescopes. If you're starting out and on a budget, this is worth getting. However, if you're not just starting out or you have a larger budget, other telescopes might offer you a little more.

The Celestron Powerseeker 127EQ is ideal for beginners and boasts some decent specs along with some accessories to enhance your stargazing experience. As it comes in under $200, it's a very tempting option for those trying their hand in astronomy. 

In the specs below, you'll see what makes it worth getting and what lets it down. Unfortunately, as the price point gets lower and lower it becomes increasingly unlikely that you'll find a telescope to compete with the very best. Having said that, it doesn't mean you can't get something decent without having to break the bank.

Aperture: unsurprisingly given the name, the aperture of this telescope is 127mm and it allows for plenty of light to pass through with reasonable economy. 

Optics: usually, quality is assured with Celestron models and the optics are up to the job again. It has a Bird-Jones Newtonian design which means it uses a spherical primary mirror instead of a parabolic. There are extra components in the secondary which gives the telescope 1000mm of focal length into a tube of just 440mm. The trade-off is slightly dimmer images. 

Technology: there's no app to point you towards the night sky targets you wish to view or motorized mount to do the tracking for you with this telescope. Any technology can be argued through the complex optics mentioned above or the eyepieces that will be mentioned below. Overall, this telescope is no frills and therefore, scores poorly for technology. 

Accessories: the standard package comes with two eyepieces (20mm and 4mm) and a 3x Barlow lens. Unfortunately, the eyepieces don't quite have the desired impact on your stargazing experience that you would hope for. 

Quality of build: generally, good. It has a sturdy tripod and mount and it gathers plenty of light. Given that you can get clear enough views of the moon and stars, you can't ask for too much more at this price point. However, there are some plastic components that feel cheap and the eyepieces fall short on what you'd hope they could deliver. 

Review: Celestron Powerseeker 127EQ review

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Test Results
DesignBird-Jones Newtonian design
FunctionalityCan be used for terrestrial viewing, eyepiece gives sharp views
PerformanceGood, lightweight finderscope but color can be muted through the glass

The best budget telescope under 100 dollars

Best for young stargazers — easy-to-use, portable and robust


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

Reasons to buy

Portable and robust
Easy to use
Fast focal ratio for easy observations of wide-angle targets

Reasons to avoid

Loose focuser
Some observations lack clarity and detail
Finderscope not supplied
Buy if

You're looking to buy for a budding astronomer: it's portable, robust and easy to use. It won't give you the most spectacular views of deep space but it will capture the imagination of young astronomers. 

You want an easy viewing experience: it's easy to use and is ready to use out-of-the-box. It's tabletop design means you just need a flat surface to view the stars. 

You're looking for a low-risk purchase: as this telescope comes in at under $100, it's in the cheapest price bracket you can realistically get for a telescope. So, if you're not totally wowed by your stargazing experience, you haven't broken the bank in the process. 

Don't buy if

You're wanting to view deep space: unfortunately, this telescope is best suited to viewing the moon and the stars, thanks to its wide field-of-view. However, the design and the optics aren't suitable for stunning views of far-out galaxies and nebulas.  

You want crystal clear views: the views from this telescope aren't pin-sharp, which is unfortunate but you also have to bare in mind that at this price point, you can't expect a telescope to compete with the very best models. 

You're okay with spending more than $100: while this telescope comes in under that price point, there are other telescopes that offer more in this guide. The Orion Starmax 90 also features a tabletop design. 

The bottom line

🔎 The Celestron FirstScope 76 is ideal for young stargazers and absolute beginners alike, as the name suggests. It's easy to use and robust, which is about as much as you can ask for at under $100. Sometimes the views can lack clarity but overall, it's a good choice at this price and because of that, it's a low-risk purchase. 

As the name suggests, the Celestron FirstScope 76 is made with younger astronomers in mind. It's also suitable for absolute beginners who may not want to get too serious straight away. The price point for this (coming in at under $100) is suitable for those groups too as it means they don't have to break the bank to get into a new hobby. 

Naturally, telescopes that cost under $100 probably won't compete with the top models for power, optics or technology. But, that doesn't mean you can't have fun without spending a fortune. It also doesn't mean you have to sacrifice a fulfilling stargazing experience just to save some money. Below, you can take a closer look at the specs that this telescope boasts. 

Aperture: also as the name suggests, it's 76mm. While that won't be enough to allow enough light through to get bright images of far off night sky targets, it is enough to allow for decent views of the moon and nearby stars. 

Optics: we found it quite tricky to collimate this telescope, which is unfortunate, but it does have a fast focal ratio and a 300mm focal length, meaning views of the lunar surface and the broader night sky are achievable and enough to wow younger astronomers. 

Technology: unfortunately this telescope lacks technology, but that's okay. If a telescope at this price point aimed at kids featured much technology, it would probably be very unreliable and frustrate younger astronomers. It does feature a fast focal ratio though

Accessories: again, this telescope is ready to use out-of-the-box and is very much a no-frills scope. That does mean that it lacks in accessories and unfortunately, that also means a finderscope is not supplied. 

Quality of build: Surprisingly, this telescope is robustly made. We say surprisingly as so far it's not scored too well on technology or accessories and at this price point, you'd be forgiven for expecting something flimsy. However, it has a sturdy build and is likely to survive minor knocks and bumps it might receive while in the hands of younger stargazers. 

Review: Celestron Firstscope 76 review.

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Test Results
Attributes Notes
DesignTabletop Newtonian reflector
Functionality"Wow" factor for young viewers, loose focuser tube
PerformanceOptics can struggle to pick out detail

The best budget telescopes under 500 dollars comparison

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Category ModelScore
Best overall telescope under $500Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ★★★★
Best budget telescope under $500Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ★★★★
Best budget telescope under $300Orion StarMax 90 Tabletop★★★★
Best budget telescope under $200Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ★★★
Best budget telescope under $100Celestron FirstScope 76★★★

How to choose the best budget telescope for you

When choosing the best budget telescope for you, there are a few different factors you should consider. They range from what you want from your stargazing experience, to value for money, to overall quality and more. Here, we'll highlight what you should be on the look out for and go into detail for each category. 

Intended use: now this is crucial because if you're not looking to jump in at the deep end or you just want to see the moon and some stars, then something like the Celestron FirstScope 76 is ideal. But that wouldn't work if you were wanting to see nebulas, galaxies and more. So it's crucial you consider what you want to view and how much time you want to invest into stargazing. 

Budget: unfortunately, this is arguably the most important one. However, this is why we've compiled this guide, so you know what's out there on a budget. It's vital you know how much you're willing to spend so you can see what's in your price range. It also sets expectations as telescopes can cost thousands and it's unlikely that models costing mere hundreds can compete with the power or sophistication. But remember, that doesn't mean you have to miss out on a fulfilling stargazing experience. 

Value for money: another important factor to consider is whether or not you're getting good value for money. For this we recommend sticking to known manufacturers and known retailers. If you find a deal, great. But, sometimes if a deal seems too good to be true, it is. However, it's important to look at what you're getting for your money. Are you getting quality optics? Are there sufficient accessories? Have you got enough technology to satisfy your wants and needs? Sometimes waiting and saving to spend a little more can be worth it in the long-term, so make sure to do some shopping around before purchasing. 

Quality: this one might seem a bit obvious but it's important to know you're getting a quality product when you purchase a telescope. Have a look at the materials the scope is made of, have a look at the reviews and check out the specs of what you're buying. It doesn't matter how cheap a product is, you don't want it if it doesn't work. Therefore, research, knowing what you're buying and checking for quality is important.

Manufacturer/Retailer: this point ties in with some of the others above but when you're looking for a budget telescope, you'll find that there's a seemingly endless number of options. Not all of them are reliable. Therefore, you should stick to known manufacturers that you can rely on and that have a history of making good products. You should also stick to known retailers, so that you know you're getting what you pay for and there's some accountability should something go wrong. 

How we test the best budget telescopes under 500 dollars

Here at we have knowledgeable writers or expert-in-the-field freelancers review telescopes hands-on. Most of the telescopes you see in the guide above have been thoroughly tested and reviewed by people who know what to look out for. Of course, most doesn't mean all and where we haven't personally tested and reviewed a telescope, only models that have been carefully researched and approved make the cut. 

We've included links to numerous reviews in the guide above and in those reviews we're on the look out for design, performance, key specs and whether or not a telescope is worth purchasing. You will also find key points both for and against a particular model, bullet pointed, and more often than not, we suggest alternative telescopes if what you're reading isn't for you. 

It's not just budget telescopes under $500 that we review either, as we've also tested a range of higher-end telescopes as well as other optics like binoculars and cameras. Our writers also review each product on its own merit and with complete impartiality so that our readers can rely and trust in our opinion for credibility. 

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Jase Parnell-Brookes
Channel Editor

Jase Parnell-Brookes is an award-winning photographer, educator and writer based in the UK. They won the Gold Prize award in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. After completing their Masters Jase has spent a good chunk of two decades studying and working in photography and optics shooting and writing all over the world for big-name brands and media outlets. Now the Channel Editor for Cameras and Skywatching at their speciality is in low light optics and camera systems.

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