Best budget telescopes under $500 2023:

The best telescopes under $500 make the world of stargazing and astronomy more accessible to those on tighter budgets and can also be a great way of introducing kids to the hobby. We're seeing some fantastic deals so keep an eye on our telescopes deals page too, to make sure you're getting the best price available on your chosen scope.

When buying a budget item, it can be hard to know what is good value and what is just not up to the job. Our expert reviewers have tried and tested all the telescopes on this list so that you know you're investing your money in a quality product. We've categorized them under different price brackets and by their best features, including models for viewing the moon, planets and deep space and even models that work alongside your smartphone.

If you can afford to spend a little more or you're looking for a more advanced scope, we have guides to the best telescopes and best telescopes for deep space. And if you're just starting out and need something that's simple and straightforward to use, we also have a guide to the best beginner telescopes to get you started.

Best budget telescopes Frequenty Asked Questions answered by:
Josh Dury self portrait
Best budget telescopes Frequenty Asked Questions answered by:
Josh Dury

Josh Dury is a recognized landscape astrophotographer, presenter, writer and educator based near the Mendip Hills AONB in Somerset, United Kingdom. His work has been recognized by several photographic bodies, including The Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year Competition, UNESCO, to major UK and international publishing and media outlets, including the BBC and ITV to name but two and photography suppliers Sigma and Benro. Josh has been recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) as an active campaigner for Dark Skies. He also graduated with first-class honors from his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Photography at the University of the West of England (UWE).

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ: was $479.95

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ: was $479.95 now $298.99 at Amazon

Save $180 on this amazing budget telescope, ideal for viewing galaxies, nebulas, planets and star clusters. It's easy to set up and use and is ideal if you don't have much experience, and the StarSense app locates targets in the night sky for you.

Best budget telescopes under $500 we recommend in 2023

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The quick list

This is a quick overview of what's in the best budget telescopes under $500 in the guide below. The links allow you to check out the detailed review quickly.

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.

Specifications

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'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 photos 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 toward various visible night sky targets. 

Don't buy if

You're a purist: by this, we mean someone who 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 just as good for those taking their first steps into astronomy. 

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. ★★★★

We've touched upon why it's a top choice of telescope in our Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ review, not just for its optics, its aperture and 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 of this telescope gives it a great ability to gather a lot of light. This results in brighter and, in this case, clearer images. This makes it perfect for observing not only the moon but also galaxies, nebulas, planets and star clusters.

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

Technology: This telescope stands out thanks to its StarSense app technology. With this app, it can locate and identify the objects visible in the night sky, and then guide you to them. This creates an easy and enjoyable experience, making it ideal for beginners who perhaps don't have much prior experience.

Accessories: With this model, you should expect to find a tripod, a smartphone dock, a finderscope and eyepieces as included accessories. While we wish the eyepieces provided more powerful viewing, considering the price, the quality and included accessories still make this a worthwhile product.

Quality of build: It's both reliable and sturdy, offering quality views of the night sky that don't leave you with a sense of it being cheaply made. The mount and optical tube are well-designed, and despite the large aperture, it remains lightweight and portable. However, it's worth noting that this guide also includes the DX 102AZ model, which is even lighter and more portable.

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Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ
AttributesNotes
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.

Specifications

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 your backyard, this is a good option.

You like or want the help of technology: The StarSense app will locate visible targets in the night sky and point you towards them. 

Don't buy if

You're an absolute beginner: This 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 objects deeper into space. 

The bottom line

🔎 The Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ 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. ★★★½

Aperture: Its pretty sizeable 102mm aperture allows ample light to pass through to your eyes, enabling clear, visible views of celestial objects near and far.

Optics: The Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ comes with fully coated glass optics, ensuring that the nighttime celestial subjects look sharp and clear.

Technology: Like the DX 130AZ (also in this guide), this telescope is best when paired with the StarSense app. The app identifies visible night sky objects and guides you to your chosen target. That said, it is still possible to use the telescope without needing the app.

Accessories: In addition to the optical tube and the preassembled tripod and mount, this telescope package includes two eyepieces, a finderscope, an accessory tray, and a convenient smartphone dock, so you can enjoy not only stunning celestial views but also capture beautiful astrophotos with ease.

Quality of build: We're splitting hairs, but when we reviewed the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ, 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, but overall it's made well enough. Given the price, it's clear you're not getting the best telescope ever made but it doesn't feel cheap or poorly assembled, and we think you'll be happy enough with the build quality.

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Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ
AttributesNotes
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.

Specifications

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 its 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 set up and use design, so it's perfect for beginners as they won't get frustrated with a complicated setup.

Your priority isn't deep space: given its smaller design and that it carries less power (magnification), this telescope is best suited for views within the solar system. 

Don't buy if

Your priority is outdoor viewing: it has a tabletop design, so you'd need to carry a flat surface around with you, which isn't exactly practical for outdoor use outside of your backyard. 

You want technology assistance: this is ready-to-use out of the box and you will have to find night sky targets without assistance.

You want to view targets outside our solar system: as already mentioned, it's not the biggest or the most powerful telescope 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. ★★★★½

We're moving further away from that $500 mark and exploring more 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 — it has decent optics too.

Aperture: At 90mm, this telescope's aperture falls on the smaller side compared to others in this guide, but it's still quite respectable, especially considering its low price. While it lets enough light through to observe the planets in our solar system, it will struggle to view anything further like deep-space objects.

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

Technology: Unfortunately, this is where the telescope lacks. While its Maksutov-Cassegrain design effectively eliminates color fringing, it lacks the convenience of a motorized mount, a dedicated app or smartphone connectivity to automate much of the tracking and imaging work for astrophotography. That said, some people prefer this!

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

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

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Orion Starmax 90
AttributesNotes
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

Specifications

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 and accessories to enhance your stargazing experience, as we found in our Celestron Powerseeker 127EQ review. Costing less than $200, it's a very tempting option for those trying their hand at 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 allows plenty of light to pass through with reasonable economy. 

Optics: Celestron typically delivers quality, and the optics here are no exception. This telescope has a Bird-Jones Newtonian design, utilizing a spherical primary mirror instead of a parabolic one, and there are additional components in the secondary mirror to help achieve a focal length of 1000mm within a compact 440mm tube. However, the trade-off of this design is slightly dimmer images.

Technology: This telescope lacks both an app for guiding you to specific night sky targets or a motorized mount for tracking them. Its technology is quite basic, relying mainly on the optics and eyepieces we talk about below. Overall, it's a no-frills telescope, so it doesn't score particularly high here technology.

Accessories: the standard package has two eyepieces (20mm and 4mm) and a 3x Barlow lens. Unfortunately, these eyepieces don't quite have the desired impact on your stargazing experience that you would hope for; you'll probably want to upgrade them. 

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, some plastic components feel cheap and the eyepieces fall short of what you'd hope they could deliver. 

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Celestron Powerseeker 127EQ
AttributesNotes
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

Specifications

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. Its 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 want 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 bear in mind that at this price point, you can't expect a telescope to compete with the very best models. 

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: as the name suggests, it has a 76mm aperture. While this might not let in enough light for bright images of distant night sky objects, it's good enough for decent views of the moon and nearby stars.

Optics: when we reviewed the Celestron Firstscope 76, we found it quite tricky to collimate, 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 or beginner astronomers. 

Technology: unfortunately, this telescope lacks advanced technology, but that's okay. For a telescope designed for kids in this price range, adding too much tech could make it unreliable and frustrating for young stargazers. However, it does have a fast focal ratio.

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

Quality of build: Surprisingly, this telescope is quite sturdy, which is unexpected since it didn't score well in terms of technology and accessories. Given its price, you might have expected something flimsy. However, it boasts a solid build and can likely withstand bumps and knocks when used by younger stargazers.

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Celestron FirstScope 76
Attributes Notes
DesignTabletop Newtonian reflector.
Functionality"Wow" factor for young viewers, loose focuser tube.
PerformanceOptics can struggle to pick out detail.

Best for deep space observing