5 Best Budget Telescopes in 2020 (Best Value for $$$)

Are you passionate about astronomy and stargazing in general? Do you want to go star hunting with a cheap telescope yet with an above-average functionality? In this article, we hope to provide you with the needed facts that make a good telescope while at the same time, it won’t weigh heavy on your pockets.

The best budget telescope can provide you with a unique experience without the need to spend thousands to obtain a good image. Everything that makes or breaks a telescope will be discussed here and you don’t need to worry since, with an affordable telescope, you can actually view even Saturn and its rings!

We Recommend

Best budget telescope

Z8 Dobsonian

Best computerized

NexStar 130SLT

Cheapest option

Dobosonian 6-inch

What to expect from a cheap telescope?

Having a tight budget may seem like a hassle when it comes to buying. Often time’s people feel like if they buy something expensive, they will get the true experience, or if they spend too little, it won’t get them what they want.

However, in many products, this is not actually the case. When it comes to telescopes, if you know exactly what to look for you, you will enjoy the night sky without spending a fortune, and this is where we come in!

As food for thought, telescopes won’t match what you see in astrography photos in magazines or even on the box of the product. You won’t see, for example, nebulae in color and planets will appear tinier than what you might expect, and this often turns off people. But don’t misunderstand; this happens regardless of the telescope.

Seeing for the first time, the Moon or planets will be an unmatched experience nonetheless. The most expensive telescopes are very big. They sometimes won’t even fit even in a car, but with a budget telescope with the right specs, you can avoid this and actually have a great experience.

What can you see through a budget telescope?

When it comes to telescopes under a 500$ budget, there is a hotspot where most people are pleased with what they get. You must think before anything else what you want to do with it. If you don’t know, perhaps a pair of Astro binoculars will first do the job.

If you have a mild interest in stargazing, perhaps a Dobsonian of average size, between 6” to 8,” would do the trick. These Dobsonian’s refer to a Newtonian “alt-az” cradle type of mount. This is actually the best way to maximizing the aperture per money spent. It is easy to use and setup.

Now here comes the hot spot, between less than 200$ and 400$+. In this price range, you should either get either an Orion type of binocular around 150$, and for a telescope, you should look for something 200$ and up.  

The binoculars may help you in realizing if stargazing is something of your liking. With binoculars, you can see the Moon in detail, some planets, and they’re great to use in the day time in general. When it comes to a telescope around 200$ or more, you can see the Moon, planets, nebulae, Messier objects, Saturn’s rings, galaxies, and much more.

Related5 Best Solar Telescopes in 2020 [to Observe The Sun]

Best value for money

There are many types of telescopes, but usually, the reflector type is the best value for money. Sometimes, a poor telescope viewing, especially in the beginning, can have a negative impact on someone’s perception of amateur astronomy.

One of the best telescopes is the Dobsonian reflector since they offer the largest aperture per inch of any type of telescope. But, for viewing planets, a larger aperture is not as beneficial as it is for viewing deep sky objects such as nebulae or galaxies.

So you have to consider what you use the telescope for. If your budget is tight, an 8” Dobsonian telescope is fairly cheap, and you can learn a lot about the sky by using them since they’re not computer-controlled.

When money is not a problem, something fancier like a GO-TO telescope that has motorized arms that can automatically point the scope at most objects in the sky is usually preferred. But again, it all depends on you, whether you like to hunt for the celestial objects or you want to observe them.

These GO-TO scopes are expensive, but they have the benefit of saving you the time to find the celestial objects. Some other people prefer to use that money to rather get better optics and sturdier mounts.

If you have a VERY tight budget then do this

If you have a very tight budget, you have to consider this. It might be hard, but telescopes under 200$, especially department store fare that touts their magnification abilities above all else, should be avoided! You won’t get a good experience, throw your money, and worst of all, maybe even lose your interest or enthusiasm for stargazing.

As such, you should rather pick a good pair of binoculars. They can surprise you since you can actually see planets such as Jupiter, the Galilean moons, even faraway places like the Orion Nebula and distant galaxies. Binoculars are considerably cheaper than a decent telescope, and can also be used for another hobby like birding, or other outdoor sporting activities.

For backyard astronomy, most people recommend a 7×50 or 10×50 set of binoculars (the largest lenses you can comfortably hold) 

But if you really want an inexpensive option for a telescope, the Celestron FirstScope may be worth it.

It is a reflector telescope, albeit a decidedly barebones one with just a 76mm aperture. However, it is made specifically for someone’s first experience in using a telescope, and it can actually provide a good experience overall.

Related5 Best Tripods for Binoculars (Astronomy) in 2020

How to choose the right budget telescope?

Now that we’ve reached this point, its time to talk about the most important aspects of a telescope. Here is everything you need to look for and take into consideration:

Aperture – It should have 2.8 inches – 70 mm, at least. Larger aperture lets you see fainter objects. The aperture is one of the most important aspects, and the larger they are, the better! Frankly, it is the most important aspect of a telescope.

Eyepieces – The lower the number, the more it magnifies, and they can be used on different telescopes. A good telescope should have at least 2 eyepieces, one of which should be at least 25mm.

Focal length – Magnifying power depends on focal length. It should be at least 1000mm for versatility. Magnification of 50x per inch is good – a telescope with an aperture size of 3.5 inches and a focal length of 35 inches has a focal ratio of f/10.

Weight and size – Telescopes vary in weight from 15lbs to 300 lbs. Most telescopes can be broken down into 3 subsections for transportation: The optical tube assembly, the telescope mount, and the tripod or base. It all depends on you and your method of transportation.

Mount – There are many types, but here are the top 3:

  • Altazimuth – They are very sturdy and durable, move vertically and horizontally,  and they may be the best choice for kids. The Dobsonian is an example of this Altazimuth mount
  • Equatorial – Good for those with a bit of experience; for beginners, it can be complicated. They allow the telescope to move to the celestial north-south, and in the east-west axis.
  • Computerized mounts – They have “go-to” buttons, automatically tracking what you want. They can take a bit of time to set up, though. It makes stargazing easy, on the other hand.

Best budget telescope

This telescope is possible one of the best for beginners. 

Usually, the Dobsonian’s are used by professionals, but this model has been redesigned specifically for the new enthusiasts. 

The focuser comes with a great rack and pinion focuser with a 1.25 adaptor.

 This greatly helps in all aspects of focusing. The 1200mm focal length is good for long-distance sightseeing purposes. 

The focal ratio is f/8, but the aperture is a bit low; however, good enough for beginners. It is also easy to set up and comes in two boxes with instruction manuals. The solid rocker mount comes with Teflon bearings, which greatly helps in smooth transitions as well as slow-motion tracking. 

The two eyepieces of 25 and 10mm assist in magnification and the paraboloidal primary mirror eliminates spherical aberration and a four-arm, and secondary-mirror bracket helps in reducing diffraction spikes and light loss.

Check the price of SkyWatcher S11600 Traditional Dobsonian 6-Inch here

What we liked

  • A good option for beginners.
  • Solid mount
  • Two eyepieces
  • Good focal length
  • Slow-motion control
  • Magnification easily possible
  • Smooth mount transitions

What we didn’t like

  • Low aperture
  • Does not come collimated
  • Not suitable for professionals

Aperture: 6” (152 mm)
Magnification: 306x – theoretical maximum
Mount: Altazimuth
Eyepieces: 25 mm and 10 mm 1. 25”
Focal length: 1200 mm
Weight: 33 pounds
What can you see with it: Planets, galaxies, deep sky objects

This telescope is an in-between beginner to an intermediate level telescope. 

The 5.1-inch aperture reflector gathers an ample amount of light, thus offering a great view of the planets and 

Moon, as well as brighter celestial objects such as galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters.

The optical tube is 24 inches long; thus, it is easily portable, and the f/5 focal ratio offers a wide-field view. 

The tripod is sturdy and adjustable, which allows for manual slow-motion tracking of celestial objects.

The package comes with two 1.25 inch Sirius Plossl eyepieces of 25mm and 10mm, the 6×30 finder scope which is used to accurately aim the SpaceProbe 130ST reflector, one 1.25 inch rack and pinion focuser for greater focus, tripod accessory tray, collimation cap, and the Starry Night astronomy software used for control, and sky simulations.

Check the price of Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope here

What we liked

  • Price-quality balance
  • Wide field of view
  • Easy to transport
  • Sturdy and durable
  • Easy to setup
  • Great for beginners
  • Finder Scope

What we didn’t like

  • Stronger lenses needed
  • Low specification EQ mount
  • Inefficient instruction manual

Aperture: 70mm
Magnification: 260x – theoretical maximum
Mount: Equatorial
Eyepieces: 25.0 and 10.0mm(1.25”)
Focal length: 650 mm
Weight: 27 lbs – assembled
What can you see with it: moons, planets, brighter deep-sky objects, star clusters

Another great beginner to an intermediate level telescope. The tripod is made out of wood, which is the best material for absorbing vibrations and thus combats image destabilization. 

The telescope comes with a 2-inch Crayford focuser that accepts 1.25 and 2 telescope eyepieces, a 25 mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece, an EZ Finder II reflex sight, collimation cap, and the Starry Night software.

 The telescope is very sturdy and can last for a lifetime while the mount keeps the optical tube balanced for point-and-view ease of use. 

The large aperture is very beneficial as it lets you see celestial objects in close detail. It is easy to assemble and collimate, but the scope might be heavy for some, and the base movement is facilitated by nylon pads, which might grind into the moving parts.

Check the price of Orion 8945 SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope here

What we liked

  • Good aperture for the price
  • Wood tripod – vibration absorption material
  • Easy to move around
  • Smooth focusing motion
  • Fast finderscope adjustments
  • Easy to collimate
  • Sturdy and durable

What we didn’t like

  • Bearings – thin nylon pads
  • Primary mirror might have flaws
  • Not compatible with computer

Aperture: 8-inches
Magnification: 406x – theoretical maximum
Mount: Altazimuth – Dobsonian
Eyepieces 25mm
Focal length: 1200mm
Weight: 29.3 pounds
What can you see with it: Planets, moons, nebulas, galaxies, deep-sky objects

This telescope is great for both beginner and intermediate users. 

It is a computerized telescope with a database of more than 40.000 stars, galaxies, nebulae, and other celestial objects. 

It offers great accuracy when pinpointing your target and it is very easy to use.

It is compatible with 2 eyepieces, compact, and very portable since both kids and adults can use it easily.

The aperture gathers enough light to see our Solar System and beyond. The package comes with a red dot Starpointer finderscope and 2 eyepieces of 25mm and 9mm. It includes an adjustable, full-height steel tripod with accessory tray. 

The tripod may be susceptible to vibrations, but it can be enhanced or changed. The primary mirror gives fully color-corrected views. Many of the smallest details can be observed with this telescope and the Goto application makes stargazing an easy task.

Check the price of Celestron NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope here

What we liked

  • Computerized star locating telescope
  • Good aperture
  • Fast setup
  • Portable
  • Great GOTO- accuracy
  • Easy to collimate
  • Good design-attention to details

What we didn’t like

  • Short battery life
  • Maybe a bit shaky
  • Mount limited to 70 degrees up

Aperture: 130mm
Magnification: 26x, 72x
Mount: Computerized Altazimuth
Eyepieces 25 mm and 9 mm
Focal length: 650mm
Weight: 18 lbs assembled
What can you see with it: Moons, planets, galaxies, deep-sky objects

This telescope might be one of the best for beginners and even experienced users. 

The product comes with 2’’ 30 mm and 25’’ 9 mm fully multi-coated eyepieces, an 8×50 right-angle finderscope, 1.25’’ Moon filter, and laser collimation. 

The collimation process can easily be learned online. Many other products require you to purchase them separately. 

A great advantage besides the 8” parabolic mirror, which is powerful enough to produce bright, crisp images free of visual defects like spherical aberration is the focuser.

The dual-speed Crayford focuser is very good for precise focusing, the telescope is also balanced, adjustable and it compensates for a variety of eyepieces and accessories by adjusting the side bearing position. 

The cooling fan cools down the telescope, so you are ready to observe faster. Though it might be heavy or big for some, it is easy to transport since it breaks down into 2 manageable pieces. The finderscope makes aiming and locating your targets very easy, while the product as a whole is durable and sturdy lasting for years.

Check the price of Zhumell Z8 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector Telescope here

What we liked

  • Crayford dual speed focuser
  • Good aperture
  • Adjustable balancing
  • Cooling fan
  • Portability
  • Laser collimator included
  • Many bonus accessories

What we didn’t like

  • May be heavy for some
  • Some accessories may be low-quality
  • Customer support

Aperture: 203mm
Magnification: 400x theoretical maximum
Mount: Dobsonian
Eyepieces 30mm and 9mm
Focal length: 1200 mm
Weight: 54 lbs assembled
What can you see with it: Galaxies, planets, moons, star cluster, deep-sky objects

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