10 Best Telescopes Under $500 [in 2021]

Starting astronomy as a hobby need not cost a fortune. You just need to pick the right scope for the right purpose. The best telescope under 500 should come with a high aperture, good optics quality, and be advanced enough so you can grow into it. Here are our favorites.

We Recommend

Best for beginners

Orion SkyQuest XT8

Best computerized

Celestron NexStar 130

Best for families

Orion SpaceProbe 130

Best telescope under 500

1. Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope

If you want to be wowed by amazing views of the sky, you need an 8” telescope. And, you can get one for under $500!. The Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope is the best telescope under 500 with a massive 203mm (8″) aperture and 1200mm focal length. 

With an aperture like this, you will see breathtaking images of the Moon, planets, faint star clusters, nebula, and deep space objects.

The Dobsonian optics offer the best telescope for the price and fabulous value for your money. The telescope comes with a Sirius Plossl 25mm eyepiece and an Orion 2x Shorty Barlow Lens that doubles the magnification of your eyepiece. 

To get going, you have the Beginning Stargazers Toolkit that provides loads of reference material for night time observing. It includes the Orion Star Target planisphere, Orion MoonMap 260, Starry Night SE astronomy software digital download insert, and the Orion Telescope Observer’s Guide book. A handy red LED light allows you to read in the dark, a fun bonus! 

What we liked

  • Great price for value 
  • Huge 8” (130mm) aperture 
  • 1 eyepiece, a 25mm 
  • 2x Shorty Barlow to double the magnification
  • Beginning Stargazers Toolkit
  • Point-and-view ease of use
  • Great for deep space viewing

What we didn’t like

  • Heavier than some others 
  • Not computerized

Type: Dobsonian Reflector Telescope
Aperture: 203mm (8 inch)
Magnification: 48x
Mount type: Dobsonian
Focal Length: 1200mm)
Weight: 41 lbs (18.5 kg)
Best for: Deep sky viewing

2. Celestron NexStar 130 SLT Series Newtonian Reflector

If you prefer a computerized altazimuth mount, the Celestron NexStar 130 SLT Series Newtonian Reflector Telescope is the best telescope for under 500. With this mount, you simply center any three bright objects in the eyepiece and the NexStar SLT aligns to the night sky, ready to locate thousands of objects. 

You do not need to know the names of the objects, this best goto telescope under 500 works it out for you. The Newtonian design mirror gives fully color-corrected views that are best suited for stargazing. You will see fainter Messier objects and get clearer views of the Moon and planets. 

This best computerized telescope under $500 comes with a Red Dot StarPointer Finderscope to help with alignment. It also has 2 eyepieces, a 25mm with 26x magnification and a 9mm with 72x magnification. The adjustable, full-height stainless steel tripod has an accessory tray to keep you organized in the field. 

Weighing only 18 lbs, the telescope is compact and portable. It is ideal for taking along on a weekend camping trip or an excursion away from the city lights. For tech-fans, it has an auxiliary port for additional accessories such as a GPS. 

What we liked

  • 130mm aperture, 650mm focal length
  • Computerized altazimuth mount and fully computerized hand control
  • 2 eyepieces, 25mm and 9mm 
  • Red Dot StarPointer Finderscope
  • Stainless Steel tripod
  • Best beginner telescope under 500 with 4,000 object database
  • The Sky Level 1 planetarium software

What we didn’t like

  • Learning curve to get started 
  • Some users may prefer non-computerized option

Type: Newtonian Reflector
Aperture: 130mm (5.1 inch)
Magnification: 26x, 72x
Mount type: Computerized Altazimuth
Focal Length: 650mm
Weight: 18 lbs (8.16 kg)
Best for: Intermediate viewers

3. Orion SpaceProbe 130ST EQ Reflector Telescope

When we set off on a stargazing outing, we don’t want to have to worry that the telescope and accessories are going to take up all the luggage space in the car. The Orion SpaceProbe 130ST is an exceptionally portable telescope. It has an optical tube that is only 24” long, making it easy to fit into the car. 

This mid range telescope features a 5.1″ aperture that gathers large amounts of light. You will see amazing views of the craters on the Moon. You will also be able to see Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s moons, as well as brighter galaxies and fainter star clusters. 

The Orion Spaceprobe 130st is a great entry level telescope and comes with a sturdy EQ-2 equatorial mount that is easy to set up. The adjustable tripod allows manual slow-motion tracking. This keeps the image in the eyepiece as it moves across the sky. 

Supplied with the telescope are two 1.25” Sirius Plossl eyepieces, a 25mm and 10mm. It also has a 6×30 finder scope, collimation cap, and a handy tripod accessory tray.  For added value, you get a 2x Shorty Barlow that doubles the magnification of your eyepieces. To get going, you have a fabulous astronomy pack, including the Star Target Planisphere, MoonMap 260, and Orion Telescope Observer’s Guide Book. 

What we liked

  • Really good telescope for a family hobby 
  • 5.1” aperture, 650mm focal length
  • 2 Sirius Plossl eyepieces, 25mm and 10mm
  • Short length 24” optical tube
  • Great for travel and portability 
  • Slow-motion controls for ease of use
  • Star Target Planisphere, Orion Telescope Observer’s Guide Book

What we didn’t like

  • Not motorized
  • A few users found the initial set up to be tricky

Type: Reflector Telescope
Aperture: 130mm (5.1 inch))
Magnification: 26x, 65x
Mount type: Equatorial
Focal Length: 650mm
Weight: 24.2 lbs (10.9 kg)
Best for: Beginners and intermediate

4. Orion StarBlast 6i IntelliScope Reflector Telescope

If you are looking for a tabletop mount, the Orion StarBlast 6i Intelliscope Reflector Telescope is the perfect choice. My wife always prefers a tabletop mount; she feels safer knowing that the smaller kids won’t knock it over. 

These best telescopes under 500 offer great value for money with a huge 6” (150mm) aperture that gives high-quality views. It is ideal for a family starting as beginners and wanting to grow into intermediate stargazers without having to upgrade to a larger model. 

It is extremely portable at only 25 lbs and is very easy to set up. The telescope comes with two Sirius Plossl eyepieces, a 25mm with 30x magnification and a 10mm with 75x magnification. It also has an  EZ Finder II reflex sight for easy alignment. 

The IntelliScope computerized object location system allows you to find any celestial object by using the handheld locator. It has a 750mm focal length, which gives clear, crisp images of brighter deep space nebula, galaxies, and distant star clusters. The Starry Night Software package with 14,000 celestial objects gets you going and will keep you interested for years to come. 

What we liked

  • Great value top rated telescopes
  • Large 6” aperture 
  • 2 eyepieces, a 25mm and a 10mm Sirius Plossl 1.25″
  • Table-top motorized mount with Intelliscope included
  • Lightweight for grab-and-go portability
  • Easy to use with the handheld locater
  • Starry Night Software

What we didn’t like

  • Some user prefer a full size mount

Type: Table-top Reflector Telescope
Aperture: 150mm (6 inch)
Magnification: 30x, 75x
Mount type: Altazimuth
Focal Length: 750mm
Weight: 25 lbs (11.3 kg)
Best for: Intermediate to advanced

5. Orion AstroView 90mm EQ Refractor Telescope

The Orion AstroView 90mm EQ Refractor Telescope is ideal for intermediate users. At a great price of under $500, you get a fabulous range of features that will soon have you viewing the Moon, planets, and deep sky objects. 

The telescope offers a 90mm aperture and a 910mm focal length. It has an EQ-2 Equatorial mount with slow-motion controls. This allows you to easily track an object across the sky and keep it in your field of view. 

It comes with two Sirius Plossl 1.25″ eyepieces, a 25mm with 36x magnification, and a 10mm with 91x magnification. Also included is an Orion 6×30 finder scope for easy locating of celestial objects and a 90-degree mirror diagonal for ease of viewing. 

The scope weighs 23.7 lbs and is simple and fast to set up. You can take it along on the weekend away for stargazing or use it at home in your yard. To get you going, it has a Starry Night astronomy software download.  Intermediate users will enjoy the specialized Moon Filter and the Four Color Planetary Filters. 

What we liked

  • Best telescope under 400
  • 90mm aperture, 910mm focal length
  • 2 Sirius Plossl eyepieces, 25mm and 10mm
  • Equatorial mount with slow-motion controls 
  • Orion 6×30 finder scope 
  • 90-degree mirror diagonal 
  • Moon Filter and the Four Color Planetary Filters

What we didn’t like

  • Some users prefer a larger aperture 
  • Not computerized 
  • Not as portable as it could be

Type: Refractor Telescope
Aperture: 90mm (3.5 inch)
Magnification: 36x, 91x
Mount type: Equatorial
Focal Length: 910mm
Weight: 23.7 lbs (10.75 kg)
Best for: Intermediates

6. Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ Equatorial Reflector Telescope

If you want to spend a bit more but still stay under the $500 budget. The Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ Equatorial Reflector Telescope is the best mid range telescope for the whole family to enjoy. It is also great for both terrestrial and celestial viewing. 

The telescope comes with 2 eyepieces, a 20mm with 32.5x magnification and a 10mm with 65x magnification. The aperture is a larger 130mm, and you will notice the difference when viewing far-away galaxies and nebulae. 

The equatorial mount is easy to set up and use and allows easy and smooth tracking of objects as they move across the sky. Equatorial mounts use a set of counterweights that balances the telescope, making the movement smoother. The tripod is pre-assembled and includes a deluxe accessory tray for storing all your accessories. 

This is the best telescope for the price of under $500. The Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ Equatorial Reflector Telescope has a permanently mounted StarPointer for fast and easy locating of celestial objects. It comes with The Sky Level 1 planetarium software with a 10,000 object database. 

What we liked

  • 130mm aperture, 650mm focal length
  • 2 eyepieces, 20mm and 10mm 
  • Permanently mounted StarPointer
  • Equatorial mount for smooth viewing 
  • Best mid priced telescope with pre-assembled tripod
  • Deluxe accessories tray
  • The Sky Level 1 planetarium software with 10,000 images

What we didn’t like

  • Not computerized
  • No carry case

Type: Reflector
Aperture: 130mm (5.12 inch)
Magnification: 32.5x, 65x
Mount type: Equatorial
Focal Length: 650mm
Weight: 24 lbs (10.89 kg)
Best for: Serious beginners and intermediate users

7. Celestron PowerSeeker 80EQ Refractor Telescope

When my young son told us that stargazing sounds like a fun hobby, we bought him the Celestron PowerSeeker 80EQ Refractor Telescope as a gift. This best telescope under 300 dollars features an 80mm aperture and a 900mm focal length. 

It comes with 2 eyepieces, a 20mm that gives 45x magnification, and a 4mm that gives a huge 225x magnification. We enjoy having 2 eyepieces, they add variety, and you can choose to use different magnifications for different sky objects. The telescope also has a 3x Barlow lens that triples the magnification. 

This best value telescope has an Equatorial mount design tripod with a motorized drive. This eliminates the possibility of bumping or shaking while focusing. It has slow motion controls for smooth tracking. The kids found it easy to set up and you don’t need tools. The tripod has an accessory tray for convenient storage of our accessories. 

We also have fun using the educational package that comes with the telescope. It includes TheSkyX – First Light Edition astronomy software with a 10,000 object database, printable sky maps, and 75 enhanced images. This is great for showing beginners which exciting objects to view and where to look for them. This best beginner telescope under 200 has erect image optics, making it ideal for terrestrial and astronomical use. 

What we liked

  • 80mm aperture, 900mm focal length
  • 2 eyepieces, 20mm and 4mm 
  • 3x 1.25in Barlow Lens 
  • Quick and easy no-tool set up
  • Best telescope under 300 with slow motion controls for smooth tracking
  • Motorized drive eliminates the bumping or shaking while focusing
  • TheSkyX – First Light Edition astronomy software

What we didn’t like

  • Not computerized
  • Some users may want a larger aperture
  • No carry case

Type: Refractor Telescope
Aperture: 80mm (3.1 inch))
Magnification: 45x, 225x
Mount type: Equatorial mount
Focal Length: 900mm
Weight: 19 lbs (8.6 kg)
Best for: Terrestrial and celestial viewing

8. Orion StarBlast 62mm Compact Travel Refractor Telescope

Once you are hooked on stargazing, you will want to try snapping some photos to show off on social media. The Orion StarBlast 62mm Compact Travel Refractor Telescope is the best telescope for astrophotography under $500. Attach a DSLR camera and give it a go! 

This telescope has a smaller aperture than some of the others we are reviewing, but it does what it has to do, and very well. You will see amazing detailed views of the Moon, Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s moons, the red hue of Mars, and bright star clusters. You can also use it for terrestrial viewing and take a closer look at birds, wildlife, ships on the horizon, and other land objects. 

The telescope comes with a smooth Crayford focuser and a 45-degree correct-image diagonal. It has 2 Plossl eyepieces, a 20mm and a 4mm. For transport, you have a hard case that fits easily into a car. 

I always look for included software to get beginners started, and this one does not disappoint. It has the Starry Night Special Edition astronomy software. One con is that you have to buy your own mount or use an existing one. It will fit onto any standard mount. 

What we liked

  • Compact travel telescope
  • 62mm aperture, 520mm focal length
  • 2 eyepieces, 20mm and 4mm 
  • Orion 1.25″ Deluxe 45° Correct-Image Prism Diagonal
  • Smooth Crayford focuser
  • Hard carry case
  • Starry Night Special Edition astronomy software

What we didn’t like

  • Smaller aperture
  • Not supplied with a mount

Type: Travel Refractor Telescope
Aperture: 62mm (2.4 inch)
Magnification: 9x,124x
Mount type: Not supplied
Focal Length: 520mm
Weight: 3.1 lbs (1.4 kg)
Best for: Celestial and terrestrial viewing, astrophotography

9. Celestron Omni XLT 102mm Refractor Telescope

The Celestron Omni XLT 102mm Refractor Telescope is a versatile best scope for 500 dollars that will be a favorite with the family. It has a large 102mm aperture and will give you great views of the Moon, planets, nebula, and star clusters. 

This telescope features StarBright XLT Optical Coatings that enhance light transmission, maximizing contrast and the sharpness of images. 

The scope comes with a 25mm multi-coated eyepiece that offers 40x magnification. It stands on a CG-4 German Equatorial mount, with slow-motion controls for easily locating an object. 

Once you have it in the field of view, you can track it across the sky with the precise motion it offers. The scope is easy to set up. It has a heavy-duty pre-assembled stainless steel tripod and requires no tools – a bonus for people like me who are not great at DIY projects. 

If you find, like many new stargazers, that you get really excited about the images you are seeing, the Celestron Omni XLT102 Telescope is an ideal telescope for astrophotography. Attach your DSLR camera and take some amazing shots! 

What we liked

  • 102mm aperture, 1000mm focal length
  • 1 Multi-coated 25mm eyepiece
  • CG-4 German Equatorial mount
  • Slow-motion controls 
  • Heavy-duty pre-assembled stainless steel tripod 
  • No-tool easy assembly
  • The Sky Level 1 planetarium software with 10,000 object database

What we didn’t like

  • Not computerized 
  • Heavier than other models 

Type: Refractor Telescope
Aperture: 102mm (4 inch)
Magnification: 40x
Mount type: Omni CG-4 Equatorial
Focal Length: 1000mm
Weight: 43 lbs (19.5 kg)
Best for: All levels of home astronomers

10. Celestron C90 Mak Spotting Scope Telescope

The Celestron C90 MAK Spotting Scope is ideal for both terrestrial and celestial viewing. It features a 90mm aperture and a 1250mm focal length. This is the perfect size to collect ample light for great views of the Moon, planets, and star clusters.

If you want to try some astrophotography, it has built-in T-Adapter threads for ease of adapting SLR cameras. The telescope comes with caps and lens covers to keep the optics clean when out in the field. 

Included in the kit is a 32mm eyepiece, a 45 degree Erect Image Diagonal and an 8×21 Erect Image Finderscope. The multi-coated optics give crisp, clear views. The telescope comes with a Celestron Photographic and Video Tripod that is extremely light and portable. It has a quick release bracket and panhandle control for easy set-up.

The telescope packs into a handy nylon backpack that the younger generation will enjoy. Simply sling it over your shoulders and you are set for a field trip, camping trip, or a fun evening in the garden with the family. 

What we liked

  • 90mm aperture, 1250mm focal length
  • Eyepiece angled at 45 degrees for more comfortable viewing
  • Multi-coated optics for crisp clear views
  • Best telescope under 200 with a compact, portable design 
  • Portable tripod has 3-way panhead with quick release plate
  • Image Finderscope included
  • Nylon backpack included

What we didn’t like

  • Not waterproof
  • Not computerized
  • Does not include astronomy software

Type: Maksutov-Cassegrain
Aperture: 90mm (3.5 inch)
Magnification: 36x
Mount type: Photographic / Video Tripod
Focal Length: 1250mm
Weight: 4.62 lbs (2.09 kg)
Best for: Terrestrial and celestial viewing

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