Space Gear

8 Great Telescopes Under $300 for Your Next Upgrade (2024)

While stargazing is great, there’s nothing like unlocking the wonders of the night sky with a telescope. And while I’ve shared a few other posts about telescopes at different price points (from $200 to $2000, and the best options under $1000), it helps to know multiple options at given lower price points.

In this post, I’m focusing on the best telescopes under $300. This price point is a good option for either getting a really nice starter telescope or investing in a second telescope of a different type or greater power than you currently own.

Best Telescopes Under 300 Hero

These eight telescopes under $300 represent a wide range, including reflector, refractor, and catadioptric types. They also represent a price range, showing how there are good options at several price points in the $200-$300 range.

Short on Time?
In 2024, the best telescope under $300 is the Explore FirstLight 80mm Refractor Telescope.

Whether you’re just getting started or looking to try a different type of telescope without splurging, these are the best telescopes under $300 for your consideration.

This post was originally published in May 2021, and was re-ranked and updated in January 2024.

What to Look for in a Great Telescope

As you compare the telescopes below – as well as any others you’re considering – keep in mind the following:

  • Price. Naturally, price is an important consideration for many people, especially when you’re just starting out in astronomy. You don’t want to spend too much for a telescope you never use, nor do you want to compromise on certain other features. (Note that I use “list price” rather than any sales price when pulling the data for my chart.)
  • Type. Research how different types of telescopes (reflector vs refractor, Dobsonian vs Schmidt-Cassegrain) affect your ability to see the night sky objects you’re looking for.
  • Diameter. The diameter or “aperture” of your telescope will affect how far you can peer into the solar system and deep space. Again, consider how this affects your ability to see specific objects you want to observe.
  • Stability. As you read reviews about different telescopes, keep a particular eye on comments about the base, mount, and tripod. These can impact your observation a ton, and it’s almost always worth it to upgrade for better stability.
  • Other features. If you’re looking for computer-assisted night sky navigation, you’ll probably need a bigger budget; if you prefer to search the sky yourself, that may help save some money for those on a tight budget.

All this said, let’s dive into the list of telescopes under $300 that I recommend.

The Best Telescopes under $300 (Ranked)

Keeping all those aspects in mind, I pulled together the best telescopes under $300 and ranked them. To come up with this ranking, I considered price, popularity, and review scores from Amazon.com. Here’s the list I came up with, using updated data for 2024.

Rank
(2024)
ProductChange
(from 2023)
PriceLink
1Explore FirstLight 80mm Refractor TelescopeNew!~$240Link
2Orion StarMax 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrain TelescopeNew!~$220Link
3Celestron AstroMaster 80AZS Refractor TelescopeNew!~$250Link
4Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ TelescopeNew!*~$220Link
5Gskyer 80mm AZ TelescopeNew!~$280Link
6Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ TelescopeNew!~$215Link
7Carson Red Planet 45-100x114mm Telescope~$240Link
8Zhumell Z114 Portable Altazimuth TelescopeNew!*~$240Link

* was previously on another list at a different price point

Rather than detailing all eight telescopes, below you’ll find extra info about the top 5 telescopes under $300; if none of those fit what you’re looking for, you can use the table above to look at the other three telescopes at this price point and hopefully one will be exactly what you’re looking for!

1. Explore FirstLight 80mm Refractor Telescope

  • Type: Refractor
  • Price: ~$240

As you move into the $200-$300 range for telescopes, you begin to get more features and more power – and the Explore FirstLight 80mm is an excellent choice from Explore Scientific. (I also found it priced well under $200 during my research, so you might get a deal if you find it similarly priced!)

At 80mm aperture, you’ll be able to dive deep into the details of the lunar surface, begin to differentiate the swirls of Jupiter’s tumultuous atmosphere, and peek deep into space for neighboring galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters.

Of particular note, this telescope has an unusual but ingenious mount (the “Twilight Nano”) that offers greater ease and range of motion as you get familiar with navigating the night sky. The FirstLight 80mm also comes with several eyepieces and accessories, making it an excellent starter telescope if that’s what you’re looking for.

2. Orion StarMax 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope

  • Type: Maksutov-Cassegrain
  • Price: ~$220

Stepping up from the cheaper Orion FunScope 76mm that made my list of top telescopes under $100, I’m glad the the Orion StarMax 90mm is on this list – and ranking so highly. This ‘scope is condensed but powerful, as the higher aperture helps you gaze even further into the solar system (and beyond); the max useful magnification comes in at 180x, so it will also give you a great view of closer objects too.

This tabletop telescope comes with standard accessories and can also be mounted to a tripod if you have one – opt for a nice, sturdy option to help ensure balance and stability when stargazing. In either case, the scope and mount itself are just 6.5 pounds in total, offering a lot of mobility if you prefer (or have) to travel to find a dark sky spot.

3. Celestron AstroMaster 80AZS Refractor Telescope

  • Type: Refractor
  • Price: ~$250

Stepping up from the AstroMaster 70AZ (which made my list of top telescopes under $200), the Celestron AstroMaster 80AZS increases your stargazing power at a corresponding cost.

Similar to the Explore FirstLight, the AstroMaster 80 allows you to step beyond our solar system to enjoy better views of more distant objects – even unaided-eye objects like the Orion Nebula and Beehive Cluster will really pop, and the Andromeda Galaxy suddenly seems astonishingly close – we’ll collide in about 4.5 billion years, after all!

This telescope also comes with two eyepieces (20mm and 10mm), a tripod, erect image star diagonal, and a StarPointer red dot finderscope (this requires an included flat battery that can be tricky to install/replace). Basically, you’ll be all set up for a great night with this refractor, whether it’s your first telescope or just your first telescope of this construction.

4. Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ

  • Type: Bird-Jones Newtonian
  • Price: ~$220

Also from the Celestron family, the PowerSeeker 127EQ is a nice telescope option in this price range with a very different construction and usage. The PowerSeeker 127EQ is best for intermediate stargazers, because the PowerSeeker 127EQ features a Jones-Bird type design, which is quite challenging to collimate. (Yes, you’ll need to learn how to collimate!)

The best features of this telescope are its user-friendly mount design and its excellent magnification power, which you can increase using the extra eyepieces. Thanks to its manual German Equatorial mount design, the PowerSeeker 127EQ provides flexibility and portability.

With this telescope, you’ll enjoy crisp images of Saturn’s rings, clear views of the Moon’s craters, beautiful glimpses of the Galilean moons of Jupiter, and many other celestial objects and sights. Enjoy this upgrade, as that’s the phase of astronomical enjoyment this telescope is best for.

5. Gskyer 80mm AZ Telescope

  • Type: Refractor
  • Price: ~$280

At twice the price of the Gskyer 70mm that topped my top telescopes under $200 list, I’m less sold on the Gskyer 80mm AZ being the best investment possible at this price point – but it does get solid reviews and comes well-equipped if you’re looking to invest up to $300.

In addition to the (larger) 80mm lens, this telescope comes with a full setup including three eye pieces (10mm, 11mm, and 21mm) and built-in mount. This mount is a blessing and a curse: it’s nice to have everything all set up, but stability is always a concern when you’re bound to using one mount and can’t swap for something more hardy.

Like its smaller sibling, this Gskyer is also one of the best options if you’re into astrophotography. The telescope includes a wireless camera/smartphone remote and a smartphone adapter to take pictures of the night sky and distant objects.

There you have it – the list of what I consider to be the best telescopes under $300. Have any questions about these telescopes – or do you have questions about another telescope under $300? Let me know any questions in the comments!

Share this to help others enjoy the night sky!

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Valerie is the founder and editor of Space Tourism Guide. She grew up in Alaska, has lived across the U.S., and traveled around the world to enjoy the night sky from many different perspectives. Join her on this journey to explore space right here on earth.

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