Space Gear

6 Great Telescopes Under $500 for Your Next Upgrade (2023)

When it comes time to upgrade your telescope, there’s a lot to consider. After having a starter telescope in the $100 to $200 range, you’ve probably learned which types of telescopes you like (and know how) to use; you’ve also noticed some features you may enjoy – or perhaps absolutely hate and want different on your next telescope. In any case, upgrading your telescope is a big deal, and a good opportunity to spend a little more for a substantially better piece of equipment to unlock the wonders of the night sky.

In this post, I’ll cover the great mid-range options for telescopes under $500. This is a nice amount to budget for your next telescope as you’ll see it allows you to dramatically increase the power and capability of your telescope without breaking the bank.

Best Telescopes Under $500 Hero

Short on Time?
The best telescope under $500 is (still!) the Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ Refractor

Read on to discover the best telescopes under $500 across the range of telescope types, mounts, and capabilities. Here’s wishing you many clear nights with your new/next telescope!

Note: Lens and telescope prices have been very volatile in the past two years due to supply chain issues. Prices might vary widely from the prices I reported when this post was last updated in January 2023.

This post was originally published in late 2021 and was re-ranked and updated in January 2023.

What to Look for in a Great Telescope

Best Telescopes Under $1000 Hero

Before diving into the list below, I wanted to make a quick point about what to keep an eye on when choosing a telescope. You probably already have these factors in mind as you’re likely upgrading your telescope if you’re looking in the $500 range, but it never hurts to have a reminder.

  • 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.
  • 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 of your telescope will obviously affect how far you can peer into 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, there are options on this list. 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 $500 that I recommend.

The Best Telescopes Under $500 (Ranked)

Keeping all those aspects in mind, I pulled together the best telescopes under $500 and ranked them. To come up with this ranking, I considered price, popularity, and review scores from Here’s the list I came up with, using updated data for 2023.

(from 2022)
1Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ Refractor~$320Link
2Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian↑2~$450Link
3Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZNew!~$450Link
4Celestron 114LCM NewtonianNew!~$320Link
5Celestron 80LCM RefractorNew!~$320Link
6Zhumell Z114 Portable AltazimuthNew!~$325Link

Read on to learn about each of these telescopes under $500 in greater detail.

1. Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ Refractor

  • Type: Refractor
  • Price: ~$320

The Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ is an excellent option if you don’t want a bulky telescope. At 14.1lbs, it’s lightweight and easy to move around a backyard or dark camping spots. So, if you’re a traveling stargazer, this is the best telescopes under $500.

The telescope is user-friendly and is easy to assemble even if you have never had to assemble one. As for optics, this Celestron features a fully-coated 102mm primary mirror and a focal length of 2.98”.

The pack also includes two extra eyepieces, 10 mm & 20 mm, for increased magnification. The panning handle is a nice addition, allowing stargazers to sweep the night sky and adjust the telescope with fine movements. 

2. Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian

  • Type: Dobsonian
  • Price: ~$450

If you are on a budget, you can’t go wrong with the Orion SkyQuest XT6. This Dobsonian reflector is one of the best telescopes under $500.

It features a 6″ diameter f/8 parabolic mirror, perfect for spotting tiny details on the moon. Also, the Dobsonian base provides extra stability during stargazing sessions.

The telescope comes with EZ Finder II reflex sight, Orion Star Target planisphere, Orion MoonMap 26, and Starry Night SE astronomy software. It includes one extra 25mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece, which provides a 48-power view. So, you might want to get a few more eyepieces. I recommend 32mm, 15mm, and 8-9mm.

As for the use, it’s pretty intuitive, and it doesn’t take much more than 30 minutes to assemble. 

3. Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ

  • Type:  Refractor 
  • Price: ~$450

While not as powerful, the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ has big promises for the amateur stargazer.

ts best feature by far is the Intuitive push-to method. Simply said, the telescope links up to your smartphone and shows a map of the night sky. Then, on-screen arrows appear, guiding you as you move the telescope.

Optically, this Celestron is an achromatic refractor with a 4” aperture and 23” focal length. The highest magnification it can reach is 240x more than the naked eye. Since it is an achromatic reflector, you don’t have to worry about collimating the mirrors, scaring many beginners. It weighs 14.2lbs, making it easier to travel with or move around.

4. Celestron 114LCM Newtonian

  • Type:  Newtonian 
  • Price: ~$320

One of the best mid-range telescopes, the Celestron 114LCM, is everything you need to peek at the stars. The telescope has a large all-glass 80mm objective lens and a 1.6° apparent field of view. The kit features an adjustable aluminum tripod, two high-quality eyepieces (25mm & 9mm), and a StarPointer red dot finderscope. The telescope comes with a functional Sky Tour button that generates a list of the best objects currently available to view in the sky if you struggle to spot them on your own. 

The main downside of the Celestron 114LCM is its Bird-Jones optical configuration. While not impossible, it’ll be more challenging to collate than other models, especially if you’re a beginner. However, if you’re willing to go the extra mile to learn how to align the mirrors properly, this Celestron is an excellent investment. 

5. Celestron 80LCM Refractor

  • Type:  Refractor 
  • Price: ~$320

The Celestron 80LCM is one of the best telescopes under $500 for amateur astronomers. As one of the best telescopes of the LCM lineup, the Celestron features an 80mm refractor with all-glass optics, which grants clear Crisp images of celestial bodies. 

The telescope includes two Kellners eyepieces, 25mm and 9mm, providing 36x and 100x magnification. There is also a StarPointer red dot finderscope, erect image diagonal, and free Starry Night astronomy software included in the package. Regarding the assembling, it is simple enough for beginners to put together as long as they follow the instructions. The telescope’s tripod would be the only noticeable downside. While it seems sturdy, the motorized alt-azimuth mount wobbles considerably during stargazing sessions.  

6. Zhumell Z114 Portable Altazimuth

  • Type:  Dobsonian 
  • Price: ~$325

The Zhumell Z114 Portable Altazimuth is the last on our list of best telescopes under $500.

The Zhumell comes with many high-end features you won’t find in many telescopes within this price range. Its top feature is the 114 mm parabolic primary mirror parabolic mirror. This parabolic mirror provides sharper views because it eliminates spherical aberration and other visual defects. It also collects over 90% light transmission to provide consistently brighter views of fainter objects like nebulae.

Built with a lightweight yet durable design, the Zhumell will be your number one companion in all star parties or camping trips. It is very easy to transport and to set up as well. Other accessories include a red dot finderscope and two fully multi-coated eyepieces, a 17 mm eyepiece with 24x magnification for wide-field views, and a 10 mm eyepiece, with higher 40x magnification.

Have any questions about these telescopes under $500? Let me know in the comments!

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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.