Space Gear

15 Great Telescopes Under $500 for Your Next Upgrade (2024)

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 commitment, 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 upper-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. Looking at my lists of telescopes available at each price point, the $300-$500 range has the most options – it’s a sweet spot for great power, capability, and variety.

Best Telescopes Under $500 Hero

Short on Time?
In 2024, the best telescope under $500 is the Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector.

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!

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

What to Look for in a Great Telescope

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. (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 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 Amazon.com. Here’s the list I came up with, using updated data for 2024.

Rank
(2024)
ProductChange
(from 2023)
PriceLink
1Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial ReflectorNew!*~$310Link
2Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ TelescopeNew!*~$320Link
3Gskyer 600x90mm AZ TelescopeNew!*~$320Link
4Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ Refractor Telescope↓3~$350Link
5Zhumell Z130 Portable Altazimuth Reflector TelescopeNew!~$350Link
6Sky-Watcher Skymax 102mm Maksutov-Cassegrain TelescopeNew!~$320Link
7Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ-MD Newtonian TelescopeNew!~$380Link
8Orion SkyScanner BL135mm Dobsonian Reflector TelescopeNew!~$350Link
9Celestron AstroMaster 90EQ TelescopeNew!*~$350Link
10Celestron 80LCM Refractor Telescope↓5~$420Link
11Celestron Inspire 70AZ TelescopeNew!~$350Link
12Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ Telescope↓9~$470Link
13Celestron 114LCM Newtonian Telescope↓9~$440Link
14Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ TelescopeNew!~$480Link
15Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTI 150P TelescopeNew!~$470Link

* was previously on another list at a different price point

As you can see, there’s been a fair amount of shake-up on this list compared to last year: a lot of new ‘scopes have entered at this price point (some due to increased costs!) and many of the telescopes that ranked highly in 2023 are now much further down the list. That isn’t to say any given telescope further down the table is bad – but rather that there are lots of good choices!

Rather than detailing all 15 telescopes, below you’ll find extra info about the top 5 telescopes under $500; if none of those fit what you’re looking for, you can use the table above to look at the other 10 telescopes at this price point and hopefully one will be exactly what you’re looking for!

1. Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector

  • Type: Reflector
  • Price: ~$310

I’m so glad that Orion has worked out their pandemic supply chain issues and has started to be available again; they really do make fantastic telescopes – and that’s evident in the Orion SpaceProbe 130ST taking the number one spot on this list.

The build quality and sturdiness are the first things you’ll notice with this telescope. Unlike other telescopes, even the tripod is well-built and doesn’t wobble – a key feature you should look for when spending this much on a telescope.

The SpaceProbe features a 5.1″ parabolic primary mirror, which gathers a significant amount of light and grants excellent views of the planets and moon. It also has a wide field of view (‘fast’ f/5 focal ratio) to explore bright nebulas, galaxies, and star clusters. It’s a little heavier than its counterparts on the list at 27 lbs. However, you can still move it around if needed.

The pack also includes two 1.25-inch Sirius Plossl eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), a 6×30 finder scope, a 1.25inch rack, a pinion focuser, a tripod accessory tray, collimation cap, and Starry Night astronomy software.

2. Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ

  • Type: Newtonian Reflector
  • Price: ~$320

If you’ve been comparing telescopes at different price points, you know that the AstroMaster family makes several of my lists (the 70mm is on my under-$200 list and the 80mm is on my under-$300 list). It’s therefore no surprise that the best member of the family – the Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ – makes my list at the higher price point.

This telescope has a manual German equatorial mount that makes it easier to navigate the night sky while stargazing. It also has a slow-motion altitude rod that enhances accuracy and clearer images. In simple terms, this telescope is a combination of power, quality, and value for money.  

Like the Orion above, it’s a little heavier than other options at almost 27 lbs – so not as portable as others, but still a decent option for the price.

3. Gskyer 600x90mm AZ

  • Type: Refractor
  • Price: ~$320

The Gskyer 600x90mm AZ has danced up and down and price over the past few years – occasionally as low as sub-$200 – so I’m confident in the quality even as I say you should shop around (or wait for a sale) to see if you can find it for a better price than I’m seeing right now.

This telescope comes in around 18 lbs, which is good for other telescopes in this range – but it’s a solid 3.5-inch (90mm) aperture that opens up a bit more of the night sky than others on this list.

It also comes with a stainless steel tripod (rather than iron and aluminum for comparable telescopes), helping improve stability during your stargazing sessions.

4. Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ Refractor

  • Type: Refractor
  • Price: ~$350

Another AstroMaster? Absolutely! The Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ is the next largest from the 80mm (mentioned above) in the refractor style and correspondingly increases your stargazing capabilities with the price increase.

For optics, this Celestron features a fully-coated 102mm primary mirror and a focal length of 2.98 inches; 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. 

At 14.1lbs, it’s lightweight and easy to move around a backyard or dark camping spots. So, if you’re a traveling stargazer (as I am!), this is the best telescope under $500 due to its low total weight.

5. Zhumell Z130 Reflector Telescope

  • Type: Reflector
  • Price: ~$350

Stepping up from its smaller sibling (the Zhumell Z100 that ranks on my under-$200 list), the Zhumell Z130 telescope is a nice improvement at a reasonable price. It has one of the highest rankings of any telescope at this price point (4.6/5.0 stars) and is the only tabletop telescope in the top five.

In addition to its larger 130mm mirror, it includes a nice set of standard features and accessories: two eyepieces (25mm and 10mm) and a red dot finder make it easy to gaze beyond the bounds of the solar system into deep space.

While most people say this is a beginner’s telescope, it does require some knowledge of collimation and setup, so it also works nicely if you’re looking for a different style of ‘scope to add to (or upgrade) your collection.

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.