Best Telescopes below $300

I think you'll agree with me when I say:

It is NOT easy trying to find a great, low price telescope!

Or is it?

Well, if you know where to look, you can find the perfect beginner telescope for under $300, and sometimes well under!

Quick Comparison: Top 4 Best Telescopes Under $300

Telescope

Picture

Type

 Rating

Best Low Price Telescope 

Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ

Refractor

Best mid-price Telescope

Orion StarBlast II 4.5 EQ

Newtonian Reflector

Best OVERALL Telescope

Orion SkyQuest XT6

Dobsonian Reflector

Best Refractor Telescope

Meade Infinity 102AZ

Refractor

** Below, you'll find our reviews, but you can also click on the links / pictures in the table above ​to read customer reviews and see the latest Amazon prices.



The Best Telescopes for Beginners

Because these five telescopes are priced at under $300, they make great telescopes for beginners.

If you are looking for your own first telescope, or looking to buy one as a gift for a loved one, then this is what you can you expect from this list:

  • Apertures in the region of 90-100mm for refractors, and up to 150mm for a Dobsonian
  • Stands tend to have quality compromises to get more lens/mirror for your money. That means some have vibration issue, but we've written a guide to cheap and free ways to combat that
  • Mixed quality of eyepieces, from Kellner at the lower end to Plössl at the top. You will almost certainly want additional eyepieces when you get into the hobby

The most important thing you should be aware of, especially if this is your first scope, is that image quality in smaller scopes is much less than you are used to seeing in the lovely pictures that NASA and earth-bound astrophotographers produces.

Cameras gather much more light that our eyes, which is why they can make lovely, clear color pictures. Our own view through a telescope is more like these:

Jupiter through a 2" and 4" aperture telescope

Jupiter through a 2" and 4" aperture telescope (credit below)

What you can be assured of though, is that each of these sub-$300 telescopes will show you more detail on the surface of the moon than you realized existed.

You'll also be able to see the biggest of Jupiter's moons, and even the brightest bands on her surface. You will see the rings of Saturn through any of these scopes - although they will look better if you get one with a bigger aperture!

In terms of deep space, every one of these telescopes under $300 will show you detail in the Pleiades and show off the Orion Nebula and even Andromeda Galaxy. Again though, the bigger the aperture you can afford, the more rewarding the experience will be.

Whichever telescope you buy though, be prepared to be awestruck as you see detail and features of the night sky that a telescope opens up to you for the first time.

Detailed Reviews of the Best Telescopes Below $300

The 70mm AstroMaster is an incredibly popular, low-price starter telescope.

This 70mm refractor is really simple to get up and running in minutes. It's a basic model, but that works in its favor for new backyard astronomers because it requires very little construction.

It's plenty light enough to take anywhere with you. A quick walk across a field, or a short drive to the edge of town for darker skies? Not a problem with this small scope!

The payoff of a low price and ease of setup, is this is a small telescope. At 70mm - less than 3 inches - this is the smallest aperture telescope on the list. Which means it gathers less light than the others, so you will be limited on what you can see and how much magnification you can use.

However, if you've never looked through a telescope before, you'll still be thrilled with your first views of the moon, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. Just don't expect to see fainter objects like galaxies and nebulae.

The biggest drawback with this scope, according to people that use it, is the quality of its stand. Celestron have cut quality corners here to hit a price point of around $100.

It tends to be quite loose and wobbly, which makes for frustrating astronomy sessions. It will probably need to make adjustments to keep it more stable, but that's not a deal breaker - this article shows you some free / cheap ways of doing this.

Overall though, if you just want to try out astronomy and don't want to spend loads of money doing it, then this may be a great option... but be prepared to want to upgrade quickly if you enjoy it!


Out of the box, this 4.5" (f/4) reflector comes with an equatorial mount which makes tracking stars and other objects much simpler, and a free copy of Starry Night software for finding your way around the night sky.

This Orion StarBlast, which we rate as the Best Mid-Price Telescope Under $300, also comes with 15mm and 6mm eyepieces from the Orion Expanse series. 

Overall, this package offers tremendous value for money.

People who have bought this scope have commented on its sturdy and robust mount, which is great for dampening down vibrations.

This reviewer found the picture quality to be amazing, and their full and detailed review is well worth a read. 

The 4.5 inch mirror in this telescope will give you a great first astronomy experience. You'll see bands on Jupiter's surface and you will get rewarding views of the brighter deep space objects, such as the Pleiades and the Orion Nebula.

On a good night, you may even see Andromeda Galaxy, some 2 million light years away and containing around 1 billion stars.

The biggest challenge for new astronomers tends to be setting up a telescope with an equatorial mount, like the one which is supplied with this Orion. 

Helpfully, Orion has high quality set-up videos on its own website. You can access them, and instruction manuals for this telescope, by clicking this link.

You'll spend perhaps a couple hundred dollars on this telescope (click the button below for the current price on Amazon), which keeps it firmly in the 'beginner' category, but you get a larger aperture, great support materials from Orion and the chance to see  some of the brightest wonders of the night sky.


A 6 inch telescope is at the top end of what we'd class as a beginner's scope. To grab such a large aperture for under $300 is amazing value and why we've ranked this scope as the best overall telescope under three hundred dollars.

Not only the XT6 a big scope, it's also a very well made one. In fact, at the time of writing, the vast majority of reviews for it on Amazon.com give it four or five stars

That is the sign of a great beginner telescope, so let's dig into a bit more detail.

Detailed features guide of the SkyQuest 4.5

This telescope is known as a Dobsonian. The whole point of this design is to maximize the amount of aperture for the price, and this model has achieved that in style.

There is no complicated equatorial mount to master, instead this is an altazimuth, which is basically 'point and shoot'. This makes it much simpler to set up than any other telescope in this review.

It is also designed to be easily transportable to the dark location of your choice and the 6" mirror and 450mm focal length make this a 'light bucket' telescope.

As many users say, this makes it one of the best telescopes for kids because of the views of planets and the moon it commands, and its ease of use.

This reviewer in particular is blown away by what they've managed to see with their daughter through it, including all 110 of the Messier objects!

As well as the telescope itself, you'll get access to Starry Night for free and two Plössl lenses of 25mm and 10mm focal length (giving magnifications of 36x and 90x respectively) so it looks like great value!

What's even better is we've found it impossible to find a negative review.

All you have to watch out for, as with any Dobsonian, is that you won't be able to do astrophotography with it but, especially if you are new to astronomy, that shouldn't be an issue for a while.

Overall, this is a fantastic telescope. It has a big aperture, capable of revelaing deep space objects to you, is relatively cheap, easy to set up and can be used even by children.

We have no hesitation in making this a five-star telescope in our 'below $300' category!


We finish our review of the best telescopes below $300 with our best refractor, the Meade 102AZ Infinity.

Out of the box, this telescope comes with an altazimuth (or 'point and shoot') stand, which is easy for astronomy beginners to get use. However, it is also this telescope's biggest weakness, which we'll come back to shortly.

The Meade is supplied with 6.3mm, 9mm and 26mm eyepieces, but these are all cheap modified achromats (an updated version of a Kellner) and nothing to get too excited about. You will likely want to upgrade to Plössls very soon after you get hooked on astronomy.

The finder scope comes with the red dot viewfinder, which has mixed reviews, with some saying it worked great and others saying they couldn't get it to work. We're not huge fans of the red dot finder, but this video does a good job of explaining it. Again, this may be something you want to upgrade from quite quickly.

Finally, there is an astronomy software DVD which comes with the scope, but it is PC only (take note Mac users) and, I suspect, is not a patch on the Starry Night software or even Stellarium, which is free and works on a Mac!

The mount, which we mentioned above, gets poor feedback some of the reviews for this telescope, but we're not convinced it is any worse than similar mounts by other telescope makers at this price point.

Remember, there are simple free and inexpensive ways to dampen vibrations through telescope mounts.

But, this scope didn't make it onto our best telescope list by being shabby! In fact, if you are looking for a decent starter refractor, then you could do a lot worse than this Meade.

What we recommend you be aware of is that most of the cost of this telescope is going into the primary 102mm (4 inch) lens. That means you're likely to want upgrades for eyepieces and finderscope quite quickly.

The joy of this telescope is in its short tube, making it easy to set up and use, even for children. The big aperture lens will give great views of brighter objects and, with upgraded eyepieces, it should provide many years of happy astronomy.


Love the Night Sky Recommends...

Having spent a lot of time researching the telescopes on this page, there is one clear stand-out winner.

If you have up to $300 to invest, then the size, eyepiece quality and ease of use mean that the Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian​ has to be the overall winner of this category.

However, it is the most expensive telescope on this list.

At the other end of the scale and offering great value, if you are prepared to accept the compromises of a small aperture, the Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ offers a very low cost entry to the world of lunar craters, Jupiter's moons and the rings of Saturn.

Whichever you choose, I hope you have dark skies and happy star gazing!​


Image Credits

Product images sourced from Amazon.com​

Jupiter though a 2" and 4" telescope, credit Brian Ventrudo