Stargazing can be as cheap or as expensive a hobby as you can make it.
On a clear night, you can see loads of stars by eye alone, but for the awe-induced and curious, you might like the sound of getting your very own telescope.
Some people, once they learn that telescopes usually cost hundreds of dollars are instantly put off. However, we are very pleased to report that you can get some really good telescopes on a budget of $150 to $200.
(If you need an even cheaper telescope, check out our article on Best Telescopes for Kids, available on this link.)
Better yet we’ve been scouring through them all and after much deliberation, we were able to handpick our top 5 favorites, which we can’t wait to show you.
But we get that if you're perhaps relatively new to astronomy, you may not be too sure what you should be looking for. But worry not, following on from our product reviews we’ve also got a buying guide for you which will walk you through everything you might want to think about before you buy.
Then we’re going to top that off with a section where we answer some of your most frequently asked questions on the subject.
So, without further ado…
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
When we saw how well this beauty was selling, we just had to see what all the fuss was about - and we weren’t disappointed!
Gotta love the aperture size on this scope - an impressive 127mm, much larger than your more usual 70mm. This means you get plenty of light for crisp and clear images.
It comes with an equatorial mount, which makes it easy to move the telescope around on its tripod, you can smoothly target the scope at your preferred spot.
It also comes with two eyepieces, 20mm and 4mm, not to mention a 3x Barlow lens to triple the magnification. And when you combine them together you can get magnifications between 150x to 450x!
It’s great as an entry-level telescope and is easy to use, especially with the handy finderscope at hand.
We love that the scope also comes with astronomy software too, great for broadening your knowledge of the night sky as you observe. It’s available on both iOS and Android.
It’s also designed to be portable, being so compact and lightweight, it makes for a good piece of kit to take on a camping trip.
Customer feedback has been very positive, with over 50% of customers who bought through Amazon scoring it at a full 5 stars out of 5.
If you have any questions about this telescope, they’ve probably already been asked and answered on the Amazon page.
It comes from one of the top telescope brands in the world, and if that’s not reassuring enough, it also comes complete with free 2-year tech support!
- Impressive 127mm aperture size
- Compact, lightweight & portable
- Use with free astronomy apps
- Some customers reported problems with collimation
What we love about this telescope is that it comes as an entire kit, complete not only with a tripod and mount, but also a Star Target Planisphere, a MoonMap, and the Orion Telescope Observer's Guide.
With these in hand, even a newbie can learn about all the 60 plus interesting objects visible through this telescope, from detailed views of the moon and planets, all the way to far off star clusters in the distance!
The Star Target Planisphere is great - it shows you exactly what constellations and objects will be visible on any day of the year. It really helps with planning the stargazing!
It has a 76mm aperture size, which is a little bigger than many other comparable telescopes on the market. This means it lets in extra light for a clearer picture.
There are two eyepieces included in the kit, one 25mm, and one 10mm, plus you also get a 2x magnification Barlow lens which effectively doubles the magnification of each eyepiece.
It also features an equatorial mount that makes it easy to track meteors and other objects across the sky.
And that’s not all, there’s also a mini flashlight to help you read the accompanying materials in the dark. And because it has a red beam, it won’t interfere with your night vision.
- Large 76mm aperture size
- Star Target Planisphere!
- Supplemental guides
- 2x magnification Barlow lens
- Great entry-level telescope
- See planets & star clusters
- There have been mixed reviews about the after-sales service
Now, this is a very popular telescope.
There have been over 2,000 customer ratings on the Amazon page alone, and better yet customers love it, rating it at 4 and a half stars out of 5.
The aperture is a nice size at 70mm, allowing plenty of light through the objective lens, to ensure crisp and clear images. AND you get Celestron quality with their fully coated glass optics.
With this beauty, you can see craters on the moon, the rings of Saturn, and the moons of Jupiter! Pretty good for a refractor telescope.
There are two eyepieces included, 10mm and 20mm, plus an erect image star diagonal, so you can switch between viewing land-based objects in the day to looking upwards at the sky at night.
The tripod features an Altazimuth mount, so you get smooth and accurate pointing as you find your targets.
Speaking of finding targets, did we mention there’s a finderscope? Really handy. It’s permanently mounted too, one less thing for you to worry about.
We also love the bonus Starry Night Basic Edition astronomy software, available on both iOS and Android - you can use it interactively as you use the telescope - perfect!
It’s very quick and straightforward to set up, and no tools are required. And using the scope is easy and intuitive too.
It comes complete with Celestron’s 2-year warranty, plus lifetime access to their tech support. Very reassuring.
- Excellent customer feedback
- Aperture is a nice size at 70mm
- Red dot finderscope mounted
- Great accompanying software
- 2-year warranty & lifetime tech support
- No Barlow lens included
This refractor telescope from Moutec is very modestly priced. And has proved popular with those who’ve bought it, with over 60% of Amazon customers rating it at a full 5 stars out of 5.
It comes from Moutec, which is a very good and well-established brand.
It goes beyond the capabilities of a lunar telescope, and you can use it to see planets such as Saturn and its rings and Jupiter and its moons too.
The aperture is a nice size at 70mm, allowing plenty of light through the objective lens, to ensure crisp and clear images.
It comes with several accessories, including 3 eyepieces, 6mm, 10mm, and 20mm. And then there’s also a powerful 3x Barlow lens which can be attached to any of the eyepieces to effectively triple the magnification of each.
But that’s not all. There’s also a moon filter, which as the name suggests, is great for studying the moon. And there’s an erect image diagonal prism that can be used to look at land-based objects during the day.
Our favorite accessory though has to be the cellphone attachment - you can attach your cellphone to the telescope and take photos and/or videos of what you see in the night sky!
There’s also a finderscope included, that sits above the telescope. It's great for spotting where you want to aim the telescope. You also get moon and star maps.
The tripod size is adjustable, which is very convenient for stargazing as a family. And it features an Altazimuth with a handy panning handle, which makes it easy to move the telescope around and into different positions.
It’s specifically aimed at beginners, so you know you’ll have no problems getting to grips with using it. Set up is so easy you could leave your kid to do it. All they have to do is follow the step by step picture instructions.
It hasn’t had quite as many ratings on there as the other telescopes, but that’s because it only came out in 2020. It has however made the retailer bestseller lists already, which is a very good sign.
- Moon filter
- 3 eyepieces
- 3x Barlow lens
- Cell phone attachment
- Suitable for beginners
- It’s a refractor rather than a reflector
Best Telescopes for the Money Buying Guide
As promised, here’s your buying guide!
Type of Telescope
There are 3 main types of telescopes: refractors, reflectors, and catadioptric. Let’s go through them.
A refracting telescope is one that uses a lens as its objective to form an image.
A reflecting telescope is one that uses a single or a combination of curved mirrors that reflect light and form an image.
A catadioptric optical system is one where refraction and reflection are combined usually via both lenses and curved mirrors.
Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a budget telescope, catadioptric systems are out of your price range, which leaves refractors and reflectors.
The refractor telescope is better for observing the planets and the moon, and the reflector telescope is better for viewing deep-sky objects e.g. galaxies.
This is THE main spec to look at when shopping for telescopes.
Aperture size is important for both refracting and reflecting telescopes. The aperture of a refracting telescope is its objective lens (the lens nearest the target) and the aperture of a reflecting telescope is the primary mirror.
The larger the aperture, the more light the telescope can gather, and this influences not only how bright, clear, and crisp the image is, but also the magnification power of the telescope.
Out of our top 4 picks, the one with the largest aperture size by far is the Celestron - PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope.
The accessories that can come with the telescope are almost as important as the telescope itself. Let’s walk you through them.
Tripod and Mount
The good news is that you will never have to buy a tripod separately, they always come with the telescope.
The two main types of mounts for the telescope are the equatorial mount and the Altazimuth mount. The key difference is that the polar axis of an equatorially mounted scope must point at the north celestial pole, which might prove tricky for a beginner.
You’re rarely limited to just one eyepiece when you buy your telescope.
You will always be provided with 2 or 3. These allow you to view your objects of interest at different levels of magnification.
We love a Barlow lens! Barlow Lenses can be attached to the included eyepieces. Some Barlow lenses will double the magnification of an eyepiece, while other Barlow lenses can triple the magnification.
Most of the telescopes in our top 4 picks have a Barlow lens of some description.
A finderscope is much like having an additional telescope, but with a wider field of view.
You can use it to help ascertain where you need to point the telescope to discover your object of interest.
Most of the telescopes in our top 4 picks come with a finderscope.
Star Chart Guides
Guides to the night sky can prove very valuable, not just for beginners, but for anyone wanting to find a particular object of interest in the night sky.
Book and paper guides are very easy to work with and navigate, but now, with today’s technology you can bring up special apps to guide you and teach you, that you can use in tandem with the telescope.
If this is of interest to you then we can particularly recommend our number 1 pick, the Celestron - PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope.
Other Things to Think About
Whenever you’re shopping for anything online, it pays to look at customer ratings and reviews.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best telescope for the money?
We believe that the best telescope for the money, hands down, is our number 1 pick, the Celestron - PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope. It has a huge aperture size, coming in at a massive 127mm, much larger than your more usual 70mm.
Moreover, in addition to the eyepieces, you also get a 3x Barlow lens. With this beauty, not only can you see the moon and stars, but you can also see planets and other distant galaxies!
How much does a really good telescope cost?
We believe that we’ve effectively shown that you can get a really good telescope for less than $200.
We highly recommend our number 1 pick, the Celestron - PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope, which comes within this budget.
What is the best affordable telescope to buy?
This depends on just how affordable you want to go. If your budget stretches to about $200 then we would recommend our number 1 pick, the Celestron - PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope.
However, if you want one that’s more affordable still, then you should check out our article on Best Telescopes for Kids, available on this link.