We reviewed the top refractor telescopes under $500, and found the Orion 9024 to be our Editor's Choice.

Stargazing is a hobby most people can appreciate. It’s fun to look up into the universe and to imagine what else lies out there. When you become an amateur astronomer you can start looking at planets, moons and sights that you never would have dreamed existed before you picked up a telescope of your own.

Sure you could just look at images of them on a computer screen, but it’s not the same as seeing them for yourself in real time.

Unfortunately, to get into astronomy you need a decent telescope, which used to mean spending thousands of dollars. Thanks to advancements in technology and materials, that’s not the case any longer. In fact, you can pick up a decent telescope for much less than even $500.

I have a few different lightweight telescopes that I use to look at the moon, Jupiter and some other cool sights out in the midnight sky. Sure they don’t reach as far as my much more powerful scopes do, but they’re fun to use, excellent for getting into the hobby, and I still use them when I want to view things remotely and don’t feel like lugging around a massive telescope in the process.
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What to Look for in an Affordable Telescope

  • View Quality: The telescope needs to offer decent views of faraway objects without distorting the image too much in the process.
  • Adjustment Precision: There’s nothing worse than getting a perfect view of Jupiter and all its bands only to have the view messed up because the adjustment isn’t fine enough.
  • Durability: An affordable telescope that gives you the view you’re looking for isn’t any good if it falls apart on your second outing. It needs to be made from quality materials.
  • Price: Since stargazing is probably a newer hobby for you, you don’t want to spend a fortune on a telescope. That’s why it’s important to look for one that’s going to cost you less than a new mountain bike would.

Orion 9024 AstroView 90mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope

Orion 9024 AstroView Refractor Telescope
At less than $500, the Orion 9024 AstroView 90mm refractor telescope is one of the best that you’re likely to find. The views through it are truly impressive. The 25mm eyepiece is one of my favorites, but I recommend that you also pick up an add-on 6mm eyepiece to get in really close while viewing farther off objects.

The telescope comes on a good stable tripod, and it’s easy to setup and start viewing through, which is a blessing in an area that’s known for cloudy sky conditions.

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Customer Feedback

  • Scope gives incredible views
  • No extra color, even in bright spots
  • See very far with no glare
  • Classy and well built
  • Great range and specs

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Meade Instruments Infinity 102 AZ Refractor Telescope

best under 500 refractor telescope
The 102mm AZ refractor telescope by Meade Instruments is an excellent tool for viewing the stars, the moon and a bunch of planets that you’re interested in. It’s really affordable for the amount of power that it offers to users.

The best thing about this compact telescope is just how lightweight it is. You can have it outdoors in a minute or two if you notice the sky is particularly clear. It’s comfortable to view through and comes with a good set of eyepieces. The red dot viewfinder works quite well for locating objects too.

My only complaint with this scope is that it tends to wiggle a bit and you might lose view of what you were looking at if you let it go on some occasions. For the price though, definitely a downfall I can live with.

Customer Feedback

  • Awesome telescope
  • Easily track planets and stars
  • Blown away by the clarity
  • Awesome specs and depth
  • Lightweight and compact

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Orion 9947 Short Tube Refractor Telescope

Orion 9947 ShortTube 80-A Refractor Telescope
The Orion 9947 80A refractor telescope provides a total of 400mm for long-distance viewing. It comes with a couple quality lenses, and a real nice rack and pinion adjustment system that lets you get just the right look at objects of interest off in the distance.

It’s easy to learn to use, and a good intermediate level scope, for those interested in getting a better look than the cheapo telescopes from department stores make possible.

This kit is a true bargain when you consider that it comes with 20mm and 9mm Expanse wide field eyepieces that cost more than half the price of the entire telescope set. It’s almost worth picking up this scope just to get the eyepieces if you’re in the market for them, but it also performs exceedingly well for getting a wider look at the moon, Jupiter and other objects of interest.
Explore the world above with this clear telescope.

Customer Feedback

  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Sharper images
  • Provides a comfortable height
  • Easy to adjust
  • Table top compatible

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Gskyer Space Astronomical Refractor Telescope

under $500 Refractor Telescope
The Gskyer Space Astronomical refractor telescope provides users with an awesome wide-view look at the sky. If you want to see the moon in high detail, and see a large section of the moon at one time, this is the product for you!

The telescope is a lot of fun to use, and the viewfinder works surprisingly well. It isn’t going to let you get an exceptional view of more difficult objects like Venus, but for viewing Jupiter and its moons, our moon or Jets in the bright sunny sky, this telescope handles all the tasks surprisingly well.

Even with access to a really high powered scope, you’ll likely want to bring this along to get a more wide-angle view of the sight as well. So if you upgrade to a telescope above $500, you’ll still want to keep this beauty around.

Invite some friends over to check out the crystal clear quality that this scope provides, no matter what you’re trying to view up in the sky.

Customer Feedback

  • Provides a wide field of view
  • Great focal length
  • Quality is top notch
  • Small and portable
  • Mount anywhere you go
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Easy to use
  • Clear views

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Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70A

best refractor telescopes under 500 dollars
As the most affordable telescope on my list, you shouldn’t expect miracles from the Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70A telescope. Still, it’s higher quality than most products you’ll find in box stores, and you can actually view quite a bit using it.

This relatively stable telescope adjusts easily and can be used to view some pretty impressive sights. You can look at the bands on Jupiter, take a look at Saturn’s rings, and of course all the craters and mountains on the moon.

It is also one of the most lightweight, yet strong and durable pieces on the market. Definitely one of the highly regarded scopes that you can purchase and use to your advantage when trying to see far off places.

I definitely recommend this to all that want to scope out the outer spaces of the world around us.

Customer Feedback

  • Works like a normal camera tripod
  • Easy to use
  • Clear views
  • Quick views, compact and lightweight
  • Affordable price
  • Sets up in seconds with one hand
  • Comfortable eye piece

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