Best 3D Printers Under $500

Updated January 2022
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Buying guide for Best 3D printers under $500

3D printing feels a lot like magic. With a set of plans downloaded from the internet, you can use a 3D printer to create practically anything you want. Thousands of users around the world experiment with 3D printers every day, creating everything from custom furniture and smartphone accessories to action figures and plant holders. The phenomenon is definitely in its infancy, but it’s growing fast.

Until recently, 3D printers were prohibitively expensive for most people. Now, that’s changed, and you can easily find a reliable, easy-to-use home 3D printer that's financially within reach of a lot more consumers.

If you’ve been on the fence about whether to get into 3D printing, now’s the time. 3D printers are more affordable than ever, and more importantly, there are models that are easy enough for anyone to use — no experience is necessary to start printing right away.

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Before you buy a 3D printer, download the manual and read it thoroughly. The manual will give you a sense of the overall quality of the printer. If the instructions are insufficient or hard to understand, the printer may be frustrating to use. Stick to a 3D printer with a manual that’s clear and easy to understand.

Key considerations

Picking the perfect 3D printer means finding one that fits your lifestyle. Consider these questions before you begin comparing models.

  • What 3D printing software do you want to use? You’ll need to use software to create printing plans or send existing plans to your 3D printer. Every 3D printer comes with its own software. Sometimes, that’s a proprietary app; other times, it’s an open-source app. Spend time watching demo videos and video reviews of the different applications to get a sense of which would be best for you.

  • How much available space do you have for a 3D printer? 3D printers range in size from slightly bigger than a breadbox to the size of a mini-fridge. Don’t assume that any 3D printer you buy would fit on your desk. Measure your available space ahead of time and shop accordingly.

  • Will you mostly be using plans you download from the internet, or will you be experimenting with making your own plans? You don’t have to make your own plans to enjoy a 3D printer, and in fact, you can save some money if you choose a model geared toward casual users. If you’re going to be creating unique objects or modifying existing designs, you’ll need a 3D printer that provides more granular control and the flexibility to adjust detailed options; this will cost a little more.

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Did you know?
If you’re not sure what to print with your 3D printer, spend some time searching the web for example projects. You’ll find 3D printing examples for every situation, and you may even find inspiration to create your own.


You’ll find a wide variety of 3D printers under $500, some of which are more capable than others. Watch for these key features as you shop.

  • Wireless connectivity: You’ll need to load your 3D printing plans to your 3D printer, and it’s easier to do that wirelessly than it is using an SD card or thumb drive. Look for 3D printers that support WiFi; you’ll save yourself time and headache.

  • Filament compatibility: 3D printers create objects out of filament. There are different kinds of filament, and price tags vary. Most 3D printers use polylactic acid (PLA) filament, which is composed of renewable resources. Once you’ve narrowed your choices down to a few models, check to see what types of filament these printers work with and whether you can find filament made by third-party manufacturers.

  • Touchscreens: Many 3D printers feature touchscreen interfaces, so you can interact with them much like you would a copy machine. These setups are perfect for demonstrating the process or for children who want to learn the basics of 3D printing.

  • Software compatibility: Some 3D printers work with proprietary software from the manufacturer, some work with open-source software options, and some work with both. As you compare models, pay attention to what software each one runs and whether you could use different software with it. Ultimately, the software is the part you’ll be interacting with, so it’s important to get a model with interfaces that make sense to you.


Basic 3D printers typically cost between $150 and $300. Models in this range are bare-bones with small build plates that limit the size of what you can print. If you’re looking for an entry-level 3D printer or plan to print objects no larger than a Funko Pop, you don’t need to spend more than $300.

Better 3D printers can be had for between $300 and $500. The models in this range represent the best value across the entire 3D printer market. They’ve got moderately sized build plates and worthwhile features like WiFi and a smartphone app, and they make it easy for anyone to start printing in minutes. If you want the most straightforward, capable 3D printer under $500, this is the price range to aim for.


  • Before you buy a 3D printer, explore different manufacturer support forums to get a sense of how active and helpful other owners typically are — or aren’t. It’s likely that at some point, you’ll need to find help. Perform your research ahead of time, and you’ll know how and where to ask for help when you need it.

  • Look for third-party filament options to keep long-term costs down. If you print often, you’re going to need replacement filament. Look around ahead of time to see which 3D printers work with third-party filament. It’s also worth checking out bulk deals; you may be able to save money by buying several spools of filament at once. Spend time calculating which 3D printers are best in terms of long-term expenses, and buy one that will stay within your budget over time.

  • Be patient with yourself as you learn. 3D printing is an art form, and it can take practice to get it right. Whether it’s learning to use the software or figuring out how to correct issues during printing, you’re bound to experience a few setbacks. That’s normal. Consider 3D printing a skill that you need to practice, and give yourself time to get good at it.

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3D printers use heat to make filament pliable enough to be molded into solid objects. They’re safe to use, but an adult should always be present, even if the printer is marketed for children.


Q. How much tech background will I need to use a 3D printer?
It depends on the 3D printer, but in most cases, you don’t need to be super technical to use one. You’ll need to be able to download 3D printing plans from the web, load them into your 3D printing software, and send them to be printed, much like you would send a document to a traditional printer. If you’re worried the process will be too challenging, get a 3D printer with a touchscreen. These printers are simpler to interact with, so you spend less time planning and more time enjoying the objects you print.

Q. What do PLA and ABS mean in 3D printing?
Both PLA and ABS are different types of filament, or plastic, used by 3D printers to create objects. Each costs roughly the same as the other. ABS is more durable and flexible, but it requires more heat to work during the printing process, and it generates an unpleasant odor. PLA can be used in a 3D printer at a much lower temperature, and it creates a sugar-like odor during printing. Most 3D printers for home use are designed to work with PLA filament.

Q. How expensive is replacement filament, and how long does it last?
A. Replacement rolls of filament vary in price from $15 to $30 for a 1kg spool, which will have enough plastic to make roughly 100 standard-size chess pieces. Filament doesn’t go bad or expire, so you can keep a single spool until it’s empty.

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