The best 3D printers under $500 for 2023

You don't need to spend a ton of money to get a reliable, versatile 3D printer.

Best overall

Prusa mini 3D printer

Prusa Mini+

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Best for DIY projects

Creality Ender 3 V2 neo 3D printer

Creality Ender 3 V2 Neo

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Best for printing large objects

Artillery Sidewinder 3D printer

Artillery Sidewinder X2

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The best 3D printers under $500 may be hard to imagine for people just getting started. Consumers who want to buy excellent quality 3D printers sometimes fall into the same trap: They think the more expensive the device or gadget is, the better it will be. But because the 3D printer market is still very competitive and the industry continues to evolve, you can often buy a model for less money than its slightly larger brandmate. In other words, a printer that costs $450 might have many of the same features found on a $750 model that came out a year ago. With that in mind, we’ve collected five of the best 3D printers under $500 that we recommend.

How we chose the best 3D printers for under $500

To compile the list of 3D printers we recommend for this guide, we considered several factors. We prioritized well-built models that will last and grow with users as their skills improve. While many of these sub-$500 models work well for beginners, we don’t want users to feel limited by them down the road. We also require a 3D printer to employ reliable, intuitive software because you can’t print if you can’t get your design to the machine. Our picks are based on a mix of real-world experience, spec comparisons, editorial reviews, user feedback, and company reputation.

The best 3D printers for under $500: Reviews & Recommendations

You don’t have to look far back to find a time when 3D printers were extremely specialized pieces of equipment beyond the reach of most casual users. That has changed in the past decade, however. That progress comes (at least in part) thanks to the RepRap movement, which helped forge the way for the 3D-printing industry to create products that were more affordable, easy to use, and based on open-source technology. The movement also helped standardize many aspects of 3D-printing technology, which benefits all consumers and businesses. The following list features our choices for the best model to buy if you’re starting out in the world of 3D printing: 

Best overall: Original Prusa Mini+ 3D Printer

Original Prusa Mini+ 3D Printer

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Specs

  • Materials Supported: PLA, PETG, ABS, ASA, 
  • Print Volume (HWD): 7 x 7 x 7 inches
  • Connectivity: USB drive, Ethernet
  • Dimension: 15 x 13 x 15 inches
  • Weight: 9.9 lbs.

Pros

  • Excellent value for the price
  • Easy to use
  • Includes 2.8-inch color LCD
  • Comes with an Ethernet port

Cons

  • Print volume is smaller than Prusa’s flagship i3 MK3S+

Although the Prusa Mini+ is smaller than Prusa’s flagship i3 MK3S+, it still delivers much of the same quality and versatility. Plus it’s less expensive. So, you still get the same high-quality results when printing out objects. In some cases, you even get upgrades. For instance, Mini+ also comes with a color LCD, which is easier to use than the i3 MK3S. Insert a thumb drive with a compatible file, and the screen will show you a preview of your print. Then, just press the print button, and the machine goes on its way. It’s very simple if you want it to be.

This printer supports a ton of different printing materials, including PLA, PETG, ASA, ABS, PC (Polycarbonate), CPE, PVA/BVOH, PVB, HIPS, PP (Polypropylene), Flex, nGen, Nylon, Woodfill, and other filled materials. The print head is also relatively fast, considering the size and price of this model. However, the i3 MK3S+ is larger, allowing you to build slightly large project, and it’s also compatible with many more materials than the Mini+ is. But overall, the Mini provides excellent value for the money, which is why it’s the best 3D printer overall for 3D printers under $500. 

Best for printing large objects: Artillery Sidewinder X2

Artillery Sidewinder X2

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Specs

  • Materials Supported: PLA, ABS, Flexible PLA, Wood, PVA, HIPS
  • Print Volume: 11.8 x 11.8 x 15.6 inches 
  • Connectivity: USB, TF card, USB stick
  • Dimensions: 21.65 x 15.94 x 34.25 in (with spool holder)
  • Weight: 28.4 lbs.

Pros

  • Provides a large print volume 
  • Easy to use
  • Prints quietly

Cons

  • Color LCD can be a little glitchy

One of the standout features is that, for the price, it has a very large print area so that you can produce objects that are larger than a chess set piece. The build volume is 11.8 x 11.8 x 15.6 inches, providing more flexibility in creating your designs.  

3D printers can be complicated to assemble. The process can feel like a project in and of itself. Luckily, however, this printer comes 95 percent assembled and is very easy to set up. You can get up and print quickly without a lot of fuss.

It has other features that can be helpful during the 3D printing process. It has a filament runout detection and recovery system so that it will know when there’s no more filament and stop the print, but it will also resume printing once more filament is supplied to the unit. Also, if power is lost, you can resume the project from the last layer, saving time and money. Plus, it’s compatible with several different slicer apps.

Best for DIY projects: Creality Ender 3 V2 Neo

Creality Ender 3 V2 Neo

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Specs

  • Materials Supported: PLA, ABS, PETG, 
  • Print Volume (HWD): 8.7 x 8.7 x 9.8 inches
  • Connectivity: Micro USB, transflash memory card
  • Dimension (HWD): 17.2 x 16.7 x 18.6 inches
  • Weight: 21.60 lbs.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Its redesign improves the overall experience of it
  • Faster than predecessor 

Cons

  • Learning curve can be steep for some

Creality has a history of producing some fine 3D printers, but as many reviewers have pointed out, they can require some tweaking and maintenance to keep them printing correctly. However, that shouldn’t be a problem if you have a DIY spirit. That extra bit of elbow grease gets you a great value on a very capable printer.

The new iteration of this 3D printer includes some impressive enhancements to an already solid-performing 3D printer. It has a CR-Touch feature, for instance, which gathers the bed deviation data by touching multiple points in the bed and compensating for them accordingly, allowing for hassle-free bed leveling. It now comes with a full-metal Bowden extruder, which the company says makes for smooth feeding through the system. It also comes with a new 4.3-inch user interface, which is easier to read. Creality has also updated the build plate: The PC spring steel magnetic build plate has good adhesion to the model and enables quick removal of the print with just a slight bend of the platform.

Best for fast printing: Toybox 3D Printer

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Specs

  • Materials supported: PLA
  • Print volume (HWD): 7 x 8 x 9 cm
  • Connectivity: WiFi, web browsing, app
  • Dimensions: 7.4 x 7.4 x 9.05 inches
  • Weight: 15.21 lbs.

Pros

  • Most toys just work as printed
  • App provides plenty to print and do, giving you options to make predesigned toys as well as easily design your own
  • Access—with paid subscription—to third-party intellectual property

Cons

  • Could use slightly more documentation, especially during initial setup
  • Not all “create” tab toys worked perfectly

If you’re looking to move fast right out of the box, look no further than the Toybox 3D printer. It comes together quickly and easily, and it only took us about 20 minutes. We had a full, working toy within 45 minutes of touching the printer post-calibration. The final pieces look impressive and feel light in your hand, yet are strong thanks to structural lattice-shaped printing. It’s a wonderful machine to enter the addicting world of 3D printers. Check out our reviewer’s other thoughts on the Toybox 3D printer.

Best budget: Monoprice MP Cadet

Monoprice MP Cadet

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Specs

  • Materials Supported: PLA, PLA Pro
  • Print Volume (HWD): 3.9 x 4.1 x 3.9 inches
  • Connectivity: USB, Wi-Fi, microSD card
  • Dimension: 8.3 x 8.3 x 11.4 inches  
  • Weight: 6.6 lbs.

Pros

  • Small, compact, and lightweight
  • Quick set-up time
  • Comes with auto-leveling feature

Cons

  • Small print volume
  • Not as versatile as other models

Although there are plenty of 3D models you’ll pay a lot of money for, there are also a decent number of inexpensive 3D printers, like this model from Monoprice, which makes it a great model for beginners and students. 

The Monoprice MP Cadet has a simple but elegant interface that allows beginners to get up and running quickly. Despite its small size, it’s a solid performer: It can print relatively quickly. It’s also compatible with two slicer apps: Ultimaker Cura, an open-source slicing application for 3D printers, and Wiibuilder softare. Most of all, this printer delivers decent-quality prints consistently. However, since it’s a budget model, it’s not as versatile as some other, more feature-packed 3D printers.

Best for kids learning about 3D printing: 3Doodler Create+ 3D printing pen

3Doodler Create+ 3D printing pen

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Specs

  • Materials Supported: PLA, ABS, FLEXY, Wood
  • Dimension: 4.45 x 3.15 x 0.2 inches
  • Weight: 0.11 lbs.

Pros

  • Very easy to use and set up
  • Safer than most 3D printers
  • Intuitive controls
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Offers fewer features and capabilities than 3D printer

The 3Doodler Create+ Pen isn’t a 3D printer. So, it doesn’t offer the robust set of features that you’ll find on a 3D printer. However, what it is a 3D pen, and what it does do is give teens (14 years old and older) access to creating objects using a process that’s very similar to the “additive 3D printing” process found on 3D printers.

What’s nice about this pen is that it’s well-designed and includes very intuitive controls, so you’re up and running quickly. Once you’ve set it up, you can use the pen, which extrudes heated plastic like a 3D printer. One of the main differences is that your creation isn’t based on a digital CAD file. The pen comes with 15 different colors of 3Doodler Create plastic refills & a comprehensive activity guidebook.

Features to consider when shopping for the best 3D printer for your needs

While it’s always tempting to buy the biggest, baddest 3D printer on the block, that’s not always the best call. You may waste money, filament, and time getting the wrong machine. Here are some essential variables to understand and consider before you bring a 3D printer into your home workshop.

Explore methods of 3D printing

Right now, fused deposition modeling (FDM) represents the most common method for 3D printing. All the 3D printers in this roundup rely on FDM. An FDM printer relies on a small heated nozzle that lays down thin layers of plastic made of melted from a spooled filament. These machines are called fused filament fabricators or FFF. While we mostly recommend FDM 3D printers, you can also explore other technologies. Those include stereolithography (SLA), which uses a resin-based method to print, or other methods.

Learn about 3D printing materials

You’ll need filament if you want to print because you need a material. Two of the most popular are polylactic acid (PLA) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABD). Most 3D printers can only print one color at a time, especially at this price point, but it’s a hard rule. Before you buy tons of filament spools, make sure the type of filament you’re buying will work with your printer. You’ll need the correct size and material to make sure things go smoothly. Experimenting with different materials is fun, but wasting money on messed up prints is decidedly not.

Size

Once you know what you’ll primarily be printing, you can decide how big of a printing area you need. The largest printer on this list can handle prints up to 11.8 x 11.8 x 15.6 inches, but most are much smaller. Getting a printer that’s too large will often slow down your production process and take up unnecessary space in your home or shop. However, going too small means you’re limited in what you can print. The key is finding balance.

Resolution

Resolution is measured in microns (a lower number is more detailed), with the default on many printers being 200 microns. However, some can print at 100 or 50 microns. Generally speaking, higher resolution leads to smoother prints, but that’s not always the case. You’ll want a well-rounded machine. High-res prints won’t do you much good if they take way too long or frequently mess up.

Open or closed frame?

3D printers that are closed are safer when it comes to pets or other random objects invading your print space. Open-frame 3D printers are generally larger in size.

Software

You’re going to need software to actually send designs to the printer. These programs are called slicers, and there are several out there. You’ll want to check which titles are compatible with your machine. Some work just fine with open-source options, while others very much prefer proprietary software. Some titles include PrusaSlicer, from Prucer, and Cura, from Ultimaker. 

FAQs

Q: Are 3D printers expensive to buy and to use?

Although you can still find 3D printers that are very pricey, those models are generally targeted at commercial markets. By and large, most 3D printers for home use have come down in price, and you can find some very capable models for less than $1,000, even as low as $200. But in order to get a clearer picture of what your cost of ownership of the 3D printer will be, you’ll want to factor in how you’ll actually be using it. You’ll want to assess how much you’ll be printing, which means you’ll also need to find out the price of replacement spools of filament or other additional materials for your 3D printer.  

Q: What are 3D printers used for? 

Today, 3D printers are used in many different industries across the globe, including healthcare, automotive, construction, manufacturing, the food industry, education, and in the production of different consumer products. At home, 3D printers can produce various hardware items, like hooks, hangers, coasters, clips, various types of desk organizers, etc. Or they can be used for more artistic pursuits, like cosplay.

Final thoughts when buying the best 3D printer

Just a decade ago, 3D printers under $500 weren’t very impressive or even available. Now, however, you have a ton of options available to you. Many of these machines offer advanced features and solid build quality that will churn out pieces for years to come. If you’re willing to spend some extra cash, you can upgrade to the best 3D printers under $1,000 for bigger prints, more material options, and more advanced features. But if you’re a beginner, enthusiast, or aspiring pro, any 3D printers on this list should suit your needs just fine.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.