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Used Telescopes – How to find telescopes at really cheap prices

Updated on February 17, 2010

Used Telescopes offer a great bargain as you can often find quality telescopes that are barely used and are in great shape.  Many times the ones you find are old gifts that people no longer want, so having hardly or even never used the telescope is in great shape.  The other possibility is that someone had the telescope for a while and enjoys astronomy so much that they want to upgrade to better telescope.  If this is the case you can know that the person knew how to use it and probably took good care of it.  If you’re looking for a beginner’s telescope for either you or a child, going with a used telescope can be a safe and affordable option.  However, when you’re looking for a used scope there are several things you need to know before you run out and buy one (or bid on one in the case of an online auction such as eBay).

The best way to find a good deal on a used telescope is to already have one in mind.  If you’re unfamiliar with the different telescopes there are a lot of great websites that describe the different models in detail; however, I will provide a basic description of the three major types.  The first type of telescope is the refractor telescope.  This style uses two lenses, the first collects light which is then focuses the light down to a distinct image, while the second lens magnifies the image so that you can see it.  The reflector telescope uses a mirror to gather light at the bottom of the telescope while another mirror focuses the image.  The other major type of telescope is a catadoptric telescope and it basically blends the best of both reflector and refractor telescopes.  Any of these types would make a great beginner’s telescope as they are all very simple to operate.  But as you get more expensive you get more features that can start to become overwhelming and unnecessary for the beginners. 

In addition to the type of telescope you’ll want to consider the brand; you’re going to want something that’s recognized as being a quality telescope.  The top name brand telescopes are going to be Meade, Celestron, Bushnell, Orion, Vixen and even Zhumell.  I’m not saying that any other telescope is going to be bad, but you don’t want to take too much of a risk when buying a used telescopes.  Once you have the type and brand of telescope you want check for the following things: aperature, focal ratio and mount.  The aperature is by far the most important attribute you’re going to want.  The bigger the aperature the more light you can gather and the better the resolution will be.  Go as big as you can afford with this one.  The next thing is focal ratio which is the ratio of the two lenses.  The higher the focal ratio the better the image will be.  Finally, you’re going to want to get a good mount as it’s the mount that allows you to track an image and keep the telescope steady.  Most used telescopes probably will have an iffy to OK mount.  If you can find one get a German Equitorial Mount (GEM) as they are far better than the azimuth mount.  You may end up needing to buy a better one but then you can always look for a good used telescope mount as well.

The best place to find a cheap used telescope is probably a sight called astromart,  They have classifieds that have a lot of used telescopes of varying degrees of quality.  If you’re intimidated by the selection and options, another good place to look is some of the online telescope retailers.  Many will accept returns or trade ins and will have used telescopes on hand.  Just like most things in life, a little bit of research will go a long ways in finding a cheap used telescope.

Other Telescope resources

Telescopes for Kids - a guide to getting affordable and quality telescope for children of different ages. 

Brass Telescopes - an article that helps provide tips for finding brass telescopes that are both functional and aesthetic

Telescope Cases - A guide to finding a quality yet cheap telescope case that will protect your telescope and extend it's life


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