If you are interested in astronomy or are already into stargazing but are looking to upgrade your level, you may ask, “how much does a good telescope cost?” A telescope has no fixed price, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $2000. Professional astronomers may even spend as much as $8000 to get the telescope of their dreams.
The cost of a telescope depends on its intended uses, functions, models, and special features. Just like cameras, there’s something for everyone. However, a $50 telescope is not the wisest investment – you’ll likely end up with a cheap item that won’t work well.
Be prepared to part with a sufficient minimum amount to get a good telescope after identifying your needs.
This article will analyze the cost of telescopes, specifications, types, and factors to consider when purchasing a telescope to help you make the right choice for your needs and budget.
What’s a Telescope Capable of?
You already know a telescope is used to view space, but knowing more specifically what telescopes can do may help you decide which price range and specifications suit your needs.
Some telescopes are better for viewing the moon and bright planets, while others are more suited for looking at Deep Sky Objects (DSOs) such as galaxies, star clusters, globular clusters, open clusters, and nebulae. Some telescopes are also used for viewing the sun and bright planets.
Most beginners look for telescopes that can view the moon and the large planets. These telescopes usually need 80mm in aperture scope or less. If you want to enjoy the brighter deep-sky objects as well, you should get a telescope with an aperture of 80mm or more.
Sky gazing enthusiasts or professionals usually target dimmer distant objects, so they often require telescopes with larger apertures. This can mean a telescope of up to 150mm aperture scope.
How Much Does a Refracting Telescope Cost?
A refracting telescope of lower quality can cost anything from $70 upwards, but if you are paying $70, you should know that it is made with inferior materials and likely won’t last long or serve you well.
Refracting telescopes usually have glass lenses instead of mirrors on reflecting telescopes. So, they tend to be a bit more expensive than reflecting telescopes.
Achromatic refractors cost between $70-$450. They are usually the choice for novice astronomers.
Apochromatic refractors, on the other hand, are the choice of advanced or professional astronomers. The glass is better for attenuating chromatic aberrations, so these telescopes can cost anything anywhere from $750 to thousands of dollars.
How Much Does a Reflecting / Newtonian Telescope Cost?
A refracting telescope costs between $200-$1,500. It is more common than reflecting telescopes and is considered the standard for research and professional astronomy.
Reflecting telescopes are a product of Isaac Newton’s improvements to refracting telescopes, hence the name Newtonian telescopes.
How Much Does a Catadioptric Telescope Cost?
A catadioptric telescope is pricier than the others, costing about $500 for entry-level types. The more advanced ones can cost upwards of $2,000.
These telescopes combine mirrors and lenses, so they have highly accurate image collection.
How Much Does a Dobsonian Telescope Cost?
Dobsonian telescopes start from $100 for small tabletop sizes. They are usually about four inches. The six-inch Dobsonian options cost around $300, while the 10-inch option can cost more than $600.
This telescope is great for observing the planets, the moon, and other bright objects. The optical elements consist of mirrors only, so they are a much more affordable option for amateur astronomy.
Factors That Affect the Cost of Telescopes
Knowing what factors affect the price of a telescope can help you determine what you need and what you can compromise on, which will help you spend just the ideal amount that suits you.
Here are some factors that affect the cost of telescopes:
The aperture is important because it affects how far into the sky you can see. Aperture means the diameter of a telescope’s lens of its primary mirror. It collects the rays of light coming from a space object and determines the definition of the image the eye receives.
This is why an astronomer with a lesser aperture telescope may see the moon clearly, but cannot view open clusters. Telescopes with larger apertures can see into the deep field, but they cost more than those with lower apertures.
Telescopes are usually equipped with either mirrors or lenses. The employed optical component determines how the telescope delivers light from the aperture to the eyepiece.
Lenses deliver better optical quality, so lens telescopes are usually more expensive than mirrors.
Entry-level or beginner telescopes tend to be more affordable since they are often made from inferior materials like rubber or plastic tubes and aluminum or stainless steel tripods.
Professional telescopes need to be sturdier and feature superior materials like optical glass, beryllium, zerodur, etc. These materials cost more and will affect the overall price of the telescope.
Focal length means the distance the light rays travel inside the telescope. When a telescope’s focal length is short, the view is wide, but the objects appear small. On the other hand, a longer focal length makes the object larger and brighter, but the field of view will remain narrow.
Astronomers who are core scientists prefer the longer focal length, while astrophotographers may enjoy a shorter focal length. This also affects the price range of telescopes.
Telescopes usually come with accessories such as observing chairs and ladders, storage cases, protective scope covers, lights, magnifiers, single power finders, batteries, etc. The number and quality of a telescope’s accessories will determine the price range. This is why budget telescopes are usually one piece.
Brand names play a huge role in determining the price of almost any product, including telescopes. However, many telescopes are made in China but sold to sellers who repackage and resell them under a different brand name.
Some brands send specifications to producers in China who make according to those specifications and brand it for them. The implication is that most telescopes worth the same price range may have outrageous price differences just because of the brand name.
Some popular brands are SkyWatcher, Orion, Oceanside Photo, and Telescope.
Shipping and handling charges are hardly considered in the cost of products, but they often have a surprisingly big effect on the overall cost of purchases.
Depending on the type of telescope you want, your shipping costs may be less or more. Shipping costs are usually affected by the size, weight, shipping method, and others. For example, some telescopes may need to be delivered in two or three separate boxes, which will cost you way more than getting an entry-level telescope in a single box.
Top 5 Telescope Picks and Cost
Here are our top five telescope picks and their prices.
Best Overall Pick
This motorized Newtonian reflector telescope is useful for both beginners and intermediate astronomers. It has a 5.1 inch aperture that gathers an ample amount of light for great views of the for viewing astronomical objects. It also has a multispeed handset for the 360° slow-motion tracking gears.
Price: $337 on Amazon.
Best Travel-safe Pick
This lightweight, portable refractor telescope is ideal for people always on the move. It has a 70mm objective lens and accessories such as a Bluetooth shutter, tripod, moon filter, and a smartphone adaptor.
It’s budget-friendly and costs around $95.
Best Beginner Friendly Pick
It has a single fork arm mount, and the highest magnification is 241, while the aperture is 102mm.
Price: $449 on Amazon.
Best Reflector Pick
This portable reflector telescope comes with a very sturdy mount. In addition, it has adjustable balancing, a right-angle finder scope for easy maneuvering and object location, and it is travel friendly.
This product has a parabolic mirror that delivers amazingly bright images from the sky. In addition, it comes with a great mount and 50x and 167x magnification eyepieces.
Price: $1,350 on Amazon.
Best High-end and Advanced Pick
This telescope offers you the best astronomy experience you can get. It is a computerized solution with 40,000 celestial objects in its database. You can view several celestial and deep space objects such as distant stars, rocky planets, and the farthest galaxies.
The telescope comes with a dual fork and a sturdy mount, and it has a 2800mm focal point and 279.4mm aperture. This aperture size is a great fit for astrographs as it can capture longer shots.
Weighing 66 pounds, this is not the telescope to take for your casual sky-gazing when you are going out of the city, but it has great reviews.
It costs around $5,099.
How Much Should I Spend on a Telescope as a Beginner?
A novice or beginner should spend between $150 to $500 for a good quality telescope. You don’t need a high-end telescope when you are just starting astronomy. A good quality average telescope will also produce clean and sharp images.
High-end telescopes may have too many functions that make it more complicated for you to learn. They also may be a waste of money as you won’t fully know the potential of your equipment.
Dobsonian telescopes are great for stargazing, and with this reasonable price range, you can enjoy your new hobby to the fullest. However, as you become better and your curiosity expands, you will naturally need to move towards advanced and expensive telescopes.
Keep in mind that there’s no fear of your old telescope going to waste when you acquire a new one as you advance. Most astronomers have two or more pieces of equipment for different purposes, and if you prefer, you can always sell your pre-used telescope.
Are Astrophotography Telescopes More Expensive?
Yes, astrophotography telescopes are usually more expensive. Astrophotography is an expensive hobby because it requires state-of-the-art equipment, props, and optical components for good shots. But the most expensive part is the mount the telescope uses.
You can get an entry-level astrophotography telescope for $700-$1,500, while a high-quality one costs around $2,000 or more. They typically feature computerized tracking and have more apertures.
Where to Buy Your Telescopes
You can buy your telescopes at local camera stores. Many stores that sell cameras and camera accessories also sell good midrange telescopes. This allows you to explore several options and ask as many questions as possible before making a purchase.
You can also buy telescopes online, directly from the vendor if you have a particular type or brand in mind, or you can explore sites like:
You can also buy pre-used telescopes to save money.
A good telescope can cost anywhere between $300-$2,000. There’s no fixed price, so it’s up to you to identify your needs and the important features.
If you are a complete novice, you don’t need to opt for pricier telescopes, especially if the money is a struggle. A mid-range telescope with limited accessories will do the job just fine. For advanced astrologers who are also into astrography, it’s easier to determine priorities and invest more money in telescopes, so there’s no set price limit. You can send anything between $1,500-$8,000 or even more.
So, you should identify your specifications, focus less on brands, and read reviews online before deciding on a telescope. You should also understand that there’s no pressure; you can always sell your old telescope or hold onto it even if you get a new advanced one.
In most cases, each telescope has something to offer, and increasing your collection will go a long way in elevating your sky-gazing experience.