• Allen Mitchell


Updated: Jun 28, 2021

Choosing a telescope is complicated, this guide helps uncomplicate it

Congratulations on your decision to buy a telescope.  I bet you've got a million questions right now.  Don't worry I am going to go through some common telescopes that we recommend buying.  If you have some idea of what you want to do with a telescope then this buying guide can help you choose the best beginner telescope.

It is an unfortunate truth, however, that department store telescopes that are priced below about $300 are mostly junk.  If you want to buy the best beginner telescope with your hard earned money then you should start by reading this guide for finding the best beginner telescope.  We recommend avoiding department stores and look at shopping with a speciality dealer instead.  If you don't have one locally, there are many outstanding retailers online that have a complete collection of beginner telescopes that can fit


  1. Understand what you want to use the telescope for.  A telescope is a tool that does a specific job. That’s why there are so many different types of telescopes.  Knowing what you want to do will help you know what to buy.

  2. Research your options.  Once you’ve decided on what you want to do, you should know what kind of telescope will do the job best.  The best telescope for viewing planets is not very good for looking at galaxies, for example.

  3. Have a budget.  Telescopes can be very expensive.  Match your budget to your expectations.  It can cost even more money to buy a new telescope if you pick the wrong one the first time.  

  4. Used telescopes can be a great budget friendly way to get started.  Online telescope stores sometimes have a trade in program and they resell these used scopes where you can save hundreds of dollars!

  5. Watch out for “Aperture Fever”.  Bigger is not always better. High magnification works best on the planets and the moon.  Smaller telescopes are preferred for deep sky objects.

  6. Once you've bought a telescope, check out this guide for the best beginner targets to look at.


The best telescopes for beginners are usually lower cost telescopes with good light gathering power and relatively low magnification.  Beginner telescopes with lower magnification and good light gathering capabilities show a wider field for finding dim objects. This makes their use much easier and enjoyable.

Our top picks for the best beginners telescopes are

What Are The Best Budget Telescopes?

Budget telescopes are the ones that cost less than $500 and have everything you need to start observing the night sky like eyepieces.  While this may seem like a lot of money for a budget telescope it’s not. It’s not uncommon for even mid-level telescopes to cost several thousands of dollars, even before you start adding accessories to them!

Our top picks for the best budget telescopes are

What is The Best Telescope For Viewing Planets?

The best telescope for viewing planets will have an aperture larger than 200mm and focal lengths 2000mm or longer (F/10).  The telescopes that do this well are Newtonian, Schmidt Cassegrain and Maksutov telescopes. Because planets are incredibly small in the night sky, telescopes for viewing planets are a little more specialized, some of the more feature rich ones come with a larger price tag. If an 8” telescope is outside your budget, then good results can still be had with a 6” telescope but you will sacrifice some magnification and detail for the savings.

Our top picks for the best telescopes for viewing planets are

What Are The Best Telescopes For The Moon?

The best telescope for the moon will offer roughly a half degree field of view at low magnification.  This will allow the moon to comfortably fill the eyepiece field of view. At higher magnification these telescopes will show thousands of craters peppered all over the lunar surface.

Our top picks for the best telescopes for the moon are

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