stargazing with a telescope

How much does a good telescope cost in 2021?

Last Updated: September 24, 2021

I regularly receive messages about the cost of telescopes. This question has always been a difficult one for me to answer because the perceived quality of a telescope depends entirely on the person who is going to use it.

For example, the price of a good telescope for an astrophotographer can go as high as 1,500 dollars, but for an occasional observer, a decent telescope can cost around 400 dollars… The price of a telescope increases proportionally with its performance capabilities.

In addition, there are dozens of various models available on the market. They come in different sizes, with unique specifications and have been designed for specific uses. It is therefore quite difficult to estimate the price of a good telescope.

That being said, I have been a backyard astronomer for many years and I frequently visit many telescope suppliers’ websites (aperture fever is a real thing!). As a result, I have a fairly good knowledge of the different types of telescopes as well as the average cost of a good model.

Table of Contents

What factors influence the cost of a telescope?

There are different factors that can influence the cost of each kind of telescope. We will review some of the most common factors below.

1- The aperture

The aperture of a telescope is the diameter of its lens or primary mirror. It is the part of the telescope that collects the rays of light coming from a celestial object. The aperture is one of the most important telescope specifications because it can significantly influence the definition of the image observed in the eyepiece. Generally speaking, the larger the aperture, the more expensive the telescope is.

2 - The focal Length

The focal length of a telescope is the distance traveled by the light rays inside the telescope (between the aperture and the focuser). A short focal length gives a wider field of view, but the object observed will appear smaller. This is particularly good for astrophotography because deep-sky objects are naturally very large. On the other hand, a longer focal length provides a narrower field of view, but the observed object will appear larger and brighter, which is perfect for observing the planets and the moon.

3 - The optical design

Each of the different types of telescopes uses different optical components that govern the way light is delivered from the aperture to the eyepiece. Telescopes equipped with lenses rather than mirrors are usually more expensive. 

4 - The accessories

Good eyepieces or a high-end focuser can be expensive. The quality of the accessories that comes with your telescope kit can play a major role in its overall cost. 

5 - The materials that make up the telescope

Entry-level telescopes are generally more affordable because they are made of weak materials such as plastic for the tube or aluminium for the tripod. In order to fully appreciate the night sky, it is imperative to own a sturdy and perfectly balanced telescope and telescope mount. The use of an unstable and wobbly telescope will certainly result in an unpleasant experience and you may end up not using your telescope as much in the future. 

6 - The brand

The majority of the telescopes available on the market are actually manufactured by a handful of companies based in China. These telescopes are then distributed to a few American and European resellers who market them under different names, colors and brands. It is, therefore, possible that two telescopes that look slightly different but are sold under different brands are in fact the same model manufactured in China. This also means that the same telescope may be sold at different rates depending on the brand that sells it … Consequently, it is up to the consumer to conduct a thorough research on the product and the different prices available… These brands include Sky-Watcher, Celestron, Meade, High Point Scientific, First Light Optics, Orion, Oceanside Photo and Telescope (OPT) and many others.

7 - The shipping cost

Shipping and handling charges can vary considerably depending on the type of telescope you have purchased, and this can add a significant amount to the final invoice. Shipping and handling charges can vary considerably depending on the type of telescope you have purchased, and this can add a significant amount to the final invoice. This fee will depend on the weight, size, shipping method and how fragile the goods are. Having a beginner’s telescope delivered to you is inexpensive, but it will cost you much more to receive a 12-inch Dobsonian telescope with the GoTo feature, which is delivered in three separate boxes.

stargazing with a telescope

How much does a good Dobsonian telescope cost?

Dobsonian telescopes are renowned for being the best telescopes for observing the moon and the planets. This type of reflecting telescope offers the best value for money with respect to the aperture size. Since their optical elements are made of mirrors only, Dobsonians are much cheaper to manufacture, which means that it is possible to acquire a telescope with a wide aperture at a reasonable cost. 

Regarding the cost of a Dobsonian telescope, the prices start at about 100 dollars for a 4-inch tabletop telescope. These telescopes are excellent, affordable and easy to use. If you prefer a regular-sized telescope with a larger aperture, the “Classic 6-inch Dobsonian” is a very good option for about 315 dollars. The bigger versions of this telescope are a bit more expensive: about $450 for the 8-inch (200 mm) and $615 for the 10-inch (250 mm) version.

The prices I have mentioned above are the average rates for the classic version of the Dobson telescope. There are a few different variations: some have a retractable tube, others are equipped with a motorized mount and some combine both features. 

Naturally, these telescopes are much more expensive than their original version. If you are based in Europe, I highly recommend the “Sky-Watcher Classic 200P f/5.9 Dobsonian Telescope” which costs about £300 (€350). If you are based in the US, the widely acclaimed “Apertura AD8” is probably the best 8-inch Dobsonian you can get. The price tag is about $550, but it comes with many accessories such as high-quality eyepieces, a laser collimator, a moon filter, a Crayford-style dual-speed focuser and a cooling fan. It is definitely worth every penny.

How much does a good refractor telescope cost?

Refracting telescopes are generally a little pricier than reflecting telescopes. This is because refractors are equipped with glass lenses that are much more expensive to manufacture than the mirrors used in Newtonian telescopes.

Nowadays, it is possible to purchase entry-level refractor telescopes at a very affordable price, such as the “Celestron PowerSeeker 50AZ”, priced at just 60 USD. Unfortunately, these refractors are built with low-quality materials and are not worth the money at all.

Choosing a good refractor largely depends on the quality of the glass installed at the aperture. Achromatic refractors are often the type of telescope that novices tend to buy and their price range lies between $50 and $450. 

Next up are apochromatic refractors. They use a special type of glass that is much more effective in attenuating chromatic aberrations. Some of them are equipped with up to 5 lenses in total. As a result, the price of apochromatic refractors can quickly increase, ranging from 800 to several thousand dollars.

These telescopes are great for experienced users who wish to pursue the very expensive hobby that is astrophotography but are not necessarily best suited for the occasional users in my opinion.

If you are looking for a good refractor telescope, my personal recommendation would be the “Explore Scientific FirstLight AR127” which costs $700. If you are looking to get into astrophotography, the “William Optics RedCat 51” (700 to 750 dollars) is a very popular choice in the astrophotography community.

How much does a good telescope for beginners cost?

When you are new to stargazing, you don’t necessarily need a high-end telescope that costs thousands of dollars. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. As a beginner, you won’t know how to use it to its full potential.
  2. The learning curve can be very steep depending on the path you wish to follow in this hobby.

Therefore, avoid buying an expensive and hard-to-use a telescope at first, as it might discourage you and eventually make you lose interest in the hobby. I strongly advise choosing a telescope powerful enough to show you the moon and the planets, as they are the easiest objects to find in the starry sky. Many amateur stargazers started their career with a Dobsonian telescope!

A good Dobsonian, with an aperture size ranging from 4 to 8 inches (100 to 200 mm), is the perfect telescope for anyone new to the field of stargazing. These telescopes cost between 100 and 500 dollars and are very easy to use. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the night sky before moving on to more advanced and expensive telescopes.

How much does a good telescope for kids cost?

If you want to introduce your child to the wonders of the night sky, you may be more interested in the educational value of the telescope rather than its technical features such as the size of the aperture, the focal length, the magnification power, and so on. A telescope for kids should not cost you a fortune. I bought a toy telescope for my 3-year-old daughter that cost 20 dollars and she loves looking at the moon from her bedroom window with it.

If your child is older and can stay up later at night to stargaze with you, the “Celestron 76 mm Tabletop Reflector” is an excellent choice. This tabletop Dobsonian is lightweight, easy to use and costs only around 70 USD. Next, if you are looking to treat a teenager, I recommend the “Orion SpaceProbe II 76”. For only $85, this telescope will enable your children to learn how to navigate the night sky and, hopefully, start a hobby that will last a lifetime.

telescope for kids

How much does a good telescope for astrophotography cost?

Astrophotography is known to be a rather expensive hobby, and that’s quite justified. Taking good pictures of deep-sky objects requires state-of-the-art equipment as well as high-quality optical components. Yet the most expensive gear is not necessarily the telescope itself… It is in fact the mount on which the telescope is mounted, but this will be the topic of a future article!

An entry-level astrophotography telescope costs between 800 and 1,500 dollars, and between 1,500 and 3,000 dollars (or considerably more) for higher-end models.

Small apochromatic telescopes are the best choice when it comes to astrophotography: they are light, compact, easy to use and provide a wide field of vision. They are ideal for capturing stunning pictures of galaxies, nebulae and star clusters. The “Explore Scientific ED80” is a fantastic refractor telescope (~850 USD) that is equipped with 3 high-quality glass lenses which greatly reduces color dispersion.

The “William Optics RedCat 51 APO” is a very popular product in the astrophotography community. It costs approximately 800$ and many people start this hobby with this telescope. The type of glass used in the lenses will greatly impact the quality of your astrophotography images. So if your budget permits, take a look at telescopes equipped with FPL-53 glass as they are more efficient in reducing chromatic aberrations.

Tom Urbain

Telescopes are complex optical systems and it can take a little time to learn how to use them optimally. I hope to make this learning process a little easier by providing some of my tips and my experience on how to get the most out of your telescope.

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