Prices for SCTs, MCTs, and, in fact, all amateur telescopes are currently as low as they have ever been. A shrinking dollar coupled with an influx of CATs from the East has seen to that. Still, for some novices and young people the $1,500 to $2,000 that a go-to 8-inch SCT commands can be prohibitive. That does not mean newcomers should have to give up on CAT ownership, however. Nothing says a new telescope must be new.
There are plenty of used SCTs, especially, available at very reasonable prices. The typical used scope will not have the whiz-bang computer features of a new model but will be more than capable of delivering good images and lots of enjoyment. One tremendous advantage of buying used is that if a telescope can be found locally, it may be possible to try it out under the stars.
Where can used scopes be found? The best and safest bet for a quality used SCT or other CAT is a fellow astronomy club member, so ask around there first. Newspaper want ads and local "swap-shop" papers are also possibilities. Some large, national telescope dealers also sell used telescopes, although these will probably be a little more expensive than a local CAT.
Is it safe to buy a used telescope from an individual through the mail or over the Internet? It may be. One way to eliminate a lot of potential lemons is to refuse to consider buying any Meade or Celestron SCT made from about 1987 to 1990. These "Halley scopes" were made at a time when both companies were wearing out their equipment and their workforces to produce as many scopes as possible to satisfy the comet craze. Halley-era CATs can be okay, but be wary of buying one you could not try first.
What is the key to successful used buying? If a scope is not to be found locally or in a reputable dealer's used inventory, stick with Astromart.com. This online classified service, run by a respected dealer, Anacortes Telescope and Wild Bird, is well policed. Scams can still happen, but the chance of being cheated on Astromart is far less than the chance of being cheated on most other online emporiums.
What is the secret to getting a good used telescope? Education: The best defense against being sold a punk CAT is to learn as much as possible about the model under consideration. Ideally, this book would have included a used CAT buyer's guide section. Unfortunately, Meade and Celestron alone have produced dozens of models over the last four decades, and including used CATs here would have added at least another hundred pages to this already long book. Instead, look for Uncle Rod's Used CAT Buyer's Guide on the Internet as a free Adobe Acrobat file. It includes a helpful checklist for used SCT buyers as well as extensive information on most of the SCTs and MCTs produced over the last 40 years. See Appendix 2 for more information.
What is next? Let us open the box and start assembling your beautiful new CAT.
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