First Things First
This guide is not going to be a long extensive look at what a telsecope is, and what you can see. It's just a buying guide - You should always do your own research before attempting to buy a telescope. astromart is an excellent starting point.
I know allot of established amateur astronomers will tell you that aperture is king so get the biggest scope you can offord. While this is true it's not always a good idea to go out and buy that 8" scope right off the bat. First off you should do some research and learn about what your going to be buying before you go out and spend your hard earned money. If your anything like me your anxious to get started and take that first look, or perhaps that first look in a long time at the wonders that our universe holds. Stop right now and breath - it's not going anywhere and you have the rest of your life to find interesting objects in the sky.
First rule of thumb - Avoid those no name telescopes you see listed all over the place. They are cheap for a reason and the old saying "You get what you pay for" is true x2 in amateur astronomy. But there is a bend in this rule. Most decent used scopes with a brand names such as Orion, Meade, Celestron, and even Vixon will go for a fraction of their original cost. I have managed to pick up a 10" Orion dob for just under $200 which is a fraction of it's orignal $650 price tag. Best thing to do is shop around, and do be to quick to bid on the first decent scope that comes along. Take your time because there is always a better deal just around the corner. When you finally settle on a target check out the reviews before even attempting to bid and make sure that what your getting is in fact worth your time.
Read the description carefully and ask allot of questions - Besure that every part is there, and the person actually knows what they are talking about. I can't tell you how many times that I have bought a telescope and when it arrived I was missing parts! In a few cases I have order from people either new, or have no idea about what they are talking about. Always make sure that you are getting what you are paying for before you bid.
What size scope is best for the beginner?
In all honesty a 4.5" dobsonian telescope provides decent views of the planets and a few other objects. However it does not provide enough detail for someone to remain interested for long periods of time. A 5" or better yet a 6" will offer you some very vivid views with some decent eye pieces that will dazzle you for quite sometime. And of course anything larger will gather more light, and therefore offer you better, deeper, and bigger views! But don't be so hasty - if you cannot afford a larger scope go with what you can afford because once you see what it can do you will cherish it. For example I have a 60mm Tasco that I bought for $20 and with it can identify Saturn by it's rings.
While and or pershaps after you have purchased you telescope you should be looking at some decent eye pieces (again research is key). I reccement for the beginner a 25mm for wider views and for finding those hard to find objects; a 10mm for once you have found what you want to look at, and a x2 Barlow for doubling the power of your eye pieces. Most scopes will come with these or simular pieces, but just in case these will suffice in the beginning.
Lastly don't bid too soon - all your doing is driving up the price. Wait, and then wait some more. Just because your not winning right now, does not mean that you will not win in the end.
Buy It Now