Originally Posted by groundzero9
Sorry, I should have mentioned I'm looking for something decently portable. I live right near a major city so my plan is to drive out to less populated areas. Forgetting the photography aspect, can you make a recommendation?
OK so you have a basic tradeoff to make - you need a certain aperture to see much (aperture gives you brightness and resolution), but bigger aperture scopes are less portable, unless they are either well designed in terms of the tube (ie. a truss tube dobsonian), or use short-tube optics like a maksutov cassegrain or schmitt cassegrain. The Meade LX90 and LX200 are scmitt cassegrains - making cassegrains is not for the faint hearted, as the field corrector on the front is non-trivial to grind and polish, and for the same reason they are expensive to buy. The meade ETX range are maksutov newtonians which have the same constraints - they are expensive to buy and apertures are small.
I know it's still quite a lot more than you planned to spend, but if you don't want to make something, http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/816529-REG/Meade_1005_05_03_LightBridge_10_0_254mm_Reflector_Telescope.html
looks good for the money and is not badly priced. I'd strongly encourage saving up this kind of money as it'll be much better spent than say $400 on something much less capable. Meade also make this in 12" and 16".
Truss tube dobs are very portable - the upper ring (where the eyepiece goes) comes right off and the tubes you can see that make up the structure of the "tube" come off, so you end up with the top ring, the truss tubes, and the mirror box at the bottom - even a 20+" truss tube dob easily goes in an average car boot and is easy for one person to set up once you learn how to collimate it. Incidentally, for clarity, a dobsonian refers to the alt-az mount invented by John Dobson, the actual optical arrangement is a newtonian which is the "original" mirror telescope type.
Comparing a dobsonian to a schmitt cassegrain at the same aperture, the dobsonian has several advantages (for you) - it is about 1/5 of the price, it collects more light (cassegrains have a big secondary mirror obstructing the light path at the front which cuts down the effective aperture), newtonians also have much shorter focal lengths (because they can have a smaller f/ number, cassegrains are invariably f/10 or more) which is good for you if you're interested in nebulae and galaxies, as you want a wide-field view which a newtonian provides.
JMI then make a motor drive for that scope (although this link is to the version for the 12" rather than the 10") - http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/680219-REG/JMI_Telescopes_TNTLB12_Train_n_Track_Motor_Drive.html
What I'd suggest if you must buy and budget is tight, is to get the lightbridge (maybe look for the 8" version if $700 is too much, but the 10" will give significantly better views of deep-sky objects because of the bigger aperature - a 10" has 50% more light collecting area than an 8") and hand-guide it for a while. That will help you decide what you want to get out of observing and it'll also help you learn the sky - having goto is not all it's cracked up to be, because you don't learn to star-hop to find objects, that said it can be frustrating at first not finding stuff, but if you persevere you'll get there - you'll want a copy of "Norton's star atlas". Also, not having tracking can be a bit of a pain but at lower magnifications (like you'd use for a lot of galaxies and nebulae, which though dim are actually fairly big in terms of the area of the sky they cover) hand tracking is adequate.
As an alternative to the JMI kit you could then look into motorising it yourself with stepper/servo motors and the scope.exe/BBastrodesigns
For eyepieces on a budget, http://www.universityoptics.com/eyepieces.html
are absolutely excellent and to be honest, a hidden gem - a lot of their stuff is as good as the thousand-dollar naglers people buy.
I wouldn't advise buying second hand unless it's from a friend, as the trouble with optics is unless you know how to test them properly, you could get lumbered with a dud, although that's not so likely with a newtonian as it is with a cassegrain as the optics of a newt are inherently simpler and less prone to misalignment and damage that is not user correctable.
As for making something, http://www.atmlist.net/
is the place to ask.
has tons of useful information and a list of ATM groups, maybe there's one in your area?