Let's see, I have a Brother LS-2125 that I bought for about $90. I got it about 2.5 years ago (I think....3.5 at the most).
I've been sewing since I was 3 (sitting on Grandma's knee). I've done all sorts of projects from quits to full costumes to regular clothes. I've followed patterns, altered them and made stuff from scratch.
I *LOVE* my machine, if what was said before about Brother contracting out is true I may have just gotten a good machine year. I've never had a problem with it that wasn't user error and easily fixed. Easy to thread with diagrams right on the top of the machine (I've never even *opened* the instruction manual but I had lots of previous experience with other machines so I already knew how it was more or less supposed to go). Easy to load and wind the bobbin too. So far the most it's made through was two layers of canvas with a third layer of cotton and a piece of plastic boning (that was an accident, don't watch Jack Sparrow and attempt to sew at the same time^^) had no problem with it. I must admit I'm not big on mateince (yeah I know....) but still no problems, never even broke a needle...never changed it either.
Although, I must admit that my grandma's machine was awesome too, I *think* she had a Kenmore (trying to go back and picture the machine from my youth, it's her birthday today so I when I call her I'll ask and edit). Whatever it was it was awesome (she also took *very* good care of it) I'm going to assume it was mostly metal parts as it was heavy as hell and older than I was. She used this thing from before I was born till she bought her Bernina when I was about 10.
I also agree that the older machines tend to be very reliable and since they're older they're often cheaper than new. But b careful, if it does break or need matience it might be harder (this sort of happened to my mother, she had a Japanese machine that wasn't considerably old but it used an odd size bobbin that were very difficult to find).
After that machine my grandma splurged on a Bernina, and ohhh.....that was a *SWEET* machine.......so many extras and niffty things at a $4000 price tag (and she bought her's used). The only two things that I wish my Brother had that her Bernina had was the knee lift for the presser foot and the thread cutter (those two really do speed up sewing). Bernina does make quality basic machine (I used one in 6th grade home ec), I'm not sure how easy they are to find or how much they cost but Bernina is a very good brand if you can find one.
There really isn't that much that Ive got a problem with in regards to my machine, although that's just personal preference (the machine's as basic as you get).
I would recommend my Brother or my Grandma's machine to anyone, they were both basic (my grandma's was a little more advanced). Buying a Machine is a good choice, it can mean the difference between happy sewing and visions of suicide, I'm glad there's something like this to help people along.
We all have our vices, I'm a geek, my cat licks light bulbs, what's your problem?