I really agonized over this, spending about a week picking one out. If you're definitely going new, most people recommend the above brands for entry level machines. Specifically, the Kenmore 16221 or 16231, and the Janome 11574 (same as Kenmore's 16231, Janome makes Kenmore) or TB-12/Travelmate (same thing). These are all in the $150-200 price range, and should last for years and be easy to service.
Another thing to do is to call your local sewing machine shops and see what they have as far as used/repaired machines. Pfaff, Elna, Bernina, and Viking are good brands to look for when buying an older machine. They may not be as fancy, but they will sew forever.
Personally, I have a Kenmore 16221. I would have looked around for used, but I scored it on eBay for $75 (it's MSRP at $150). Unless you find a deal on eBay like I did, your best bet is to buy from here. They have some way reasonable prices on the Janomes I mentioned.
Good luck finding a machine you (and the missus!) like. I'm on my third project and I'm waist deep in ideas for more, MYOG is a crazy addiction!