I have a list I give newbies for good used beginner HF radio choices in no particular order, they are all good:
- * Kenwood TS-50s (last gen and usually well priced used ~$400). These are near the top of many budget recommended lists.
- * Icom IC-730 (a real bargin super basic HF radio) I have often seen them sell for less than $300, I have one as a 'spare' HF radio in the shack myself that I picked up real cheap, and I really like it for its super simplicity and ease of use. I often use this radio for the kids because it is so straight forward, easy to use and sounds great.
- * The IC-735 can also be found at a very good price as well, but I think I actually like the IC-730 better after using one for a while.
- * Yaesu FT-450 (I think that this is one of the best bang/$ in HF rigs these days new, but you can find the first model which is a few years old now without the built in tuner for about $500 used). Also a great radio for digital modes. I have an FT-450 and is now my main go-to HF rig for most stuff and all my digital modes stuff. It has a really nice receiver and good DSP.
- * Yaesu FT-100 - previous generation mobile HF Yaesu radio a lot like the 857, that is out of favor and can be a good deal used ~$300. But be careful, they are prone to blow their VHF/UHF finals and there are no replacement parts available. However you might be able to find one REAL cheap with blown VHF/UHF finals that still works on HF.
- * Yaesu FT-707 - an older 100w solid state 100w HF radio, similar to Icoms IC-730 and goes for about $300ish.
- * Yaesu FT-890 - older Yaesu, but still all solid state and about the same age as the IC-730 and can be found cheap used as well for $400-500.
- * Yaesu FT-857/FT-897 (plentiful so you can often find a decent deal on them used for ~$500 if you are patient). I have two of these(2 857's) that I use for AMSAT and for SSB/CW on 2m/70cm. Along with an occasional trip to the park with one. I also owned a FT-897 for a few yeas as well. My experience is that they are "ok", but really very sub-par radios for both HF and VHF/UHF and not very good receivers over all.
- * Yaesu FT-817 - I have one I use for portable/amsat, but I do NOT RECOMMEND a QRP rig for a beginner. Also, the receiver is not that great on this radio because its a compromise design, which will also frustrate beginners. These are good fun 2nd or 3rd radios, not as a first/only radio.
- * Kenwood TS-520/820/530/830 (~$200-400) - older rig with tube finals. I have a TS-530SP in my shack, that I totally cleaned and restored, replaced caps, high voltage caps, and a bunch of resistors, modded it with some added MOVs in the high voltage section to keep the tubes from arching over, replaced the broken plastic tuning shaft couplers, etc... and it is by far my favorite radio to do SSB on. It sounds simply wonderful on receive and transmit. Those TS-x20/x30 Kenwood twins series radios are just excellent radios and a joy to use. However, you will have to learn how to use a tube radio because they can't just be moved to a different frequency and transmit. You have to adjust the tube finals load/drive/plate controls just about every time you change frequency. They are very nice radios for a good price if you find one that is in good shape, but they are a little more work for beginners to use.
Some other general advice I suggest:
* Avoid QRP radios as beginners. Get a regular 100W radio as your first radio. QRP is great, fun and I do it myself occasionally, but I think its too limiting for beginners and can lead to needless frustration as a new ham.
* Generally avoid ALL-BAND rigs as your main radio. Don't look at all-band/all-mode radios that have HF+VHF/UHF and think "that one radio solves everything". In my opinion you are MUCH MUCH better off getting a dedicated HF radio, and taking the extra savings and buying another dedicated VHF/UHF mobile for the shack to sit next to it, in fact you can often by two radios for less than the cost of one of the all-band rigs because you are paying a premium for the convenience. Dedicated HF radios are much better than all-band radios because the receivers in the all-band radios do suffer quite a bit to make them work on VHF/UHF as well, they are compromises, and what you are getting is a worse HF and a worse VHF radio smashed together compared to two dedicated ones.
* Built-in tuners frankly suck on pretty much every radio they are in because they almost universally can only tune a max of 3:1 which is only useful for small tweaks to an antenna resonance, and will not be anywhere even close to being enough range for example to pretty much any band on a multi-band antenna like a G5RV, OCF Dipole, etc.. save your money on the internal one, and get a LDG external tuner instead. It will be 100x better, and the LDGs are often cheaper than the internal option on the radio.