I'll give you the same advice I give people on the quilting lists I belong to:
Go visit a sewing machine repair shop (often paired with vacuum-cleaner repair shops, at least in the United States) and talk to the repair technician(s). Often, there will be reconditioned sewing machines available for sale right there.
Ask to test-run a couple. Ask for recommendations, if nothing in the shop is exciting to you. I know quilters who like everything from Janome (moderate price) to Bernina (quite expen$ive).
What you're looking for is an *early* computerized model or a *late* mechanical one, preferably from the early to mid-'90s. A few decorative stitches, a few different presser feet (definitely a zipper foot, a zigzag foot, a straight-stitch foot, and a buttonhole attachment), needle up/down (although this may not be available on mechanical machines), bobbin winding that you can understand, threading that you can understand, and smooth-sounding action. You'll also want a free-arm mechanism; this makes it possible to sew on knee patches or elbow patches or other small-diameter objects without torquing the material (and your fingers) into odd configurations. Ask how to acquire a copy of the instruction manual--LOTS of them are available online these days. Make sure, since you're a beginner, that the manual for the one you want is available online before you purchase the machine.
You can add better light and better needles after purchase; don't worry so much about those. If you like, you can also purchase an "extension table" post-purchase, too.
Hope you find the right machine without too much frustration!