This question is not as easy to answer as it was a year ago: circumstances have taken a bizarre turn since then. Until recently, there was slow but steady drop in second-hand prices for the "top" VCRs year after year, as the number of people needing to transfer their tapes dwindled. However, I notice over the last few months that "top" VCR prices are skyrocketing back up to absurd levels not seen since 2005. I'm at a loss as to why this is happening: all the obsessive hobbyists have long since either finished their transfer projects and put their VCRs back on the market, or still hold onto their VCRs and don't need another. Who the hell is out there now offering $300-500 for a fifteen year old beat-up JVC? Its insane.
Given current prices, I'd suggest you try an "ordinary" VCR first and see what you think of the dubs. Sometimes these give results preferable to the "top" vcrs: don't be overly-swayed by forum regulars who insist "no other vcr in the world will do except a circa 1993 JVC svhs with TBC/DNR." It ain't necessarily so: the "cleanup" performed by the TBC/DNR is a trade-off, where the color is improved but sharpness and realistic detail goes out the window. This varies tape to tape, and can be especially annoying with sports because of motion anomalies caused by over-processing the video. The TBC/DNR "cleanup" also tends to make your relatives in home videos look like the freakish CGI-animated characters in "Polar Express." In other words, "video noise" in tapes was not a big deal until we forum types made it a big deal to the exclusion of all other factors. Sometimes, "noisy-but-natural" beats "ultra-clean-but-plastic-looking," and only you can decide that based on your own tapes.
Unless you actually have SVHS tapes in your collection, don't even waste your time with "mid-range" SVHS models that do not have the TBC/DNR feature: those models are exactly the same as their non-SVHS sisters except for their ability to play/record SVHS tapes. The SVHS feature in and of itself offers no advantage whatever for playing regular VHS. Check local thrift shops, Craigs List or eBay for an ordinary Sharp 4-head hifi vcr, they have a great picture and good tracking ability. They cost no more than $25. Mid to late 1990s Panasonics and Mitsubishis are also decent, although the Sharps have a better picture. (JVCs can be a freaky crapshoot: many of them were unreliable and used ones tend to eat tapes. The only reason to risk gambling on a used JVC is to get the TBC/DNR feature, which they more-or-less perfected.)
If, after playing with an "ordinary" VCR for awhile, you decide you really do need the TBC/DNR cleanup features, your choices narrow and become more difficult. Prices for most popular second-hand TBC/DNR vcrs are simply outrageous at the moment: I wouldn't pay $300 for an old JVC svhs if you put a gun to my head. There is too much risk of the machine being abused or tanking shortly after purchase. In the last month alone, I have had five AVS members contact me with tales of JVC repair woe, most often involving a $250 fee to replace the hare-brained "dynamic drum" video heads. Many members here have no problems with their old JVCs, but you need to keep your own budget in perspective: a goodly number of them ARE fragile after all these years, risky to ship, and they WILL cost a kings ransom to repair (if you can even find a competent JVC-specialist tech).
Instead of the relentlessly hyped "classic" JVC svhs models, at current ridiculous $300 prices you should consider the much newer "DVHS" models instead. They are far more reliable, JVC made major changes under the hood, and they have similar TBC/DNR cleanup features for VHS and SVHS playback. You can pick up a JVC HM-DH40000 or SR-VD400 DVHS for not much more (or even less) than people are asking for an ancient 9500 svhs. The Mitsubishi HS-HD2000U is also stellar, using a better tape mechanism but the same TBC/DNR as JVC. (If you shop carefully, you can sometimes find the very last of the good JVC svhs decks a little cheaper. These are lesser-known "industrial" models, like SR-V10 and SR-V101. I feel the 10 is nicer, but the 101 is newer.)
Oddly enough, the cheapest second-hand vcr with TBC/DNR available today used to be the most expensive. The Panasonic AG1980 is easily found in decent condition for about $150. There seems to be a glut of these second hand at present, so its a buyer's market (perhaps because functional JVCs are getting scarcer and more expensive as they get beat on and resold). The AG1980 was a staple of the pro wedding video industry for many years, tons of them were sold. Since 99% of them were heavily used by pros, you aren't going to find one that looks "mint." But they were designed for easy servicing, with tough modular components. Almost any random tech can repair an AG1980, where with JVC you really don't want anyone but a JVC specialist to touch it.
Panasonic took a different approach to TBC/DNR: it is comparable but not the same as the JVC/Mitsubishi circuit. Depending on the individual tape, one or the other will be a better choice. Lots of AVS members own both, to cope with large varied tape collections. The Panasonic is not as good as JVC/Mitsu at cleaning noise form dark or night scenes (an ordinary VCR will often play those better). However, in brighter scenes the AG1980 has a more realistic presentation than JVC/Mitsu, and the Panasonic is more forgiving of tracking issues, especially with EP and HiFi audio. Be careful to look at ONLY the 1980 when shopping Panasonics: the earlier 1970 and 1960 models are prehistoric and do not have the same high-performance TBC/DNR.