Buying a bass guitar for a novice can be tricky... there are a ton of cheap beginner basses out there, but many of them feature cheap hardware, and shoddy workmanship. The trick is to find a bass guitar that is both easy to learn on, yet also easy on the pocketbook. The following basses, all of which hover in the several hundred dollar range, are some of the best valued bass guitars on the market.
Fender's low priced version of the classic Fender Jazz bass. The pickups and electronics are inferior, and there are lots of other reasons why this Squier model isn't of the same caliber as the original, yet for the price tag, this instrument will still provide that Fender Jazz sound, without busting your budget.
Gibson Les Paul guitars, this Epiphone model bass guitar may appeal to you. The Epiphone Les Paul bass features a solid mahogany body with maple neck, and two humbucking pickups. The bass is fairly heavy, and should be able to withstand a good amount of abuse.
Ibanez bass guitar has an individual look and feel. The body is made from Athagis wood, the neck from maple, and the fingerboard from rosewood. The GSR200 features a rather thin neck, which many people might find easier to learn on. As is usually the case with low cost instruments, the electronics aren't top notch, but for the money, the GSR200 is a good bet.