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You can get some really good deals buying second hand, but the only issue would be warranty.
Projectors seem to devalue quicker than cars, and many here upgrade before the warranty (often 3 years) has run out, so some really good projectors can be had relatively cheaply.
The only thing is how much will it cost to get repaired if/when it goes wrong?
For £500 you can get a full 1080 DLP pj with warranty, and after that, you have to consider what you get for the money if you want to spend more, or second hand, and then you really need to demo to see if the extra quality or different technology (LCD, DiLA, SXRD), refresh rates, contrast etc are worth the extra you'll be paying, but with a reduced guarantee if used.
I started off looking at an epson 3200, as seem to suffer from Rainbows on the DLPs I have seen. Although now I am looking at older ones with greater contrast, more features etc... Watch me get one and then never use it!!!
How many people suffer with projectors? To me they doesn't seem a lot that should go wrong... Although reading about dust blobs, overheating, colour problems has got me thinking a warranty might be the way to go!
My first projector (800 x 600 resolution) was a second hand one from an old school that closed, was a very good starter projector. I used that projector as a basis to in which direction I wanted to upgrade (Was it a brighter image? more pixels? Better contrast? ect) And I went on from there. No I've currently got an Epson EH TW9100W. To start off with, I would say get a second hand one to begin, and then upgrade when you think It's time. I agree with Gary Lightfoot, you can get very good second hand projectors at a very good price these days.
Second hand hand projectors would be my preference. Good projectors can be bought for £500 new but £500 spent on a second hand projector can sometimes get you a projector that was sold for £1k a year ago with minimal usage.
You have to factor the amount the lamp has been used given that they can be fairly expensive to replace and are likely to wear out after a few thousand hours of viewing. Among others, Epson tend to make good pjs eg and if you can stretch to something like a BenQ W1070, that might be worth considering.
Don't forget to look at throw ratios to make sure you have enough space to get the correct size screen and consider the number of lumens if there is likely to be much ambient light when you watch. Depending on the amount of light, you may want to consider something with 1, 500+lumens. If you can block out light effectively 1, 000 lumens might be enough.
I wouldn't worry about bulb life for your usage, if it's to replace your whole TV viewing too then maybe but I have had my first PJ for 5 years and only used it for 700 or so hours (may get more over the next month for the World Cup though). I would look at the Optoma HD 33/133/25e models as well as the BenQ and Epsons. But once you have a short list go for a demo to decide what your own eyes like.
I would lean towards optoma also, i have seen a few in action and i was surprised to note the fine detail this particular one had that was demo'd, and it left a great taste in my mouth. When i am ready i will definately be starting with optoma.Also too i found the prices to be more realistic than most.