I understand where you're coming from as I was in the same position a few years ago when I wanted to buy my first ever 1911. Not being sure whether I'd like the 1911 or not, I decided to get one of the newer entry level guns. I figured if I ended up not liking the 1911, I could get rid of it w/o having much $$ in it. I first bought an American Classic Commander model. I later bought a Citadel Concealed (Officer's) model.
RIA has a good reputation for making solid 1911's. Everything said for RIA can also be said for Citadel as both RIA and Citadel are made by in The Philippines by the same company, Armscor. My Citadel's been very reliable. It came w/ a number of "custom" features not found on the GI spec model, most importantly, high profile sights. I bought the Citadel instead of the comparable RIA model because at the time, the RIA model didn't have such features. I think RIA now has a "Tactical" model w/ these features.
No one's mentioned them yet, but I'd also consider the American Classic series of 1911 45's. Like the Armscor guns, American Classic guns are made in The Philippines, albeit by Metro Arms. My A/C "Commander" has been both accurate and reliable and has a nice trigger. I really like it's deep blue finish much better than the Parkerized finish on Citadel/RIA.
There's a third maker of 1911's in The Philippines, SAM. SAM makes the ATI series of guns. From reading the 'net, it doesn't seem as if ATI has quite as good a reputation Armscor and Metro Arms.
W/ any of the guns made by Metro Arms, Armscor or ATI, you should easily come under budget, leaving you money for ammo and such. I suspect you'll have a hard time getting a used 1911 from a higher level maker and still stay under budget. Not everyone's experience has been favorable, but I've been very pleased w/ my entry level 45's so that I cc them regularly. Based on my experience, I can recommend you consider a 1911 made by either Armscor or Metro Arms.
Here are some 1911 forums that have subforums dedicated to a number of 1911 makers, including Armscor and Metro Arms. LINK