I bouht a Giant Yukon this past spring for just over 500. I don’t have any complaints so far. Will slowly up grade and add some stuff. Bought clipless pedals. I found it amazing what can be bought for this price range. Front suspension, disc brakes. These were all new to me.
My brother is in the same predicament and just bought an Iron Horse Warrior 5.0 (hardtail) this week for $500.00. I rode with him this morning and I have to say for the money it is pretty nice. It has Rock Shox Tora fork avid juicy 3 brakes, crank brother smarty clipless pedals and SRAM/FSA drive train. I have to say the tires were pretty good too (WTB Weirwolf). He bought it from an online bike store (can’t remember which one) but I just looked online and I found prices ranging from $499 (Randall Scott Company) to $699 (Nashbar) for the same bike. It cam in 5 business days and came mostly assembled. Shop around
Lets not forget K2 as an option. The K2 Crush can be picked from The Sports Athourity for around $400 witch leaves you $100 to upgrade with. You can also get a 2 year no questions asked full parts replacement warranty an extra $50. I ride one (check out my bikes in my profile) and I love it 😎
I hate to say it but you should check out local pawn shops some people fall on hard times and hock some amazing rides. my friend found a Cannondale Scalpel for 475 the other day that was cosmetically beaten up but still a killer bike for under 500 bones.