Banjos, like most things we buy come in all price ranges. What I will address here is what you need to concern yourself while learning the instrument while on a tight budget.
It is important to address the instrument you choose and your choice should meet the following basic minimum criteria. Here are the questions that need to be answered. Heeding this advice will save you much frustration and grief.
1. Can it be tuned
An instruments intonation will be affected by the spacing of the frets and the scale and the placement of the bridge. Assuming the bridge is in the right spot the instrument should be in tune all the way up the neck. If not you will never be able to play in tune and your notes will sound sour. Have this checked at your point of purchase.
2. Will it stay in tune
After the initial stretching of the strings (you may have to tune it a few time till the strings stretch) your banjo should be able to hold its tune. This will be determined by the tuning keys. Typically, on inexpensive banjos the instrument will have geared “guitar style” tuning keys which are less expensive than the planetary keys that stick straight off the back of the headstock. These are totally acceptable and most will do the job as long as they are geared. You should look carefully at the 5 string peg because some inexpensive models use friction pegs which, as the name applies, use friction. You want a geared 5th peg.
3. Is the Banjo Playable
Does the banjo have an adjustable truss rod in the neck and at least one tension rod in the rim?. As long as you have these two options the banjo should be able to be adjusted to be easily playable.
4. What can I expect to pay for these features
A brand new Morgan Monroe RT-B01 5 string banjo (pictured below) can be had for about $159.00 and you can find a used one even cheaper. This banjo covers all the important basics that you need. It is made affordable by the utilizing construction of a composite rim (plastic). Don’t worry this is an unimportant feature as you are learning to play and the banjo sounds quite nice.
5. How much are lessons
Prices can vary from place to place but an average of $25.00 -$30.00per half hour is normal. However don’t let a lack of funds stop you as there are hundreds of free banjo lessons available via YouTube.
Good luck, any worthwhile skill takes time and practice.