One thing about cheap offsets (COS's) is that they sometimes will turn people off to the idea of smoking because they can be frustrating due to being leaky, inefficient, etc. Some folks do mods on them and then have a pit that they know and love and turn out great food on however.
There are occasional good scores on offsets on Craigslist, but I am not aware of a shop where you can just go and buy a quality offset around here. There is Big Poppa Smokers
in Indio - they do mail order/delivery and may be worth a look - great to deal with and they have all kinds of stuff. I doubt if they have COS's, but if you're gonna be into smoking it's good to know about these guys for sure.
There are other alternatives- WSM, UDS, etc. but if you're dead set on an offset and are willing to deal with the problems that come with a light metal cooker, then by all means go for it - once you can control the heat on a COS, you're a badass mofo in my book and will be able to run a heavy metal cooker just fine. I don't know enough about the differences in quality and capacity between the $175 and the $465 options to be able to give any insight on that.
What I would probably do is build a UDS and start saving and looking for a deal on a used offset, or save a lot (and I do mean a lot - plus shipping!) and look at Klose, Gator, Horizon, Jambo, Lang, Meadowcreek etc.
I just looked on CL and there are a few COS's for sale - they're ugly but they're cheap!
Probably worth mentioning that I much prefer cooking on an offset when I have time to tend the fire.
50" Klose BYC, 22.5 WSM, Backwoods Chubby, UDS, 26" & 22.5" Weber Kettles, Jumbo Joe, WGA, WSJ/MUDS, Jumbo Old Smokey, a piece of expanded metal I throw over the fire pit sometimes, Stealthy Black & Vol Orange
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