Quite true. Buy used at first. Any cymbal with a very bronze color to it will eventually make you hate it (since the bronze content is much higher), buy a decent set of hats first, then a decent crash, and finally a ride.
To an extent this is quite true, however, if you buy a set that costs less than $200 new, the heads won’t fit right and the drums will almost fall apart.
Yard sales and classifieds are a great resource. I got a 5 piece with hats and accesories for $500 and it turns out that the shells were actually quite valuable. Pawn shops will generally rip you off, unless they undervalue what they’re selling, which seldom happens. Find a local musician’s trade web site if there’s one available.
I used to manage the drum dept of a large music retailer, we bought drums for less than their worth, and sold them for much more than they were worth, cut out the middle man.
Bottom line is, the only way you can get a decent set of drums cheap, is if the guy’s wife forces him to sell the kit for peanuts, or the guy needs to feed a drug habit. Then there’s luck.
As far as new kits go, I’d reccomend a Pearl forum kit which should run about $350 with skimpy hardware. With good heads they can sound OK and might last a few years.
Used kits vary as much as used cars do. I’ve appraised many a drum kit, and I’d be happy to do the same for you. E-mail me at my screen name at gmail dot com, and I’d be happy to give you my professional opinion.