I have responded to so many postings asking for a recommendation for a starter incubator I decided to write an article and just link to it in the future. I presently have 8 incubators "in working condition" (several are mothballed because they aren't working well for me). There are 3 makes/models that I can recommend, each with different uses / features. I am going to go in order of increasing cost:
1. GQF Genesis Hovabator with turner - Get the Genesis (digital) version, don't try to save a few bucks on the lesser models, they are underpowered and source of huge frustration. But the Genesis is my "go to" recommendation for the serious small time hatcher. It is easy to use, but can be hard to clean because the styrofoam stains and dents easily. I line the bottom with paper towels under the plastic liner and up the sides. Since I started doing this, cleanup has been much easier. I also put rubberized "shelf liner" (from the dollar store) on top of the wire mesh to aid in cleanup when hatching. I still use this frequently as a hatcher, though I now own 5 cabinet incubators, that is how good I consider this incubator. I'd use it for incubating also, but it has too small a capacity (42) to be worthwhile compared to the big ones, but I can hatch about 70 eggs in a Genesis.
** Best deal on great incubator and hatcher
2. Brinsea ECO 20 with turner - Brinsea owners love their incubators. Easy to clean and better visibility makes these perfect for classroom (or home with kids) use. They just feel much more rugged than any styro incubator. A little more expensive, unless you can find a deal on a used or refurbished one. I consider the quality of hatches to be equivalent between this and the Genesis, but this holds about half the number of eggs. This is my "lending incubator" and has served well in that role. I also sometimes use it to hatch "high value" chicks that I want to be isolated from the main batch.
** Best incubator for kids to hatch in. Better resale value because it clean up nice.
3. Dickey cabinet incubator - I own 2 of these, with dual wafer thermostats, not the digital versions. Solid construction and great results. At least 3 times the price of the other 2 mentioned above, but with a whopping capacity (288 chicken eggs). These win easily on a "price per egg" basis, so if you can use this large a unit, get a Dickey. Cheaper than a comparable (new) GQF, they are more solidly built and come with metal trays that cost extra on the GQF's. Remember the slogan "We're #2, we try harder" ? Service is superb from this company. I also own and use 3 GQF cabinet incubators I bought used. They were great deals and I like them, but whenever I buy new, it is always a Dickey. Very highly recommended.
** Best value for larger capacity requirements
I don't think you can go wrong with any of these incubators. There are other nice models out there, especially in the Brinsea line, but when you price out a higher capacity Brinsea, you are getting very close to the price of a Dickey, and you know you want a cabinet incubator someday anyway, now don't you?