Well, if you're looking for something different ... (but you'll have to wait for a 25-30% off sale, which samash.com has on occassion.)http://www.samash.com/p/Breedlove_BJ350SM4%204%20String%20Acoustic%20Electric%20Bass_-49953144
I'm not a bass player, but I wanted something to screw around on and ... well it's a long story but I managed to get a Dean Acoustic/Electric for only $135 a couple years ago (GC price was $150 at the time.) I expected it to sound rather bad and be hard to play but actually I'm surprised how easy it is and what good sound it has. I've done a little bit of comparison at Guitar Center stores with lower end Acoustic/Electrics and it seemed to me that I had to get up in the $700+ range to get a better sound than I was getting from my cheap plywood top guitar. http://www.samash.com/p/Dean_Playmate%20AE%204%20String%20Acoustic%20Electric%20Bass%20Natural_-49970091
Edit: It looks like MF still has the $150 price ... but will charge sales tax to ship to most states.http://www.musiciansfriend.com/bass/dean-eab-acoustic-electric-bass
I could be wrong, but I have a suspicion that the long throw and heavy weight of the strings means that there is less discernable difference in the lower priced basses ... I think basic bass guitar design is probably more forgiving than standard guitar design is. It seems that the big strings have no problem making the plywood top vibrate effectively. I would expect this to be even more true of the solid body electrics. So unless you're spending for better electronics or prettier work, it's probably a matter of finding the action style you like and whether the look appeals to you.
All that said, I make zero claims to any expert knowledge on bass guitars.
BTW ..... Are you aware that some of the online sellers also have phone sales people and that sometimes you can get extra discounts from them just by asking for it? If you know a sales holiday is coming up, ask them what discount they'll be giving (like a Christmas discount or a Labor Day sale, etc) then ask if they can give you the discount NOW rather than waiting. If they think it's the only way they'll get to sell it to you they might go as far as 30% and 10-12% should be easy to get.
I think I've done it with Guitar Center/Musician's Friend (actually the same company shipping from the same warehouse ... Music 1 2 3 and several others are also really all Musician's Friend sites and all ship from the same warehouse in Kansas.) I've also talked to phone sales people at Woodwind Brasswind and know that you can get discounts from them as well, but can't remember if I actually bought that way ... (WB is also owned by the same parent company as Guitar Center/Musician's Friend, but has its own warehouse and sales people .... they were big in high school band sales long before GC bought them. I've stopped at their physical store in South Bend, IN 6-7 times)
I pointedly asked a phone sales guy at Sam Ash and he said he had to get manager approval but could usually give me a 10-12% discount on most items even if no official sale event was going on at the time. He was a musician himself and had a fairly wide scope of knowledge ... we talked about amps and electronic drums and DAW software and he seemed totally familiar with everything I asked about, and he said if he didn't know the answer one of the other sales guys would. He was able to give me ideas and suggestions about things I hadn't even thought about before.
No guarantee he's still there as it was quite awhile ago, (I talked to him three times over a period of about a year i think) but his name was Steve and the number is 800-472-6274 and they ship out of New Jersey so no sales tax to most of the US and free shipping on most items.
There's also zZounds.com
with good prices and good selection, but I've never used them so don't know about their customer service. EDIT:
I just looked and they have a VERY GENEROUS return policy!!! Damn ... buy the guitar with free shipping, try it for 30 days and if you don't lke it for any reason you only pay the return shipping cost .... they refund your purchase price! WOW!
If you are buying very high end stuff there is also Sweet Water
... I've been to their physical location once in Fort Wayne, IN but don't like them so much. I think they're aiming at "snob appeal" people. But if you need a $100,000.00 mixer they've got it.
After saying all of that, I really think if you're spending alot of money on a guitar it is really preferable to try it out before buying it.