Y'all are forgetting we on the West Coast over here. Take whatever you'd spend on a bike and add a hundred or two and that's us.
AP, the maxi is a better starter bike. Plain and simple. Try and talk the guy down as much as you can and go for that one, or wait and find another maxi.
For example, This rigid tail maxi might be a good option if you can get the guy closer to 500.