And most people are a bit reluctant to suggest one scanner over another. It's kind of the Pepsi or Coke, Ford or Chevy type of argument. Most people will fall into one of two camps. The Uniden crowd and the GRE/Radio Shack crowd.
The best thing to do is to ask people in your area what they are using and how it performs. As a GENERAL BROAD STATEMENT (meaning this is no way an endorsement of one product or the other, a complete list, nor a recommendation of which to buy) you are looking at basically four main products. The GRE PSR 500 handheld (or PSR 600 for the mobile) and the Uniden BCD396XT handheld (or the BCD996XT mobile). These tend to be a little less user friendly but offer more options than the ones I am about to list. Radio Shack sells their own rebranded versions of the aforementioned GRE products.
The more user friendly, but at the cost of overall options for the most part, would be the GRE PSR 800 (or the PSR 900 mobile version) and the "tweener" that is not really a mobile or a handheld but will function as both Uniden Home Patrol 1. These units from both manufacturers tend to be a little more plug and play. And as with my previous statement, Radio Shack sells their own rebranded versions of the aforementioned GRE products.
All of these are great scanners and I suggest that you research each model and it's particular features, strong points and weaknesses to determine your individual needs. Keep in mind that there is a lot of bias in the scanner world toward one manufacturer or the other (which I never really understood to be honest, but I'll leave that for another day) and sort through the hyperbole and get down to a few things:
1. I'd suggest narrowing down what you want to monitor. It seems you have a good grasp of that already.
2. Determine what are the features you "need" and the features you "want". There is a difference.
3. Figure out what fits your budgetary requirements. What can you afford?
4. Read the forums here of the manufacturers you are interested in.
5. Speak to people in your area (here on the forums and in person if you can), to find out what they have, what they like about it, and what they dislike about it.
6. Read reviews of products from other places around the web to see what others are saying about the particular models you are interested in. Keep in mind though that someone that is not pleased with a product is much more likely to post about it than someone that is thrilled with a product. Realizing this up front will save you from the feeling that ALL of the scanners on the market suck... they don't.
Basically to sum up, I'm just advising you to be an informed consumer. The same thing could be applied to almost any product out there though. Hope this at least gives you a starting point.