We bought a dishwasher when we bought this house (5 years ago) since the one that was here was really old and smelled really really bad... I know we didn't get a top of the line because we couldn't afford it. We also didn't get one of the cheapest models. So I'm thinking we got something mid range to maybe high mid range. I don't remember now what we spent on it though.
We got a GE Profile (again this was 5 years ago and now they have so many more features). A few of the things I was looking for was... I wanted it to have touch buttons, not the kind with the turn dial and push buttons. When we got ours we got one that had the buttons on the front because I think at the time all the ones with the hidden buttons were too expensive, plus the doors were too easy to open and I worried about that with the kids. I wanted one with a stainless steel inside. I figured it would last longer and wouldn't end up smelling like the way one with a plastic inside would (plus that shiny inside looks so much nicer...lol). We got a black front to match our other appliances (it was the same price as white) I also wanted one that was fairly quiet. Other than that I don't think there was anything that I really wanted, other than not to spend a small fortune....
The touch buttons have been awesome!! If I hold down the heated dry button for more than 3 seconds it locks the controls.. Doesn't make it so you can't open the dishwasher, but it keeps the kids from turning it on or changing my settings. Which is SUPER important in my house. Anytime we go to someones house my youngest will turn on their dishwasher if it is the kind with the dial, and he pushes all the buttons on the front...LOL. It would drive me nuts if he were able to just turn ours on with the push of a button. So when I turn the lock on I sort of cover all the buttons with my fingers and he hasn't yet figured out which button I push or for how long so it's worked out good :) He also still has not figured out how to get the door open (has the latch that you squeeze like most dishwashers do)
Mine has 5 wash settings (rinse only, china, pots/pans, normal, anti bacterial) but never use any of them other than the normal wash (it gets everything clean and I never rinse stuff off). The only setting I wish I had would be a top rack only setting. There are times when I run the dishwasher and it's not full and having a top rack only setting would be awesome since it wouldn't use as much water. I also like that I can turn off the heated dry on mine (haven't used it in a couple years). Mine also has some sort of heat booster setting, but I feel like it would be a waste of energy since our hot water is hot enough and I've never had a problem with dishes getting clean. It also has a delay timer, which is nice but I sort of get nervous about setting it to run while I'm not home or asleep so I don't use it often.
Ours is really quiet most of the time but sometimes it's really loud. My DH says it's not the machine itself but something to do with the way it was installed though.. I think the drain hose on it rattles and if it were installed better it would be almost unnoticeable when it's running.
A couple other "features" ours has is the top rack has a higher side and a lower side for taller cups and whatnot. It's nice because DHs' coffee travel mugs fit nicely on the lower side. It also has things that fold down that go around the stems of wine glasses so they don't rock around. The bottom rack has a big section where the tines fold down so you can put oddly shaped items in it without it getting stuck or not sitting flat. Maybe most dishwashers come with those things... They are nice little design additions, but not necessity at all :)
Good luck with the dishwasher hunt!
We left behind a dishwasher at our first house that we bought.. It was similar to the one we have now but a Kenmore brand. I loved that thing since it was the first dishwasher we ever had!! We got it at the Sears outlet store (scratch n dent) and it was an awesome dishwasher worth way more than we paid for it. We got it really cheap because the drain hose was kinked (worked fine once it was unbent). So I'd check outlet stores if you have any in your area because you might get a good deal on a dishwasher you thought was above your price range.