The 7.62 round is food for a long and reputable pedigree of robust and dependable rifles. One of the first to fire the round, in fact, is still in wide use today. The SKS is a great rifle, and although its military service was cut short with the development of the AK-47, they can still be found in large numbers, especially in the US civilian market.
When shopping for an SKS, there’s not much to it. You should always try to buy one that has its bayonet intact; although you’ll probably never use it, the presence of the original bayonet affects its resale value.
The quality of the wood is also huge, and you should check for large cracks or dings in the wood; because the bolt thrashes violently into the stock, weak would could mean catastrophic damage to the rifle and can also cause injury to the shooter.
Country of origin is probably the biggest factor when determining which SKS to buy. I’d stick to eastern bloc SKS rifles myself – Russian or Yugoslavian. Albanian and Romanian SKS rifles are great if they’re early, circa 1950’s. Norinco rifles are also great if that’s all that you can find, but I wouldn’t buy any others.
SKS rifles have drastically increased in price in the past few years – you’re lucky to find one for less than $400, depending on condition, accessories included and country of origin.