If it's bang for your buck you're looking for, buy a Savage short action rifle in .308 Winchester. An out-of-the-box Savage has some advantages for the budget conscious:
1) Out of box accuracy. This has much to do with Savage's articulating bolt head that allows the bolt face to mate flush with the cartridge when chambered. This will eliminate the need for costly shop work on your action that will need to be done if you buy another brand.
2) Barrel/caliber changes are EASILY DONE AT HOME IN TEN MINUTES! This means that you won't have to pay a gunsmith to install your new 1/8 twist 243 Winchester Lothar Walther barrel. It also means that your rifle can do double service by simply changing calibers. .243 Winchester for target shooting, .308 for hunting on the same action.
3) The Savage adjustable accu-trigger obviates the need for an expensive trigger replacement.
4) Several brands of high-end rifle barrels pre-fit and chambered for Savage. See: http://www.lothar-walther.com/339.php
5) Plenty of aftermarket stocks available that do not require bedding.
As for barrel life, If you use the heaviest bullets that your barrel will stabilize, and the slowest powder that will fill the case to 95-100%, and stay away from the max listed load, and use a throat polishing regimen, you will get over 3000 rounds out of your .243 Winchester barrel.
My .243 Win. load is a 105 AMAX bullet on 45gr. of H-1000 in Lapua brass. Very accurate and easy on the barrel. The rifle is a Stevens 200 (Savage brand without the accu-trigger. I replaced the trigger with a rifle basix comp. trigger) with a Lothar Walther SS 28 inch barrel and and a H-S Precision aluminum bedded stock. Total price for the rifle without scope was $780. Probably a little more now.