Tube gear is often quite cheap because nowadays everyone wants fancy electronic gear. About 12 years ago I picked up a 70s-vintage Kenwood TS-820S hybrid rig (tube finals, the rest as solid state) for about $150, when a comparable electronic rig would have been about $1k. I abused the crap out of that rig and it took it quite well. I finally need to have it serviced one of these days, the output power was starting to tail off (probably a tube finally giving up its magic blue smoke).
Tube gear has a bit more of a learning curve than solid-state gear (eg tuning up before operating) but it's very durable and easily serviceable. Generally the most you will do is blow a tube whereas with a transistor-based radio you definitely will smoke the semiconductors and the radio will be a write-off. Unfortunately tubes are getting rare/expensive, but it's still better to track down a couple of $25 tubes than to replace the whole rig.
Tube rigs are particularly common in high-power gear (again, especially if you are trying to keep costs down). Solid-state amps in the 1KW range only became feasible relatively recently and are still much more expensive than a tube-based boatanchor. They especially dominate AM/FM broadcast equipment, which can range from tens of KW up to megawatts of power. You just can't push that much power through transistors very easily.