Advice on semi-auto turntables?

You guys have convinced me to replace my 25 year old turntable, assuming I can hear a difference. I really would like a semi-auto that returns the tonearm, unless there are some serious drawbacks with this feature. Or if this feature is going to limit me to non-quality TT's. The only current manufacturers I have found that produce semi-autos are Thorens and Dual. I am looking at a Thorens TD 295 MkIII. Dual makes a CS 505-4, but my gut feel is that the Thorens would be the better of the two. They are in the $900-$1000 range. Anyone heard either of these or have any opinions that would help me out? Thanks in advance.
You will have far more options if you go with a fully manual table/arm and you won't be limited by the technology of the semi automatic arms. A fully manual table/arm is not all that much more work to handle. You just cue it up and be around when the records over. At the 1000 level your can get some fairly good table/arm combos.
Keep your eye out for an Audio Technica Safety Raiser AT-6006. They work perfectly with any pivot arm. I've found two in the last few years and wish that they were back in production. This device lifts your tonearm at the end of play. There are other similar devices and maybe someone will tell of their experinces with these and list the model numbers so that you can try and find one. This way you can have a superior table with an add on feature to take care of your needs.
I agree with Newbee and Lugnut. Very few of the better arms have an end-of-side lift mechanism. None that I know of have an arm return mechanism. Adding unnecessary mechanical bits to an arm is just asking for sonic problems.

Aftermarket arm lifts like the one mentioned by Lugnut are also available new from They should have little or no impact on the sound during play, because they're only in contact with the arm after it reaches the runout groove.

For your budget I believe you will find better quality TT/arm choices if you can forgo the auto/semi-auto features.
There is a lifter out there called the "Levitator" that works just as good or better than the Safety Raiser, and is currently in production so the availability is there. No waiting on EBay to out bid 40 people on an over priced Safety Raiser. There is a couple Youtube video's on how they work, and setting them up. Mine is wonderful, and you will have to pry it out of my cold dead hands. The Levitator people also offer a money back guarantee so I never felt like I was risking anything. See for your self at their Youtube vids. Made in USA baby!
I wouldnt shy away from a good semiauto tt Technics made some with adjustable vta (1700 mk 2 and others) so did others. I have one and a Cosmos iv with sme v to compare it to. I have no problem listening to the technics.
A Yamaha YP-701 (circa 1976) is a great semi-automatic belt drive. A restored example sold here a few months ago for around $400 if I'm not mistaken.

And its' tonearm smokes the Technics.

I love semi-automatic turntables. Actually I like quarter-automatic turntables, that is, the kind automatically lifts the arm at the end of record and stops platter rotation. Here are some recommendations, all under 400 and all direct drive:

Kenwood KD-770D
Denon DP-60L or any L series such as 59L, 62L, etc...
Yamaha YP-D71

Sonically the Kenwood is my favorite.

Good luck!