First gun - go for an M4 AEG. It's simply the most universal platform and therefore lots of people can help you out for troubleshooting, maintenance, or upgrades.
As Bio said, any AEG will break (eventually). The reason why we recommend VFC is because more often than not, when that happens, people take the time to upgrade instead of just do a straightforward part replacement. Therefore you might as well invest in a good quality external shell that also has high quality internals.
VFC's should last quite a while stock if you don't abuse them. They are also at the top of the list for your criteria of "something equivalent to a VFC and still get good accuracy, distance, consistency and reliability". Stock, they're pretty good. Upgraded, they are beasts that look really nice.
MP5's are pretty common but... a Cyma MP5 vs a VFC M4? No contest, VFC hands down. VFC also makes awesome MP5's but are really hard to find. Honestly, the only brands that should be ranked together with VFC are KWA and G&P (maybe G&G Toptechs). I explained the differences in the thread I linked. Still, for a starter, an M4 should be your first gun, and if you can get a good quality gun like a VFC, why not? The investment is well worth it in my opinion.
Custom VFC M4 - KJW KC02 - KJW Mk1 - TM P226 - KJW M9