So I am new to bicycling. I rode target bmx and mountain bikes as a kid all of the time and had a great time. Now that I'm a little older, I want to start riding again as my primary means of transportation and want to get a decent bike. Right now I am riding what appears to be Schwinn's lowest-end road bike from the 80's. It's fun, but doesn't really seem to be a practical commuter. I want to get a decent bike in the $350-400 range.
I would probably be riding this bike no more than 8 miles at a time. My usual trip would be about 4-6 miles. On an average week I'd probably ride about 25-30 miles.
My riding would be to school, the grocery store, and recreational rides. I'd like to be able to add a basket or panniers to carry groceries and such.
I do not know what type of bike I should get for my purposes. I really dig the aesthetics of vintage lugged steel frames, but CL doesn't really seem to have much in that price range in my area. There's stuff for 100-200 (only a slight upgrade to the bike I'm riding now), then 600+(out of my budget).
So I'd prefer to get a vintage lugged steel road bike, but I'm thinking for my purposes and budget a newer hybrid commuter style bike might be more practical.
Should I sacrifice aesthetics in the name of practicality? Also considering getting a bikesdirect road bike in my price range, ride it for a couple months and save up a little more money, then buy a vintage frame and put the BD components on it. I don't really know if most of them would be compatible. Maybe I should just wait the few extra months without getting a bike saving up $ so I can get something that is both practical and meets my aesthetic preferences? Any advice?