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Welcome !
What is the best year is difficult to answer as they have been mostly reliable over the years except for maybe a few minor issues here and there. Looks like you are no stranger to Hondas so you know that with regular maintenance these could last forever.
If you prefer the boxy SUV design then stick to a gen 1 (97-01) or gen 2 (02-06). Gen2's had A/C failures which is something to keep an eye on and I think it was fixed by 06.
Gen3 (07-11) saw more HP and better car like handling but lost the boxy design and ground clearance.
With your budget it might be easy to find a gen2 or early model gen3.
 
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