I've been playing metal on an electric guitar for a few years now, and finally want to start learning some classical/flamenco on a nylon-stringed guitar.

1. Could I get a decent classical guitar for around $200? If so, which guitar will have the best value? I hear that if your guitar is not solid top it generally doesn't sound so good?

2. When I am trying out guitars on Monday at a local Guitar Center, what should I look for in each one I try (besides of course liking the feel and sound)? And specific things to look or watch out for?

3. If I don't buy a case, will I regret it? Is keeping it on a stand or simply taking care of it enough to keep it in good condition?

1. In general the more you spend the better you get. Acoustic instruments don't hide their flaws well, so if you get an awful instrument you can hear it's awful. If you're serious save up a bit more and get better. My classical was around £400 ($200) and i'm thinking about upgrading, it's not a wonderful guitar.

2. I'm no expert, someone may be better to help you out on that one.

3. Depends where you're taking it. My classical doesn't go anywhere with me so i have no need for a case.

I'd like to add aswell, buy a footstool. Great investment.
Well, make sure that the wood is all solid. If you buy a laminate top I'll hunt you down and tickle you with nettles.

Don't be fooled by guitars labelled "flamenco". At 200$ you won't be finding flamenco guitars.

hmmm what else.

You might want to check out the following brands. Yamaha, Alhambra and Admira make solid guitars in your price range, especially the Yamahas. You might want to look at the C-40, it's quite a nice guitar to start classical guitar on.

Check the guitar out when you buy it. Check all the frets for buzzes, check the body for dings and dangs, make sure you like the way it feels rather than just the price tag and the name. The more guarantees you can get that you're getting what you're paying for the better.

Good luck man.

EDIT: You don't need to get a hard case, but maybe a guitar stand(quite cheap I think around 15 20 bucks) and a gig-bag typethingy (also quite cheap, if you're lucky the store might throw it in for free) you should be fine.
Thanks for the advice guys.

Confusius, isn't the Yamaha C-40 a non-solid spruce top? Weren't you just saying to get a solid top?

~~~~~Another thing to take into consideration...I live in Utah where temperature changes and humidity can be quite a frequent thing. Added to that, I sometimes like playing my guitar outside, so would a solid top get damaged? I hear they're more susceptible to damage.
hmmm, I was pretty sure the C-40 was a solid top. Weird. I'll check it out later.

As for weather problems, well I live in one of the most humid regions in Spain, up in some God-forsaken mountains and my guitar hasn't suffered too much so yours should be fine. You can always get a planet-wave de-humidifier people are always raving about on here. I'm sure there is a thread about them somewhere so you can try and dig it up.

The C-40 does not have a solid top no, which makes sense from its 100 euro price.
It still is a decent guitar to start out on though, with a better sound than other guitars in that price class. Just don't expect the guitar to last you 10 years or anything. If you really like classical you can always find a nice guitar to suit your style (flamenco or not) for 400-500 or so.
Rodriguez and Ibanez makes quality classical guitars in that price range.

I have a similar music background.

For learning classical guitar, practice finger picking, scales, pick up some Segovia Studies.

And i know it sounds lame, but properly shape your fingernails. In classical guitar, TONE PRODUCTION IS EVERYTHING!!!

hope it helps
The C-40 does sound good, which is probably mislead me to thinking it had a solid top. A good guitar's a good guitar.

In the 400 range I think there is the Alhambra 5P, which may not be the greatest guitar but the ones I've played seem fairly nice.
Well, I would like to eventually spend around $500 for a nice classical guitar, but I simply don't have the money right now but really want to begin practicing.

What do you guys think of me spending $100 on this: http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/Lucero-LC100BK-NylonString-Classical-Guitar?sku=518978&src=3SOSWXXA and then spending $500 later on a nicer one once I get the money later this year perhaps. I just figured why spend $200 for one now when I'm going to spend $500 later on a nicer one so I might as well just spend as little as I can.