Most people choose a weapon to fence based on a coach's recommendation, or personal preference. Other fence whatever weapon is being taught in the area. I ended up fencing epee because of a deal on eBay.
I started fencing foil at Minnesota Sword Club about 4-5 years ago. I was ok, but I was progressing nicely. My coach suggested I look at epee, but I was gung ho on getting foil down first. One of the problems with foil, and fencing in general, is that the blades are very expensive and there is no absolute guarantee it will last more than a single tournament. Spending money on a cheap Blue Gauntlet electric foil taught me that hard lesson. I shelled out $100 for a Santelli foil which came highly recommended, but I really couldn't afford to make many more purchases like that without some guarantee the thing would last. After asking for advice, I figured I could find some decent stuff on eBay - thinking that it may not be the highest quality, but at least it would be a better deal.
That's when I came across a beautiful Uhlmann foil. It had a rainbow coloured FIE blade, red pistol grip, and Leon Paul bayonet socket. Bidding at $45, with few takers. As an experienced eBay-er, I knew that jumping on this deal would be suicide - it would be best to wait it out till the final minutes (or seconds) before bidding. Luckily, the auction would end on a Wednesday night, so I could just stay at work to watch it.
And then I saw it - another Uhlmann FIE weapon, top of the line. Only this weapon was an epee. The current bid was for $50, but this particular weapon retails at nearly $200 - and the seller claimed the weapon was brand new. What's the worst that could happen? If it was a fake, I would just report her to eBay. So I bid on that one too - and won them both. The next week I saw an STM FIE epee, and was able to bring it home for under $100. Did I mention all three weapons came with body cords?
So having originally gone in search of cheap foils - I ended up with a quality FIE foil, and two FIE epees w/body cords at an insane price. Now that I was completely outfitted for competing in epee - I figured I may as well give it a shot.
One last note - all three weapons still function, and are in working order. Best fencing purchase I ever made. Too bad there aren't more deals like this.