I've done a few car searches recently, talked to my mechanic at length, and he says about the same thing. If you need something you can take out of town without worry, you might increase your minimum a few thousand and try to get something with a little lower mileage.
If you don't mind spending a little more, you can try CarMax. Some people just aren't cut out for negotiating with "strangers". People I know have had good experience with CarMax.