I always buy used cars as well, and I only buy from private original owners. I try to find cars owned by people who took care of them. I ask to see the repair and maintenance records, ask how often they changed the oil etc. Sometimes it takes a couple months to find the right owner selling the right vehicle, but if you are prepared to do the legwork and keep the cash handy, it can be worth it.
As for makes and models, we've always had good luck with Toyotas and Subarus. We've never had a Honda but I'd look at them too. If you don't know what to look and listen for when buying a used car, ask the seller if you can let your mechanic inspect it for you.
We bought an old 4Runner for my daughter seven years ago when she was still in college for $5k when it had 150k miles. That car is still running strong and approaching 240k now with nothing other than routine maintenance. She's driven it from Pikes Peak to Maine to Quebec and several other places in between. The seller was a traveling salesman who put on a lot of highway miles (the easiest kind), drove the car through the car wash at least weekly to keep it presentable, and changed the oil monthly using only Mobil 1 synthetic.