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Well things like tires, bartape, saddle, and brakepads are things that wear no matter what so dont pay much attention to those. Also a decent aluminum stem or bars doesnt cost too much and you might prefer a different size anyways. What I would look for is the frame/fork/wheelset. Now this depends on what frame material youre looking for. Carbon is a little more of a risk when buying used because frame damage can be hidden well, even from the origional owner. Just make sure that youre buying the right size and all else can be adjusted.
What will matter is what material / brands are you looking at? theres alot of good buys on ebay or craigslist for your budget. Another thing to keep in mind though is that a great deal of things can be had for cheap.
Neuvation wheels - about $200
Some good tires - about $65
Stem/bars on ebay about $80
Koolstop brakepads $15
Fizik micro bar tape $15
New Chainrings $50
Cassette $50
Thats about $475 for those parts. Which leaves just over $500 for a pretty darn good Cannondale, Trek, Specialized, Scott etc.

Another route is to get an overall more expensive bike used but realize that you'll probably want/need to do some upgrading and refreshing in the coming months.
 
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