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I want to purchase a few expired domains, who have some backlinks, but some of those sites have PR of -1 with backlinks which are pretty bad.

But what exactly do I need to look for when looking for an expired domain (and I don't want to pay up the nose for a PR3+ domain).

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Doing this may not have the effect on PageRank that you're looking for. Also, if the domains you're considering were penalized for violating the terms of service of the search engines, you may find it difficult to get them indexed and ranking well. What makes it difficult to purchase expired domains is you usually cannot find out much about how it was previously used.

Probably your best bet is to buy the domains that you know have traffic and do 301 redirects to your main domain. That way you can still get the traffic but your content does not reside on the domain and shouldn't be affected by any penalties associated with it. It's hard to say for sure as I have not seen any concrete information about how Google and the other search engines handle this.

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