@rb26dett s13 - good you're doing your research - yes prices can be tricky and sellers no all the right tactics.
I researched and hunted this car down for over a yr! good thing I was in no hurry to buy!
what I found:
1995 - 1999 - 740il - Low $4,000 - High $7,000 +
1999 - 2001 - 740il - Low $7,000 - High $13,000 + (totally agree)
(dont forget to keep aside almost half the price of the car to pay for any surprising repairs that may pop-up!)
my advice to you - take your time, get the car checked. Drive her, see that all the gadgets are working and then make ur decision.
Also - the newer the year the less stuff that maybe wrong with it. I wanted to buy a 2000 or so but my budget didnt permit. I ended up buying a really sweet e38 - 98 740i - just what I wanted and in very good shape. bought it in 1st week July and trouble free till now - touch wood
Best of luck - I'm really not that experienced to be giving advice - just thought id share my e38 buying experience with you.