We develop general theory for finding locally optimal designs in a class of single-covariate models under any differentiable optimality criterion. Yang and Stufken [Ann. Statist. 40 (2012) 1665–1681] and Dette and Schorning [Ann. Statist. 41 (2013) 1260–1267] gave complete class results for optimal designs under such models. Based on their results, saturated optimal designs exist; however, how to find such designs has not been addressed. We develop tools to find saturated optimal designs, and also prove their uniqueness under mild conditions.