Do low wattage tube amps sound like high watt ones at their respective volumes?
not really, though you will get a better sound at bedroom volumes out of a lower wattage amp.
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You can get low wattage amp with a built in attenuator
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i guess a good rule of thumb would be that, if you can get, say, a 20 watt amp cranked but not a 100 watt amp cranked, then the 20 watt amp will likely sound better (depending on what you play, and the specific amp of course), but if you can't crank either (or alternatively, can), then they probably won't sound the same, for various reasons.
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You can get low wattage amp with a built in attenuator

what amps have that?
i play mostly thrash/metal and budget is 500 CAN maybe more
For thrash metal, you don't want to crank a low wattage tube amp because you don't want power tube saturation that you get from higher volumes, so the higher wattage = more headroom. If you can go used, try and find a used peavey xxx super 40, does metal very well.
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