I did a shoot-out in a friend's system who had a Music Hall MMF 2.1 or 2.2 versus my Rega P3-24 TTPSU + Elys 2. I don't know what cartridge was on the Music Hall, but it wasn't at the price level of the Elys 2. My Rega was stock at the time, other than a cork platter mat replacing the felt.
My friend's system is not as resolving or "high-end" as mine, but after listening to the Music Hall for an hour or more, we switched to the Rega. Now, we had been enjoying the Music Hall all this time, with no major criticisms, yet the Rega was immediately, obviously better in pretty much every way. This is not to say Rega is better than Music Hall, but that my 'table, which cost about 3 times as much, was much better than an entry-level audiophile 'table, fine as that 'table was when judged on its own terms.
So, yes, the pricier 'tables generally are better. Especially in the current market, with a full-fledged vinyl revival going on, the price points have become fiercely competitive, and you get a lot more for your money at each price point than you did maybe five years ago. Look how many times Rega has upgraded its tonearm in the past few years, or how many updates we've seen to the Pro-Ject cc arms in a similar amount of time?
So, my general advice would be to buy the best 'table you can afford at the time, but it should not be a financial burden. A small sacrifice? Perhaps. A burden? No.
If you are going to Needle Doctor and get to hear the 'tables firsthand, let your ears be your guide. I don't have enough experience with the lower-end Regas, Pro-Jects or Music Halls to offer much help. I'm sure the sales people there will be familiar with the various models within your price range, and can better talk about the pros and cons of each model.
There are some big upgrades you can do with the Regas, but the upgrades get pricey. I wouldn't buy a Rega solely on the basis of mod-ability, however. If you like another 'table better, I'd go with it. Because you can always get a better cartridge, and better set-up gear, for that other 'table. We Rega modders tend to upgrade cartridges last, when it's maybe one of the better upgrades you can do. You will probably know when you hear one that pushes all your buttons.
Pro-Ject RPM 10.1, Ortofon 2M Black & Bronze; Rega P25-24V+TTPSU, Michell Technoarm, Isokinetic Sub 2, GT Acrylic Platter; Musical Fidelity kW Phono, A308cr Pre-, Power & CD; AQ Colorado; Cardas Golden Presence ICs, ; Golden Ref Speaker, Golden PCs; JMlab Electra 915; M&K 700 MX