That's a very broad question - The answer is yes and no.
It really depends on what rods you're comparing. There are some inexpensive rods that are right up there in quality with your bigger ticket rods. Sea Striker comes to mind. I honestly don't believe a St Croix is worth $200 more then a comparable Sea Striker Beach Runner.
On the flip side of the argument, there are rods like Purglas, Zziplex, Lami XRA's that are in another class altogether even when you compare them to the Sea Striker, which, as a plugging rod I really like, or an Ocean Master, a great inexpensive heaver rod . These are definately worth the few hundred extra dollars even though the less expensive rods will get the job done.
Then you have your white Shakespeares, Andes, Shoremasters, Roddys....... Kmart/Wally world rod n reel combo garbage. 99% of these things aren't worth the $20 you'll pay for them. IMHO, these cheapo outfits are responsible for more people getting fed up and quitting the sport than any other single issue.
What it all comes down to is that you don't absolutely have to have a $250 rod. There are rods under $100 that will do all you ask and do it well. Like you asked in your question, quite often all you're getting is 10% more performance for that $150 extra dollars. The big noticable performance differences seem to come when you start hitting that $300+ range (and this goes for reels as well). The truly high end gear is like nothing else and is a joy to fish with. It's like comparing a Chevy with a Jaguar. The Chevy will get you there just as well but the Jag will get you there with a smile on your face.
"I just wanta play everyday despite small nagging injuries --
and go home to a woman who appreciates how full of crap I truly am"..... Crash Davis