Tim's answer at Can playing an amp at minimum volumes (<1%) be harmful to it? states that playing a large amp quietly is safe, but that the sound quality is often disappointing.
Is the poor sound quality a matter of running a big amp at low volume or of running any amp at low volume?
If the only need is for low volume is one better off running a small amp in the middle of its volume range than a large amp turned way down?
For context, I'm currently happy playing electric guitar through a Roland M-Cube (2W / 5" speaker) at about 3-5 / 10 on the volume knob. My wife is happier at 2-3, but isn't always home. I recently got a bass and it sounds awful at those settings - unsurprisingly the speaker can't handle the lows and just rattles.
I've been looking for a bass combo amp. There are several well rated ones in the 20-25W / 8" range that I could pick up new, or I could get something bigger (e.g. 10"-12" versions of the same) used for about the same price used. If the smaller amp is better for the practice scenario anyway then there's little point in the hassle of bargain hunting.
There's been enough background noise in the toy^H^H^Hmusic store when I've checked them out that I can't hear much of anything at the volumes I'm likely to run at home.