I don't have any statistical data to back this claim so you will have to take this response at face value. The quality of a hard drive and whether or not it will fail quickly is dependent on a number of factors.
It would be nearly impossible I would think, to tell if a drive were going to go bad based on several factors:
- Previous environment (if it was dirty it could potentially play into the longevity of a drive)
- Disk usage and utilization (how heavily was the drive being worked)
- Manufacturing process (impurities or inconsistencies in the drives)
That being said, I have heard of batches of hard drives going bad after only months and I have heard of (and still get use out of some old ones) that are operation far longer than the 5 year life span they are designed for, and I can't say that one brand is better than others because I have seen all of them go bad.
It is also known (and again I have no evidence to cite here) that older drives were built more reliably and were known to fail less often than newer drives due to the fact that the manufacturing process semi recently has focused on creating disks as cheaply as possible, where reliability ins't necessarily the top concern or priority.
So, to summarize, I would say it is a hit or miss chance on buying refurbished. If data integrity isn't necessary then the price is ok. Personally I don't mind buying a refurbished drive, especially since they are generally cheaper. Just be sure to keep good backups and you should be fine.