How long should a cartridge last?

I have a Shelter 501 that started acting up (skipping...I also didn't set my new arm up properly). The folks at The Analog Room said I needed a new cartridge, which I just got. So, my first Shelter lasted about 3 and a half years and saw very regular use, perhaps an hour a day, maybe more (on average). Still, I was surprised it went kaput so fast. Do folks typically just buy a new cartridge (as my dealer recommended) or just get a new stylus? I did not quite understand the explanation...the "suspension when out"...I could call my dealer and ask again, but I thought I would post here and see what other folks might say.
You should have gotten a trade in for your old shelter 501. The replacement price is $650-$700, somewhere in between. This is from Axiss audio, the importer. Not setting up the Cartridge properly will shorten the life. My last Shelter 501 had about 2000hrs when I replaced it. The Analog Room should be able to help you set up the cart./arm properly.
Send the old one to Soundsmith and get a new cantilever installed. Cost starts at $150. They have done a couple for me.
I also didn't set my new arm up properly

Lesson learned?
Really, Axiss Audio would have replaced it? Wow...Analog Room should have known about that policy...I might check in an see what they have to say about that. Not sure, but possible I could have played about 2,000 hours on it.

The dealer told me sending to Soundsmith would not result in the cartridge sounding the same...not sure what to make of that. The dealer certainly seemed like a pretty credible guy. Turntable sounds fantastic.

Lesson learned? Unfortunately not, as I'm not sure where I went wrong. I certainly tried to set it up properly...even bought Wally Tools and a Fozgometer. Anyway, I needed help...wanted to pay a reasonable price, but may have ended up paying too much.

Brian, (the owner of the Analog Room), would have given you a partial credit for the cartridge if you had purchased it from him originally. I assume you did not, correct? (And he would have set up your cartridge on your turntable as a part of the service in selling you the cartridge.)

I base this on the fact that when he sold me my first cartridge, (Benz Micro Glider 2), about 7 years ago, he installed it on the tonearm, and did all the adjustments (i.e. he set the VTA, VTF, azimth, etc...) In fact, I had purchased my turntable used from a guy in NYC, (a Basis 1400, with a Rega RB 300 tonearm). When he found that out, he insisted that I bring in the entire setup, and he unpacked the boxes, assembled the table, and installed the tonearm, and then mounted the Glider. (All for the list price of the Glider - Not a bad deal, since I was an analog newbie at the time.)

And when the cartridge got damaged a few months later, (Don't ask!), he gave me partial credit, (50% I believe), toward a new cartridge. (And again, he insisted on installing the replacement cartridge.)

Good Luck!!!

The ones I have had done sound fine. Exactly the same as before? Doubtful, two new cartridges of the same model seldom sound exactly the same. But well worth the expense; there is a good chance that they will sound better than before but that is a separate question. I am an unusual dealer in that my orientation is toward the customer spending the LEAST amount of money for the sound he/she wants. Since I don't depend of it for my livelihood I can entertain such an attitude. If you still have the old one I would either advertise it on here as in as is condition for some else to buy and have repaired or do this myself to have on hand as a spare.
If you keep your records clean and set up properly, 4000 hours or more is possible. MM cartridges do have an advantage in that the stylus can be replaced, but i have a frog cartridge that my daughter is currently using that goes back to 2003 and i brought it used so i do not know the exact hours. It was used for 3 years as my primary cartridge before i got an airy3 and my daughter has used it for 3 years as her main. I checked the tip two weeks ago and the stylus is showing very little wear. Suspension still seems firm and the sound is still excellent.
I easily set up the VPI Scout by myself. When I tried to put a Graham Phantom on Aries, one problem I encountered..the Furutech tone arm cable could not fit very well into the hole in the plith...the 90 degree din was just too large. I think it was bumping against the plinth. I eventually adjusted it and got it to fit into these very tight quarters better. Anyway, not understanding this, I set the tracking force very high. The records kept skipping and I had thought the tracking force might be the problem. Ooopps. So, that might have shortened my cartridge life. I guess that might have been what happened.
cartridge set up is a major factor in cartridge life as well as record life. IMO, too high or too low on vtf will cause problems. i prefer to work on the light side on VTF because the universe responds so well to the lighter vtf. Also "dropping" the cartridge down on the record will stress the suspension.
>>09-18-10: Oilmanmojo
IMO, too high or too low on vtf will cause problems<<

Actually more damage occurs if VTF is too light than too heavy.

Many folks find that counterintuitive, but it's a fact.
"Also "dropping" the cartridge down on the record will stress the suspension. "

Do you guys guide the cue slowly until the stylus hits the record ? I usually drop mine and let the hydraulics take the stylus down slowly to the record. Is this something i should correct ?
Audiofiel--totally agree with ur statement. My reference about the UNIverse cartridge is it performs better on the lighter side. But it is within manufacture acceptable range
Some setups do not have hydraulic lifting cues
Too light VTF indeed results in more damage to the record(s).
Too high VTF decreases the "estimated life-span" of the cantilever's suspension.
Then there is the "goldene Mitte" .....