This study compared the clinicopathological characteristics and survival of patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) stratified by age to identify clinical features and prognostic factors. Patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC) between 2010 and 2015 were identified from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results database. Age was an independent prognostic factor for patients with RCC, mRCC, mRCC of clear cell renal cell carcinoma and lung-related metastases. There were many significant differences between the younger and older groups, including differences in marital status, race, sex, year of diagnosis, histology grade, laterality, T stage, N stage, tumor size, type of treatment, including surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, and pattern of organic metastasis to the liver, lung, or brain (P<0.05). Moreover, different natural metastasis patterns and poorer overall survival were observed in the older group compared with the younger group (P<0.05). Parameters, including marital status, sex, year of diagnosis, histological grade, N stage, surgery, chemotherapy, lung metastasis and liver metastasis, were independent prognostic factors for elderly patients (P<0.05). Age plays a significant role in mRCC, and elderly patients with mRCC are a special group of individuals whose clinical characteristics and prognostic factors are different from those of younger patients; therefore, these patients require special attention.