Sorafenib and sunitinib are used for renal cell carcinoma (RCC). The objective was to study the treatment duration and time to death in Swedish RCC patients on sorafenib or sunitinib as first-line or monotherapy or as sequential therapy. Patients with an RCC diagnosis were identified in the Swedish Cancer Register. Information on treatment with sorafenib and sunitinib was collected from the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register, and time of death from the Cause of Death Register. Outcome measures were duration of treatment and time to death on sorafenib or sunitinib as first-line or monotherapy and sequential therapy (sorafenib-sunitinib versus sunitinib-sorafenib). Poisson regression models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HR) with 95 % confidence intervals (CI). No difference was observed for sorafenib (n = 123 patients) versus sunitinib (n = 261 patients) in treatment duration (HR 1.00; CI 0.80-1.24) or risk for death (HR 1.30; CI 0.91-1.85) when used as first-line or monotherapy. The same applied for sequential therapy with sorafenib-sunitinib (n = 43 patients) versus sunitinib-sorafenib (n = 54 patients), HR 1.47 (CI 0.71-3.02) and HR 2.01 (CI 0.86-4.68), respectively. There was a difference between the two treatments in how the duration of first-line treatment influenced the duration of second-line treatment and time to death, in favor of starting with sorafenib. In conclusion, no difference was detected between sorafenib and sunitinib in the duration of treatment or time to death when used as first-line or monotherapy. The impact of the duration of first-line treatment differed between the two sequences, and the results indicated that sorafenib as first-line treatment is a favorable choice.