Insights into the experience of metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) patients are needed to optimize patient care. A retrospective, multicenter registry of mRCC patients treated at academic (Duke) and community (ACORN) practices was developed to fill this need. Treatment data were collected on 466 patients who received first-line therapy from 2007 to 2011. Clinically significant adverse events (AEs) were abstracted from medical records and compared to clinical trials. Two hundred and seventy patients received first-line therapy with sunitinib, 60 temsirolimus, 53 sorafenib, 25 pazopanib, and 58 "other." A total of 85.8 % of all patients experienced at least one AE: fatigue (56.7 %), vomiting (40.1 %), diarrhea (33.7 %), asthenia (32.8 %), and mucosal inflammation (20.8 %). When comparisons were made between patients >65 versus <65 years old, rates of AEs were higher in the younger group. Dosing approaches and timing of AEs during therapy were varied. These data shine light on the patient experience in routine practice versus structured clinical trials. Real-world AE frequency and severity differ from pivotal trials demonstrating the need to monitor patients closely and manage their AEs to optimize outcomes. As the number of treatment options with similar effectiveness grows, it is imperative to understand the real-world patient experience.