Clear cell renal cell carcinomas (ccRCCs) display divergent clinical behaviours. Molecular markers might improve risk stratification of ccRCC. Here we use, based on genome-wide CpG methylation profiling, a LASSO model to develop a five-CpG-based assay for ccRCC prognosis that can be used with formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded specimens. The five-CpG-based classifier was validated in three independent sets from China, United States and the Cancer Genome Atlas data set. The classifier predicts the overall survival of ccRCC patients (hazard ratio=2.96-4.82; P=3.9 × 10(-6)-2.2 × 10(-9)), independent of standard clinical prognostic factors. The five-CpG-based classifier successfully categorizes patients into high-risk and low-risk groups, with significant differences of clinical outcome in respective clinical stages and individual 'stage, size, grade and necrosis' scores. Moreover, methylation at the five CpGs correlates with expression of five genes: PITX1, FOXE3, TWF2, EHBP1L1 and RIN1. Our five-CpG-based classifier is a practical and reliable prognostic tool for ccRCC that can add prognostic value to the staging system.