Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a ubiquitous latent human virus that often causes complications in renal transplantation recipients. Universal prophylaxis and preemptive therapy are alternative strategies to prevent CMV associated complications. This meta-analysis aimed to assess available data comparing the effectiveness of prophylaxis and preemptive therapy for preventing adverse outcomes. We searched the PubMed, Ovid, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, and Open Grey databases using a combination of keywords. Random effects models along with the Paule-Mandel estimator were used to synthesize pooled effect estimates. Eleven studies were eligible for the final analysis. Universal prophylaxis was better at preventing CMV disease than the preemptive approach (risk difference = -0.0459; confidence intervals = -0.0791, -0.0127; P-value = 0.0067; number needed to treat [NNT] = 22 [1/0.0459]; high, 79 [1/0.0127] patients; low, 13 [1/0.0791] patients). Subgroup analysis revealed a more consistent effect among studies published after 2010, with negligible between-study heterogeneity. The NNT for universal prophylaxis to prevent one excess CMV disease concerning preemptive therapy was 16 (1/0.0630) patients (high, 25 [1/0.0394]; low, 12 [1/0.0867] patients) in the subgroup of studies performed after 2010. We detected no significant difference between the two strategies regarding acute rejection and graft loss, with negligible variability due to heterogeneity between studies. Although universal prophylaxis performed better than the preemptive strategy for the prevention of CMV disease, the high NNT value may discourage the use of CMV prophylaxis. Since there were no differences between the strategies concerning acute rejection and graft loss, this study supports the use of the preemptive approach as an alternative to universal prophylaxis.