Background: To develop and compare ICU length-of-stay (LOS) risk-adjustment models using three commonly used mortality or LOS prediction models. Methods: Between 2001 and 2004, we performed a retrospective, observational study of 11,295 ICU patients from 35 hospitals in the California Intensive Care Outcomes Project. We compared the accuracy of the following three LOS models: a recalibrated acute physiology and chronic health evaluation (APACHE) IV-LOS model; and models developed using risk factors in the mortality probability model III at zero hours (MPM0) and the simplified acute physiology score (SAPS) II mortality prediction model. We evaluated models by calculating the following: (1) grouped coefficients of determination; (2) differences between observed and predicted LOS across subgroups; and (3) intraclass correlations of observed/expected LOS ratios between models. Results: The grouped coefficients of determination were APACHE IV with coefficients recalibrated to the LOS values of the study cohort (APACHE IVrecal) [R2 = 0.422], mortality probability model III at zero hours (MPM0 III) [R2 = 0.279], and simplified acute physiology score (SAPS II) [R2 = 0.008]. For each decile of predicted ICU LOS, the mean predicted LOS vs the observed LOS was significantly different (p ≤ 0.05) for three, two, and six deciles using APACHE IVrecal, MPM0 III, and SAPS II, respectively. Plots of the predicted vs the observed LOS ratios of the hospitals revealed a threefold variation in LOS among hospitals with high model correlations. Conclusions: APACHE IV and MPM0 III were more accurate than SAPS II for the prediction of ICU LOS. APACHE IV is the most accurate and best calibrated model. Although it is less accurate, MPM0 III may be a reasonable option if the data collection burden or the treatment effect bias is a consideration.