Difference between Central and Eastern Standard Time

Updated on May 27, 2017

Time zones separate areas based on their geographic location. In the US, four different time zones are observed from coast to coast. This article seeks to explain in detail how Eastern Standard Time is different from Central Standard Time.


A map of the US showing its various time zones

Central Standard Time, also known as CST, is a time zone that covers parts of the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, and a portion of the eastern Pacific Ocean. In the US, it is west of the boundary dividing the Eastern and Central time zones, and east of the boundary line separating the Central and Mountain time zones.

Central Standard Time is six hours behind the Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC-06:00. In the summer, the majority of the time zones observe DST, or daylight saving time, and Central Standard Time becomes Central Daylight Time (CDT). Standard Time is pushed back an hour, thus CDT becomes five hours behind UTC.

Central Time Zone encompasses several US states and is the second most populous. A number of states lie on the boundaries. For instance, Alabama is under Central Time, but Phenix city and some Smith Station communities unofficially follow Eastern Time. These areas are part of a metropolitan area of the city of Columbus, Georgia which lies in the Eastern Time Zone. The Florida Panhandle, which is due west of the Apalachicola River, observes Central Time while the rest of Florida follows Eastern Time. The four Upper Peninsula counties (Iron, Gogebic, Menominee, Dickinson) in Michigan follow Central Time while the rest of state is in Eastern Time Zone. In Oklahoma, Kenton is located at the western-most end of the Panhandle, and unofficially follows Mountain Time.

In Canada, the only territory that follows Central Time is Manitoba. The western parts of Nunavut (a territory) also follow Central Time. An area in northwest Ontario which borders Manitoba to the southeast observes Central Time as well. In addition, the majority of the Saskatchewan province follows Central Standard Time all year round and never adjusts to Daylight Saving Time with the exception of Llyodminster, a city that lies on the boundary between Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Eastern Standard Time is observed in 17 US states located in the eastern part of the country, some parts of eastern Canada, and Panama in Central America. This time zone also includes Quintana Roo in Mexico and the Caribbean Islands. These places are 5 hours behind (UTC-05:00) the Coordinated Universal Time when observing standard time. During spring and summer, Eastern Daylight Time is in effect, and becomes UTC-04:00, or 4 hours behind UTC.

The District of Columbia, along with 17 other states, lies entirely within Eastern Time Zone. In Canada, most areas of Ontario, Quebec, and Nunavut are in the same time zone as well.

Central vs Eastern Standard Time

So what’s the difference between Central and Eastern Standard Time? Central Standard Time is UTC-06:00, or six hours behind Coordinated Universal Time, while Eastern Standard Time is five hours behind Coordinated Universal Time or UTC-05:00. Thus, places within the Eastern Time Zone are an hour ahead of the areas that observe the Central Time Zone.

Central Standard Time is observed in states located in between the Eastern and Mountain time zones, some parts of Canada, and a greater part of Mexico. In the US, these are states from Wisconsin to Alabama and North Dakota to Texas. Eastern standard time is observed by states located off the coast of the Atlantic, which are Maine to Florida, and Michigan to Georgia. It is also in effect in some Canadian provinces and the Caribbean islands.

Comparison Chart

Central Standard TimeEastern Standard Time
One hour behind ESTOne hour ahead of CST
States between Eastern and Mountain time zonesStates located off the coast of the Atlantic up to the Central Time Zone boundary
UTC -6:00UTC -5:00