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Difference Between Central Time and Eastern Time


The time zones observed in North America can be a tricky thing to grasp. Most people aren’t even aware that parts of Canada follow the established standards with regard to the time zones in the USA. One thing that is curious about the time zones is how certain locations observe more than one depending on how close they are to the geographic borders. This is especially true between those that are under the Central and Eastern Time Zones. There are differences between the observance of Central (CT) and Eastern Time (ET) and subtle similarities as well.

North America’s Central Standard Time Zone is observed by areas of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The Central Time Zone is derived by subtracting six hours from the Coordinated Universal Time (abbreviated as UTC) or five hours if observing Daylight Saving Time (Central Daylight Time or CDT). As of 2007, CST changes to CDT on the second Sunday of March at 02:00 (EST) to 3:00 (EDT). It returns to EST on the first Sunday of November from 02:00 EDT to 01:00 EST. It is referred to as Central Time in the United States, as well as Canada (often shortened to ‘Central’ in casual conversation). In Mexico, the time zone is called Tiempo del Centro. It is generally ahead of the Pacific Time Zone by two hours. In the United States, the states that generally observe Central Time are Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. There are also states that generally observe it but some parts share it with Mountain Time: Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Texas.

The Canadian territories that observe Central Time are Kivalliq Region, Nunavut, Ontario, and parts of Qikiqtaaluk Region Saskathchewan. Although most of Mexico observes the Central Time Zone, some parts, observe Mountain Standard Time. The states of Mexico that observe Central Time all year round are: Aguascalientes, Campeche, Coahuila, Colima, Chiapas, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacán, Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatán, and Zacatecas, as well as Mexico City. The Bahia de Banderas municipality in the state of Nayarit also uses the Central Time Zone.

On the other hand, the Eastern Standard Time is observed by most of the East Coast of the United States and areas of Canada. Mexico does not have areas that observe this Time Zone. The Eastern Standard time (abbreviated as EST or, informally referred to as ‘Eastern’) is derived from subtracting five hours from the Coordinated Universal Time; this is changed to subtracting four hours when observing Daylight Saving Time (Eastern Daylight Saving time or EDT). As of 2007, EST changes to EDT on the second Sunday of March at 02:00 (EST) to 3:00 (EDT). It returns to EST on the first Sunday of November from 02:00 EDT to 01:00 EST. The states that observe EST and EDT (when applicable) are: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. Washington D.C. also observes Eastern Time. In Canada, the following areas observe ET: Ontario, Quebec, and parts of Nunavut.

There are certain areas that share both Central and Eastern Time: some parts of Alabama’s Columbus, Georgia area; Indiana’s northwestern and southwestern corners; the western parts of Kentucky; some parts of Michigan and Tennessee. The west of Florida’s Apalachicola River also observes Central Time while the rest of the state observes Eastern Time.

Eastern Time is effectively the unofficial ‘standard’ time for the United States by virtue of having both the capital of Washington D.C. and the city of New York (which is the largest city in the country). Most media organizations use the Eastern Time as the basis for their programming schedules. Specifically, they will have Eastern and Pacific Time as the feeds (with the Eastern feed covering the Eastern and Central time zones while the Pacific Feed for the Mountain and Pacific Time zones.) Sports schedules also use Eastern time when games are set.



Central Time is observed by parts of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Eastern Time is observed in parts of the US and Canada; it is not observed anywhere in Mexico.

Eastern Time is the ‘unofficial’ standard time of the United States.

Certain states that are generally Central Time have areas that follow Eastern Time.

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