Lung cancer is a common malignant tumor with high morbidity and mortality. Here we compared the effects and outcome between central and peripheral stage I lung cancer using image-guided stereotactic body radiotherapy. From June 2011 to July 2013, a total of 33 patients with stage I lung cancer were enrolled. A total of 50 Gy in 10 fractions or 60 Gy in 10 fractions was delivered in the central arm (n = 18), while 50 Gy in 5 fractions in the peripheral arm (n = 15). Statistical analyses were performed using logistic regression analysis and Kaplan-Meier method. The mean follow-up time was 38.1 months. Three-month, 1-, 2-, and 3-year overall response rates were 66.7%, 83.3%, 61.1%, and 72.2% and 66.7%, 80%, 80%, and 80% in the central and peripheral arms, respectively. Three-year local control rates (94.4% vs 93.3%, P = .854), regional control rates (94.4% vs 86.7%, P = .412), and distant control rates (64.2% vs 61.7%, P = .509) had no differences between the central and the peripheral arms. Grade 2 radiation pneumonitis was observed in 6 of 18 patients in the central arm and in 1 of 15 patients in the peripheral arm (P = .92). Grade 2 radiation esophagitis was 5.7% in the central arm, while none occurred in the peripheral arm (P = .008). Five (15.1%) of all patients felt slight fatigue during radiotherapy. Other major complications were not observed. In conclusion, helical image-guided stereotactic body radiotherapy for central stage I lung cancer is safe and effective compared to peripheral stage I lung cancer.