This investigation concerns the synthesis as well as structural and morphological characterizations of pure and Ce-doped ZnO nanorods. The samples were synthesized by simple low-temperature hydrothermal process using respectively NaOH and KOH as caustic bases. The as-synthesized nanorods were characterized in terms of their morphological, structural, compositional and vibrational properties. The sizes of the rods were found to be 1.5 μm to 2 μm in length and 250 nm to 300 nm in diameter. The presence of Ce ions in ZnO (NaOH) favored the agglomeration of the rods to form flower-like nanostructures. EDAX measurements showed Zn rich materials with high oxygen vacancy concentration. XRD results indicated that the synthesized ZnO nanorods possess a pure wurtzite structure with good crystallinity. It has also been found that Ce doping deteriorates the crystalline quality of ZnO (NaOH) and improves that of ZnO (KOH). The insignificant intensities observed in FT-IR signals confirm that the synthesized nanorods are of high purity. The Raman spectroscopy studies showed that Ce ions shift the vibrational modes towards lower frequencies. The peaks related to E2 (high) mode in ZnO (KOH) are relatively intense compared to those of ZnO (NaOH). The peaks are found to be shifted and asymmetrically broadened due to anharmonic effects originating from quantum-phonon-effect confinement.