Residents used their cars as per usual, disregarding an order from the government to leave them at home - a pattern that was repeated in almost all the 107 cities that had participated, Reuters news agency reported.
While most major cities were part of the initiative, there was one excepton - the city of Guangzhou in southern China, with a population of 10 million people and one million cars.
"Limiting the use of cars is not practical in the city," said an official with the local municipal government.
Environmental awareness is growing in China but rapid economic growth remains a top priority for the government, creating difficult choices for policy makers.
China's auto industry has been a key component of the nation's booming economy.
Vehicle production rose by 32.7 per cent in July compared to the same period last year.
A report from the state environmental protection administration has said that up to 79 per cent of the air pollution in Chinese cities can be caused by car fumes.
Beijing had significantly more success in August when it banned more than one million cars from its roads for a four-day period to test what it could do to clear the air ahead of next year's Olympics.
While the ban in August was official, with more than 6,500 traffic police on duty to penalise offenders, Saturday's "Car Free Day" was voluntary.
The day came at the end of China's "Public Transport Week", aimed at publicising the government's goal of getting half of the nation's urban residents to use buses and trains rather than private cars.
Many ordinary Chinese view the growing number of cars with concern not so much because of fears for the environment, but because of the worsening traffic jams.