In atmospheric and environmental sciences, optical spectrometers are used for the measurements of greenhouse gas mole fractions and the isotopic composition of water vapor or greenhouse gases. The large sample cell volumes (tens of milliliters to several liters) in commercially available spectrometers constrain the usefulness of such instruments for applications that are limited in sample size and/or need to track fast variations in the sample stream. In an effort to make spectrometers more suitable for sample-limited applications, we developed a low-volume analyzer capable of measuring mole fractions of methane and carbon monoxide based on a commercial cavity ring-down spectrometer. The instrument has a small sample cell (9.6 ml) and can selectively be operated at a sample cell pressure of 140, 45, or 20 Torr (effective internal volume of 1.8, 0.57, and 0.25 ml). We present the new sample cell design and the flow path configuration, which are optimized for small sample sizes. To quantify the spectrometer’s usefulness for sample-limited applications, we determine the renewal rate of sample molecules within the low-volume spectrometer. Furthermore, we show that the performance of the low-volume spectrometer matches the performance of the standard commercial analyzers by investigating linearity, precision, and instrumental drift.