It is known, but often unappreciated, that the performance of nanowire (NW)-based electrical devices can be significantly affected by electrical contacts between electrodes and NWs, sometimes to the extent that it is really the contacts that determine the performance. To correctly understand and design NW device operation, it is thus important to carefully measure the contact resistance and evaluate the contact parameters, specific contact resistance and transfer length. A four-terminal pattern or a transmission line model (TLM) pattern has been widely used to measure contact resistance of NW devices and the TLM has been typically used to extract contact parameters of NW devices. However, the conventional method assumes that the electrical properties of semiconducting NW regions covered by a metal are not changed after electrode formation. In this study, we report that the conventional methods for contact evaluation can give rise to considerable errors because of an altered property of the NW under the electrodes. We demonstrate that more correct contact resistance can be measured from the TLM pattern rather than the four-terminal pattern and correct contact parameters including the effects of changed NW properties under electrodes can be evaluated by using the contact end resistance measurement method. © 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd.