There is pretty near unanimous agreement that either is "better" than a fixed prop. In this case, "better" translates to ~15% increase in sailing speed and more power when motoring in reverse. As to which is the better of the two... unanimity quickly vanishes!
The SSCA does surveys of their membership every 4 (TBR) years and publishes the results. For years MaxProp was the only piece of equipment to have a 100% rating. In 2000 a few breakdowns were reported for the first time.
75% of the SSCA members who participated used Max, 3% Auto, 7% Martec, 5% Sailprop and 3% Luke. Btw, Look at the Gori prop too, it’s a gorgeous piece of engineering.
They all break eventually however, and when they do, Max Prop has built a very impressive reputation for standing behind their product and providing 1st rate service.
I have been reading comments on Autoprop, and Maxiprop for years. Here''s my standard reply. While most Autoprop are happy with their props I have read comments by some very dissatisfied Autoprop owners. I can''t recall reading a bad report by a Maxiprop owner. I have a Gori prop and really do not feel good about their warentee and after sales service.
Purchased Fold-O-Prop for new Beneteau 361 and so far have only motored 8 hours up the intercoastal and worked great. Purchased because of large surface area of prop for propulsion and supposedly low drag under sail. Backing up same as with fixed with paddle wheel effect.
I have a maxprop and like it very much. I also installed a prop adaptor on it that lets me replace the maxprop zinc with a cheap cone zinc that last three times longer. Found it at www.smtinc.net. They also make other feathering prop adaptors for other manufactures.
Yeah, I saw that link. I had no idea these adaptors were available. Great idea.
Regarding the Max-Prop/Autoprop debate, as a hull cleaner, I have installed and serviced many of each brand. My experience is that Max-Prop is top of the line gear and I recommend them highly. I cannot say the same for the Autoprop, which I consider to be an inferior design and would advise against purchasing.
If you are uneasy with the idea of giving up performance under power with a folding or feathering prop, or simply don't want to shell out the $$$$ for a Max, and are even considering staying with your fixed prop, take a look at the Campbell Sailor props.
We had one of these 3 bladers which replaced a worn out Martec folder on a 40 footer. The difference in performance under power was remarkable, and the drag is much less than that of a typical michigan prop, esp. the 3 blade ones.