There are water separators available that do a good job of getting the wet out of the air supply and don't cost an arm and a leg.
I'd imagine replacement cores over time would cost you more than a desiccant drier or a refrigerated drier would at first, especially with the limited moisture capacity of cores.
Most all of the compressor systems I've ever dealt with have had refrigerated driers. I kept those serviced regularly and they never stopped the whole time I was there.
“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” —Albert Einstein