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What is difference between those to phrases. For example:

I decided to get rid of the car early on before Mike crashed in to a pole.

What is "on" there for?

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early on refers to a time not long after the beginning.

on conveys the idea of some time transpiring / having transpired.

If something is apparent from the very first moment, we'd say

It was clear from the start that ...

It was clear from the very beginning that ...

It was clear from the get-go that...

When it takes a little time, we'd say

Things started out fine, but early on it became clear that ...

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